Laura Lee Childers’ desire to be a designer was strong from the beginning. She rearranged rooms as a kid and was set on a career in interior design in high school. Then she set off to study interior design in college, a time when she discovered the magic of working with architects, builders and clients on start-to-finish projects. She loved the process so much that she simply never stopped, and her exuberance surrounding every aspect of the design process is undeniable — and contagious. We are thrilled to introduce Laura Lee of Laura Lee Interiors. We sat down and asked Laura Lee to describe her design approach, let us in on some tricks of the trade and give us a glimpse of her stunning portfolio. We hope you enjoy!
What is your design aesthetic and how does it set you apart?
I love to mix old and new. I have Southern roots and love the warmth and character that antiques add to interiors while mixing in more modern, clean lines. I like for homes to tell stories. Things collected — from art, furnishings, rugs, fine china or books — all tell your story and add layers of detail and interest to every room. I also love to play with color! Neutral walls allow for personality to shine by accenting pops of color with art, fabrics and furnishings. I want clients to walk in and feel welcomed and embraced as soon as they enter their humble abode.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience in design.
I’ve been moving furniture around rooms for as long as I can remember! By the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to be an interior designer. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to work with a designer who had a relationship with a local builder. My eyes were opened to the world of construction and how the builder-designer relationships are an important role in the life cycle of a home, literally from start to finish. I was hooked! One of my favorite courses in school was ‘Intro to Architecture,’ and we hand-drafted a full set of residential plans. I loved every minute of this experience, and even considered going to architecture school. However, I stayed the course and finished with interior design, and I put tremendous value in the education I received. After graduation, I immediately found a builder and began my career with residential construction clients. The best jobs are working with a client while also drawing with the architect. Having the opportunity to assist with all the selections and then finishing with window treatments and furnishings — top to bottom, inside and out, start to finish!
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment, and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
I am loving the mid-century modern style and the matte gold that is so hot right now — such eye candy! And wall coverings are such a fun way to add a big statement!
As a millennial designer in the throes of social media and online avenues such as houzz.com and Pinterest, it’s so hard to define the “dos” and “don’ts” of interior design. There are just as many people trying to break all the conventional rules of design as there are designers who stick to all things conventional and classic. I seem to meet people in the middle. Clients, especially in the construction world, often come to the table with lots of ideas and inspiration for every room in their home. As a designer, I listen to them dream and often find common threads in the details of each snapshot. I help execute their dream in ways that fit in the budget, add to the aesthetic and bring interest to each space in the home.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why? How did it help you grow as a designer?
I recently completed and installed a commercial job that is residential in aesthetics. I was able to help cast a vision for the overall design of the project and work closely with the contractors through execution. Working with multiple contractors in multiple states made for a lot of meetings — and a lot of miscommunication! Now I understand why commercial contractors have site trailers. They live there! I quickly realized that I needed one too. Even though commercial jobs have extensive pre-planning and bidding that seemingly answers a lot of questions early in the process, you still may as well move on site. Balancing this project and comparing it to the different procedures that I’m accustomed to was very challenging, but I’m so proud of the result.
RELATED: Susan Ferrier of Susan Ferrier Interiors: Interior Designer Crush
What brings you the most professional joy?
The best compliment I can receive as a designer is hearing that the client feels like their home is already lived in, before they’ve moved in! When their home is welcoming and warm and perfectly paired, it feels like it’s all been there forever.
Do you have a favorite space in the home to design?
I don’t necessarily have a favorite space, but I love lighting and tile. It’s the perfect accessory to every room!
What is your favorite room in your home and why?
Our kitchen is my favorite room! Creating a space to gather, whether it’s a kitchen, hearth room or great room, is important in every home. People love to be in the heart of the home, together. Space planning and furniture arrangements are important for rooms to function well. Everything needs a home, especially in the kitchen! Well-planned and organized spaces allow for less stress and more living. I also love when kitchens have room for upholstery because it immediately invites good company and conversation.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s tough in our digitally driven world not to get overwhelmed by what is at our fingertips and to remain pure and true to your own design intuition. I encourage clients to hire designers early in the process, especially when building, so that the relationship is nurtured. I think it’s very important for everyone to understand the process so that the intent of the family’s design goals are saturated in my mind. Inspiration then comes from a piece of art, a piece of furniture, a color or textile or architectural detail — most often found in the most unexpected places!
RELATED: Simple Changes, MAJOR Impact: Easy Ways to Spruce Up Your Home for Spring
Where do you take chances in design?
Lighting. I remember the first house I did in Kentucky, I proposed a big light over the island instead of several pendants or a typical linear island light. The client agreed, and later the lighting vendor told me he was skeptical — until he saw it installed! A great light will immediately add interest and dimension to a space. This is where I encourage people to splurge the most.
Who have been your industry mentors and role models, and how have they inspired you?
My college internship was with Amelia Handegan in Charleston, South Carolina. It was truly an opportunity that fell into my lap and one that left a lasting impression. Amelia Handegan is known for her sophisticated and eclectic interiors. She fearlessly embraces a mix of Old World elements, wall murals and luxurious fabrics with modern furnishings and well-chosen cultural objects. Not only did I fall in love with her and her sense of style, but her level of design and elevated execution. She showed me what it was like to work closely with architects and builders, which enforced my love of whole-house design, start to finish!
If you could choose one designer to redo your home right now, who would it be?
As a Southerner, Suzanne Kasler has always been on my radar. I love every interior I’ve seen her design. She mixes the high and the low, traditional and contemporary, the new and the old — creating signature interiors and products that convey a sophisticated simplicity. I also admire the product lines that she has contributed to as well — Visual Comfort, Ballard Designs and Hickory Chair, to name a few.
Share one designer secret with us regular folk.
You should probably go up one size when buying a rug for your home. Most people start too small!
What three home decor items can you not live without?
Great art, good rugs and gorgeous lighting
Hypothetical: You have to choose only three colors to use throughout your home. What are the three colors?
PPG Scotch Mist (my current wall color throughout my home), Benjamin Moore Hale Navy, Sherwin Williams White Umber
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Take at least one risk!
Thank you, Laura, for sharing your insights, inspirations and impressively diverse design portfolio. To learn more about Laura Lee Interiors, visit lauraleeid.com.
All images are courtesy of Yonts + Co unless otherwise noted.
See who else we’re crushing on in our interior designer crush archives. Click here and enjoy a look around!