Designer SpotlightJan 28, 2019

Designer Spotlight: Leanne Ford

Written by All Sorts Of
Photographed by Phoebe Dean

If you don’t know about Leanne Ford (@leannefordinteriors), drop what you’re doing and take a seat. It only takes a few seconds after scrolling through her work that you can easily become obsessed and start pinning like crazy. Like Amber, Leanne was not formally trained in school, but had a natural eye for design. She was in the fashion industry, kicking ass as a creative director and stylist, but once she really started to dabbling in interior design, she knew this was going to be the next chapter in her career. Not only are we obsessed with Leanne’s designs, she is as cool as can be. We were lucky enough to chat with her about her journey from fashion industry days to where she is now — which, spoiler alert, she’s is doing a lot. From her HGTV show, to her Target collab, to her motherhood journey, to the launch of her new book, ‘Work in Progress’ — we are so inspired and impressed by Leanne.

A conversation with Leanne Ford…

Tell us about your journey as a designer.

Let’s just say it was a windy road. I never set out to be an interior designer. I was in fashion, doing creative direction and styling for mainly surf and skate brands and musicians. I always decorated my rentals, apartments, dorms, you name it, but I never thought twice about a career change. 


I bought an old one room schoolhouse in my home town of Pittsburgh in 2010 and it was my first opportunity to really play! Take out walls, gut the kitchen and bathroom, really do what I wanted! And that house got some attention. It was featured in Country Living Magazine and from there, people started calling and asking me to help them design their homes and offices. Being a freelancer, I just said, “Yes!” and I figured it out as I went along.


What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started, but is feeling stuck?

Just do it! “The fear of failure kills creativity.” – Einstein. Mess up and mess up and try again, it’s the only way to learn. So just know it’s going to be a messy process and dive in! The best career advice I can give you starting out is “SAY YES!” When someone asks you if you can do this or if you will help with this, even if you don’t know what you are doing, say YES and figure it out as you go. You will be more than fine.

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When you were first getting started, what were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome?

The biggest hurdle was always money. I believe they call that “Champagne dreams on a beer budget… ” But in reality having tight budgets really pushed me creatively and created a home and a style that was unique and special. I had to decide where to save and where to splurge. It’s a great lesson, and it adds soul to your project, even though we never feel like that DURING the budget conversations. 


Fast forward to today, you are absolutely killing it. You have an HGTV show and you just launched a line at Target. Was this always the goal? Tell us about what it’s like to be where you are now in your career.

Well, thank you! Killing SOMEthing… ;) I can only say it’s been a joy and I feel incredibly lucky to be here. I believe there are a lot of us out there with similiar styles and aesthetics and I just have the opportunity to be one of the voices for “us” just like you guys do at Amber Interiors! People are creative souls and as designers we get to feed that to and do that with each other. How amazing. 

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Where do you find your inspiration?

You name it! I can’t seem to turn these wheels OFF in my brain. Every song, every movie, every book, every time I take a walk, every trip, all of my creative genius friends and role models on instagram! Look up, you never know what is going to spark a thought in your brain in a totally different direction than you’re even seeing it. 


You’re a mama to be! Huge congratulations! What are some of the best pieces of advice you’ve gotten so far on how to find balance as a new mom?

Thank you! I can’t wait to meet this little sweet soul that I’ve been carrying around! I may be totally naive here, but part of me thinks this baby is going to actually CALM my life down. I have been nonstop go go go in my career, and here is a reason to be still. And what a GREAT reason! My best design project yet. ;)
I always chose a career path that put quality of life before work, and I have been passionate about taking care of that. I believe with a family now that I will put even more precedent on that, nothing is more important that showing and giving love to each other, to my husband and to my daughter. So that’s what my first priority is and will continue to be. Luckily I usually get to create at the same time! 

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We are dying to see the nursery. Can you give us any hints on what it’s going to look like?

Haha, the pressure is ON! I can’t give you hints cause I don’t have it done yet… uh oh… two months left and counting. But I will say this, there will be a magic and beautiful lighting fixture, some great vintage, and lots of reminders that she is loved. 


What are five things you can’t live without right now?

My husband, a bathtub, a cup of tea, Josh Ritter on the radio, my family.


Any last advice for aspiring designers or entrepreneurs?

Make a portfolio or a website profiling your projects. Ask your friends if they will let you stage or re-design their homes for free for your shoot. Ask your friends that are good at taking pictures to be the photographer. Play with furniture that you already have

Promote your skills. Call your friend’s and see who wants help rearranging their furniture. See who needs furniture and go help them find some. Hit up the goodwills and buy things, paint them, sell them for more, you will have a style. It will naturally come out, your vibe, and people will notice that. People with similar style will start to like your work. The more you put out there the more people will start to see. Then the paying jobs will start coming in. And man, that’s exciting! Be honest with them about how much money it will take, how many hours you are working, and what you can help them with.

Bonus Tip. Offer to work for free, or for barter or super cheap. The less risk that is involved for people the more opportunities you will have. And be kind! Just because you are in fashion doesn’t mean you have to be snobby, or mean, or rich, or make people think you are rich. Be kind to everyone you come in contact with, everyone you work with, offer to help with other stuff on set that aren’t your roles, clean up the trash after lunch, bring coffee for your crew, take this job and this chance to spread love and good vibes into the design world. We could use more of those. So thank you for your help! Through all of this, I think the main thing to remember is that if you really want to do it, then do it. This is a creative field, though a formal education can help you in many ways, it’s not necessary. And a million people may go to school and have the right education and degree in the right field but they might not have IT. If you have IT, then use IT. It would be a waste of a beautiful mind not to.

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  • Gigi

    I was so stoked that you featured Leanne. Her fashion sense is so me and her interior design is equally impressive. I had her work pinned long before I knew her name. Great read and I love her advice.

  • Christie Hall

    This was so inspirational, really… There is nothing better than to hear from someone who is so very talented and successful, yet humble and human. Not only does she inspire to dig in and go for it, but to spread some love along the way. My favorite quote: ” Be kind to everyone you come in contact with, everyone you work with, offer to help with other stuff on set that aren’t your roles, clean up the trash after lunch, bring coffee for your crew, take this job and this chance to spread love and good vibes into the design world.” What a great approach to work in any field.

  • Tiffany Avery

    Wow! I love her soul, so genuine. You can see that through her work, her show and this interview… love good humans!
    Thank you for this!

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