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Lawrenceville interior designer gets some fresh recognition from HGTV

| Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Interior designer Lauren Levant Bland of Lauren Levant Interior in her home office on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Interior designer Lauren Levant Bland of Lauren Levant Interior in her home office on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014.
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The finished kitchern redesign by interior designer Lauren Levant Bland, 32, of Lawrenceville, that won for “Most Dramatic Transformation” in HGTV’s Fresh Faces of Design competition
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The Beckners' home in Washington, D.C., previously had a kitchen that was was disjointed and cramped, with an off-center window and an oddly peaked roof.
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A new cabinet in the kitchen redone by Laura Levant Bland of Lawrenceville.
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A window in the kitchen redone by Laura Levant Bland of Lawrenceville.
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Interior designer Lauren Levant Bland, 32, of Lawrenceville, used wooden beams to tie together a redone kitchen in Washington, D.C.
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The Beckners' home in Washington, D.C., previously had a kitchen that was was disjointed and cramped, with an off-center window and an oddly peaked roof.

Her work transforming an awkward, cramped kitchen into an inviting space ideal for entertaining has earned a Pittsburgh newcomer national attention.

Interior designer Lauren Levant Bland, 32, of Lawrenceville won for “Most Dramatic Transformation” in HGTV's Fresh Faces of Design competition identifying the Top 10 American designers under age 35.

“I was really thrilled” says Levant Bland, owner of Lauren Levant Interior. “I always like it when I know the design I've done pleases the client, and to think it's also been intriguing for other people to see is a wonderful honor.”

In their search for the newest crop of up-and-coming talent, HGTV invited designers from all over the country to submit their work. A panel of industry leaders then selected finalists for awards in 10 categories, and the public voted to select the winners.

Levant Bland's work turning the bright-yellow, country-style kitchen into a warm, more natural space for a client in Washington, D.C., will be featured across the HGTV family of websites, mobile apps and in HGTV Magazine. The opportunity to reach so many people with her work is exciting for the young designer.

“There are probably at least a few projects that I will never know of or see that have been inspired in some way by that,” she says. “When people save it to their idea books and talk about it, your design keeps going, and that's really cool.”

The original space was disjointed and cramped, with an off-center window and an oddly peaked roof. Levant Bland brought in wood beams to help unify the ceiling and bring in more consistent lighting. She created a more cohesive workspace with a peninsula and prep sink piece, upgraded equipment and a more neutral color scheme.

Homeowner Helen Beckner says, because her family loves to cook, they put a great deal of thought into what their dream kitchen would include. Levant Bland helped make that vision a reality, she says.

“Because the space has some quirks to it, we knew that we needed someone with creativity and vision to design a kitchen that was functional as well as beautiful,” she says. “Before hiring Lauren, I met with seven other kitchen designers. Lauren was the only one to come up with a solution to our issues on the spot in our first meeting before I even hired her.

“Lauren has a keen eye and a unique ability to visualize a space when she enters it. She knew the minute she walked into my original kitchen that the space needed beams to unify it.”

The designer says her secret is to always let the clients' personalities and tastes drive the vision.

“I always think, ‘How can I design a space that person would have made if they were a designer? How would they have done it?' ” she says. “If they feel that way about the design, they become incredibly connected to it and happy with the results because they see themselves in it somewhere. That's always really cool.”

It's an approach she's perfected during her 10-year career, which has taken her from her home state of Connecticut to New York, then to D.C., and now to Pittsburgh. She came to the Steel City for husband Drew's job. The couple landed in the Victorian rowhouse they've spent the past few months renovating.

“Up until then, I'd had no experience with Pittsburgh,” Levant Bland says. “We had two weeks to find a place to live and make the move. It was a lot, but we love this city. Pittsburgh has a completely unexpected combination of wonderful warmth with people who are very welcoming and forthright and such an exploding cultural scene. I'm excited to see chefs coming here, designers coming here, lots of other cultural things happening. I feel like I'm here at a great time.”

Levant Bland is personally contributing to that growth by applying her design know-how to a new Bloomfield restaurant slated to open in the spring. She can't disclose too many details yet, but is excited to be working in the growing neighborhood.

“Bloomfield is ready to explode,” she says. “(The restaurant) is going to have a really exciting menu and will honor the heritage of Bloomfield as a melting pot for lots of different cultures. The interior will be about the history of Bloomfield and some new twists we can put on things.”

The renovation of her own home was aggressive and required “taking everything down to the studs on all three floors.” Her personal aesthetic is contemporary with rustic elements and is on display in everything from the natural-wood light fixture in the kitchen to the repurposed cabinets in the dressing room. Modern elements, such as the cast-stone sink with a nest faucet in the guest bathroom or industrial light fixtures in the bedroom, add some strategically placed contemporary flair.

The project also led to Levant Bland making some unexpected connections in her new hometown. Her real-estate agent hired her to revamp his home, then introduced her to others who have become her local clientele.

“People do have the flexibility, thanks to the way the real-estate market is here,” Levant Bland says. “They can really put a lot of investment into the design of their home in a way that people who live in bigger markets (can't). They're spending three or four times as much for property just to get in the door. So it does make it more accessible for people here to be able to make the space their own.”

Details: laurenlevant.com

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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