When Leslie Lewis-Sheets was a teenager in New Albany, her parents built a new home and used an interior designer to finish the inside of the house. She says this entire process enthralled her, and she knew from that minute on that she wanted to be an interior designer. She got her degree in interior design and moved to West Palm Beach to start her career. A few years later, she ended up moving back to Southern Indiana when she got married and stayed in the business. She has owned LL&A Interior Design for 12 years now and has clients in the commercial, institutional and residential sectors. She finds that she will start in someone’s office and end up in their home or vice versa. People want their commercial spaces more welcoming and their home spaces more amenable to working out of the home. Leslie uses the term “resi-mercial” for this concept, and she prides herself on being able to let people enjoy whatever space they are inhabiting in whatever capacity. Leslie has been in the business for 31 years and is still full of energy for each new project. As she says, “My day isn’t complete unless I’ve moved furniture.” Today, let’s get to know interior designer Leslie Lewis-Sheets!
You design commercial, institutional and residential spaces, and you say they are all blending into one, coining the term “resi-mercial.” Tell us more about this concept.
“Resi-mercial” is a new term we’ve heard that recognizes the combination of residential and commercial design. We have certainly noticed and welcome the big shift toward everything residential. We attend the residential and commercial furniture markets every year, and we’ve seen the residential welcoming an industrial influence for years, while also noticing the commercial market embracing the shift towards residential. Whether you are walking into a lobby or office lounge, you feel as if you’ve never left your home. This is similar to a hotel suite that wants it to feel like it is your master bedroom. When we spend so much of our lives at work, why has our office interior been so uninspiring? Clients request for their office to feel like home. We welcome this wonderful blending of the two markets and are confident in the work that we provide for both segments. Half of our work is residential and half is commercial. We may start in a client’s home and then transition to working in their offices, or the working relationship may begin in their office and we then work in their home. We pride ourselves that we offer both types of design and do both well. We have always had the even split of design work. We are experienced and members of both professional affiliations representing the residential and commercial markets.
What is your design aesthetic, and how do you translate that to a client and his/her space?
I want my client to be comfortable in their space and enjoy it. I want it to be all about them. We focus on their needs and wants and bring out their personality and their personal dynamic so that their space speaks about them. We always like to highlight a fun, funky factor while still making it their own. I have always thought that when a space works and functions well and you feel good in it, then it’s a job well done on our behalf: a feel-good happy space!
Is there one design element that you use over and over again in some capacity? Why?
A simple design element that offers huge impact and can change the personality of a space are down-filled pillows. They are easy to add, easy to change and a very simple way to add color, pattern and personality. But they must be down-filled, not the poly-fill. We have really noticed the addition of pillows in commercial furnishings and settings. We also always like to add a pop of animal print such as zebra or leopard, because just a bit will make it sexy, classic and fun! Also adding a small bit of greenery, preferably a live plant or tree.
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
Trends we’re loving are upholstered ottomans. Who doesn’t love putting their feet up at home or work? You can’t get comfy unless you can get your feet up! Also loving open floor plans and the focus on fabulous bedding. A great night’s sleep on wonderful bedding makes a big difference on your overall outlook.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
I get my design inspiration from nature. I like to play up what you see out your windows as it offers ever-changing artwork for your entire space. You can capture that with simple side panels on your windows, but not too much pattern to compete with the outdoors that we like to bring in and welcome into the space.
What brings you the most professional joy?
The most joy for me comes from a happy client! We had just completed a second home for one of our favorite clients, and she hadn’t seen our finished work yet. When she arrived after we had completed the entire installation, she said, “Oh my gosh you totally captured ‘me’!” Music to our ears!
Are people starting to embrace color again, or is the movement still strong with a canvas of white?
We’re still seeing the trend of neutrals with fresh whites, pale creams and grays but with bolder pops of color such as lots of pink, navy, coral, teal and emerald green. It’s light, airy and easy with happy accents!
What’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of interior design from those outside the industry?
One of the biggest misconceptions is how difficult our work can be with all the orchestration and coordination of work to be completed. Whether it’s new construction or a small renovation, there are always surprises and upsets. Our work is also very physical with lots of hard work. My day isn’t complete unless I’ve moved furniture.
Would you share one designer secret with StyleBlueprint readers?
My secret is fresh flowers. Happiness for $4 is a bunch of Alstroemeria (also known as Peruvian lillies), which means friendship and devotion, from Kroger. They give life and color to any space. Another secret: slow-close toilet seats and lids!
Who have been your industry mentors/role models (your personal interior design crushes!) and why?
My mentor and role model is Susan Schuyler Smith, who was my first employer at my first design job 31 years ago! She is accomplished, published and so very proud of her accomplishments and the fact that I am one of her protegés. She expected a lot and gave me freedom to learn. I had lots of responsibility at a young age. And my mother Patty Lewis McManus, who always kept a wonderful home, always appreciates beautiful things and always will have fabulous taste!
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
There is not one that really stands out. They all offer a wonderful challenge. The more difficult the challenge, the larger the reward and satisfaction!
What are your predictions for interior design in the next 10 to 15 years?
There will be more emphasis and focus on functionality, accessibility and sustainability. Healthy buildings are smart spaces! Also, home/work environments will be smaller, better-designed and more efficient.
Thank you to Leslie Lewis-Sheets for taking time to share her design advice and inspirations.
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