Lydia Pursell is one busy lady — she’s the owner, buyer and style designer of Leaf & Petal, which has three Birmingham locations, she’s a longtime prop stylist for Southern Living and Oxford House, not to mention a world traveler, wife and mother. We caught up with her on one of her styling shoots and are so thrilled to have her join us this week as our FACE of Birmingham!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Mayberry (not really), but something close. A small town, Pell City, that I didn’t understand was so great until I was much older. I came to Birmingham for graduate school at UAB.
We love how Leaf & Petal has evolved over the years to become an interiors and garden store, and more! Tell us about owning this business.
Yes, I own Leaf & Petal, and it’s a wonderful family business. My stepson Jamie runs the business and my brother is a manager. My associates are like family too, and that’s not always the case. We are very lucky.
I also work as a prop stylist for Southern Living and Oxmoor House. I’ve been with the company (Southern Progress Corporation) for twenty years.
Do you have any favorite, foolproof plants that you can recommend to those of us who don’t have green thumbs?
I love succulents. You can ignore them and they love you anyway.
What did your bedroom look like as a teenage girl?
Funny question. My mom has terrific taste and has collected antiques for 50 years. I slept in a family bed that was made in New Orleans in 1800’s. It’s a canopy bed that my mom trimmed in a cranberry and ecru linen crewel fabric. The room was filled with Chinese Export porcelain. No pink walls for me!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Slow down … I run too fast and hard some of the time.
What advice would you give to others?
My favorite quote is the best advice: “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.” I don’t know who said it, but I live by it.
What upcoming event are you most looking forward to?
The New York International Gift Fair (NY NOW). I love any reason to be in New York. I don’t want to live there, but love to visit a few times a year. I’m surrounded by beautiful things as I work the show, and then I reward myself with a great dinner each night.
What fashion item would you never be caught dead wearing?
For me, it’s a color — red. I look awful in red lipstick and red clothing! My mom looks terrific in red and begs me to wear it. Can’t do it!
What is your must-have purchase for this season?
Anything from AllSaints Spitafields. I wait for a good sale and always visit the shop in New York. And of course a pair of jeans from Rag & Bone!
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Swim and then watch a movie with my husband and daughter.
Favorite local restaurant?
I have so many! I do love what Frank Stitt doesn’t put on his menus — my husband and I always ask for a vegetable plate when we go to Highlands. It’s a wonderful collection of all the veggie sides from the entrees. (Oh don’t hate me, Frank!)
What are you listening to these days?
What books are you currently reading?
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family. I love a good biography. I just finished a vey academic one on Cleopatra.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
I am always afraid I will fall on those moving horizontal escalators at the airport! They are so fast!
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God!).
My collection of cuff bracelets, my husband’s old Billy Reid shirts he hands down to me and my Karlos Perez oil painting (I met him in Cuba and fell in love with his work). I wake up to it every morning.
Thanks for sharing, Lydia! And a huge thanks to Beth Hontzas for today’s beautiful photos!