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Real Estate

Design Direction: Pittsburgh designer allows space to dictate style

| Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, 8:55 p.m.
“Each project and home has a vibe and a feeling that’s best not to fight,” designer Leanne Ford says.
Leanne Ford
“Each project and home has a vibe and a feeling that’s best not to fight,” designer Leanne Ford says.
Designer Leanne Ford has worked with commercial and residential spaces.
Leanne Ford Interiors
Designer Leanne Ford has worked with commercial and residential spaces.
Designer Leanne Ford has worked with commercial and residential spaces.
Leanne Ford Interiors
Designer Leanne Ford has worked with commercial and residential spaces.
Designer Leanne Ford has worked with commercial and residential spaces.
Leanne Ford Interiors
Designer Leanne Ford has worked with commercial and residential spaces.

Every time she takes on a job, designer Leanne Ford lets the house do the talking. “Each project and home has a vibe and a feeling that's best not to fight,” she says.

For Ford, it's all about finding the ideal styling that will bring out the best features of every space. She's applied this approach to the one-room schoolhouse she and husband Brad renovated in Aleppo, turning the space into a cozy haven filled with vintage finds, repurposed materials and nods to Americana. She's doing it again with an Upper St. Clair farmhouse on Johnston Road, which is currently under renovation.

No matter the job, one constant to Ford's work is a comfortable, welcoming feel that highlights each client's personal style.

Question: Describe your design philosophy.

Answer: There's a lot of freedom to my design philosophy and style. I don't come from an interior-design education, which I feel, as strange as it sounds, has been a good thing for me and my career. I have no preconceived visions of right or wrong, no rules I was told to live by. I have freedom in a sort of naivete when it comes to interiors. I thankfully have the innate knowledge to know what will look good, but I also have common sense to know when something that could look amazing is a bad idea. I always think about what Albert Einstein said: “The fear of failure kills creativity.” I have no fear of failing, of trying something new and undone before. In the grand scheme of things, it's just paint.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: I find inspiration in literally everything. I'd say the last place I look for inspiration is in interior-design pictures. I find that as soon as I see it done, I don't want to do it anymore. So I tend to find inspiration in other places. In books, songs, old cars, my grandparents house that I remember from when I was a child, movies (“Out of Africa” anyone?). I tend to do all my interiors in very neutral tones: whites, black, tans. I joke that I only design in the colors of dogs.

Q: How do you work with clients to help them realize their vision?

A: My biggest thing when working with clients is being sure that it is primarily their vision, and I am there to help translate. They are the ones that will have to live in that space, so they need to feel that it is exactly what they want and all their vibe. My interior style is very personal to the client. When the project is finished, I want it to feel like it doesn't look like they had an interior designer, but looks like they found and curated an amazing collection of treasures and furniture true to themselves.

Q: How are sites like Pinterest influencing home design?

A: It's amazing to see how much Pinterest is affecting the design world. For me, it's a great tool that I can use to translate ideas to clients. For instance, if I think of some crazy idea in my head that I want to pitch to the client, I can search it on Pinterest, and inevitably someone on the planet has thought of it and tried to do it before. So in that way Pinterest has been a blessing.

Pinterest has also brought an entire new respect of and need for design to the masses. So more people are realizing they want their space to feel good and more people are enjoying the ability to do that. The problem with Pinterest is that ideas get overdone so quickly now, there is nothing new under the sun. Because of that, people get sick of ideas or think they aren't cool anymore. I say ignore all of it, do what you love and what you think feels good to you, and trend won't matter.

Q: What is your best advice for a homeowner?

A: Well, not to be a buzz kill, but first things first: Decide your budget. And I mean, really decide it. Of course, we all want to spend “the least amount as possible,” but what exactly does that mean to you? Don't get me wrong, big changes can be done on any budget. There is a lot of power in a $30 gallon of white paint. But your budget will allow you to know what and how much you want to accomplish. If you are working without a designer, then start small, pick one room and get it dialed and enjoy it. If you are hiring a designer, it is best to wait until they can do a complete and larger project; make it worth your time and money.

Rachel Weaver is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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