Designer Crush Q&A: Leslie Harris-KeaneAuthor:Rachel Amy Shahvar
Thanks to Leslie for answering our Designer Crush Q&A!
1. Where do you currently live in CA and what’s special about how you’ve designed your personal space?
We live in a historic home nestled in the hills of the small community of Diablo. Originally built in 1879, our home has had many lives – first as a milk barn and then as the post office for Diablo. I grew up in the Central Valley, near almond orchards and dairy farms, so I really connected with the home’s rural beginnings. I wanted the interior of the home to feel warm, inviting, and collected while honoring the home’s historic roots. Vintage pieces like the barn worktable in the kitchen and a family heirloom chest in the entry lend some historical perspective, while glittering pillows, animal-print accents, and royal portraits add a bit of contemporary glam.
2. What’s your dream design project? Who would it be for (dead or alive)?
I’ve been lucky enough to design spaces all around California. The one region I haven’t hit…Napa Valley. I’ve been imaging a rustic, farmhouse in the wine country for years! The Napa lifestyle lends itself to livable luxury and I know my passion for vintage, rustic, yet contemporary design is a natural fit with that setting. I’d love to work with Axel Vervoordt on this type of a project. He’s an amazing visionary and designer. I’m so inspired by his work.
3. In real life, what’s your favorite design project you’ve completed to date?
A historic Pacific Grove beach house. The house was built in 1917 and was used as a bed and breakfast before the current homeowners purchased it. We updated the entire house but kept much of the original details, like the coffered dining room ceiling and white washed wood paneling. We lifted the palette of warm turquoise and green right from the home’s grand sea vistas. It all came together in a comfortably sophisticated design, suited for a Northern California beach house.
4. You’ve been gifted a fabulously furnished dream home but can only bring one item from your current space. What would it be?
I have a pair of antique tortoise shells I picked up a few years ago at my favorite antique shop. They originally came out of an old estate in San Francisco’s Marina District. I’m always moving to new spaces in my home. They’re perfect everywhere and are a great conversation starter with guests. Bringing in that one piece that you’ve had forever or has special meaning can instantly make anywhere home.
5. What’s your creative process when designing a space?
Before I start any project, I like to work with the homeowner to decide on 3-5 inspirational words for the space. For example, I recently started a project with the words “southwest – midcentury contemporary – comfortable”. It helps guide my overall design choices, especially when designing more than one space in a home. It helps to connect the rooms without having to make them too matchy-matchy.
6. Where do you score prized interior design items? Any shopping tips?
I’m an estate sale junkie. I try to go to at least one every week to pick up a few fun treasures. Some recent finds…a pair of antique pale blue foo dogs, a vintage longhorn, and a collection of handmade vintage pin ornaments for my daughter’s Christmas tree. I also frequent Loot Antiques in Oakland and Pacific Grove Antiques in Pacific Grove.
7. Ever had an epic DIY disaster? What project would you never take on again yourself?
I’m a pretty handy designer. My dad was a general contractor so it’s in my blood. A few years ago I tried to make my own upholstered headboard for my guest room. Even after layers and layers of batting it was still flat and uncomfortable. I had to scrap the project and went with a rustic iron bed instead.
8. What new design trend are you excited to integrate into your next project?
Fashion is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. Right now, I’m loving new Italian designer Stella Jean. She’s not afraid to mix bold patterns and color to make something uniquely beautiful. I’d love to work on a space, residential or retail, with her collection as my inspiration.
9. Lightning round!
Beach or mountains?
Beach. I love Northern and Southern California beaches…both so beautiful but so different!
Twitter or Facebook?
Architectural Digest or Wallpaper?
Should you spend money on a fabulous bathroom or kitchen?
Would you rather shop new or vintage?
Vintage- the hunt makes the find that much more rewarding!
Great view or perfect pool?
Perfect Pool overlooking the ocean. Pool with a view!
SF or LA?
SF. I love the eclectic mix of people and Wild West roots.
10. What’s one tip you wish someone had told you when first starting out in the design world?
Trust your instincts and just go for it!
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