Mercer Island resident LeeAnn Baker has long been entranced by design — from art to architecture — and she ultimately decided to go to the New York School of Interior Design after graduating with her bachelor’s in art history from the University of Washington. Fast forward 20 years, and she’s built an eponymous interior design firm that attracts high-net-worth clients all over the Eastside and Seattle area who often bring her in to contribute to their new construction or fully remodeled homes. Her design style is simple and elegant, with small details that make each space shine. We chatted with her recently to learn what fuels her creative spirit.
Tell me a little bit about your design style and how it inspires you.
I like to refer to my design style as Northwest elegance, and to us that means understated and refined homes that capture the unique personality and lifestyle demands
of each client.
Our designs tend to reflect the hues and simplicity of the Pacific Northwest.
What can be the most challenging aspect to interior design?
I would say that the most challenging aspect is learning that you can’t control everything as much as you’d like to. You can orchestrate, you can organize, you can plan ahead, but you always have to know that the unforeseen is going to happen. And that doesn’t mean you didn’t do your job, and you know, you weren’t working hard. Things happen. Things get discontinued; things get damaged. You just have to be flexible, very elastic, in this job.
When designing a room, where do you start?
I always start with function — talking to people about how they use the space. I like to come onto a project while it’s being developed and not just after the fact. Interior designers need to be (looped into the process) early on, because the designers bring in a use-of-space (perspective). We really get to know how clients are going to utilize the space. Then we can make it functional, and then we can take the function and make it beautiful.
What are some ways that you like to elevate and really highlight these areas of the home that people use so often?
We don’t tend to use pops of color here. We tend to use what I like to refer to as layers of color. We use a lot of really durable fabric, so that takes the stress out of how people use the space. You don’t have to worry as much about dirt, with durability. We like to use a lot of hand-done finishes that feel kind of worn and comfortable to give it more of a Pacific Northwest feel.
Speaking of color, are there any bold color palettes, or colors in general, that you’re really loving right now?
I’m loving really deep blue and green colors right now. Also, I have a few projects I’m working with that are using really deep browns that will be layers of warmer colors. We’re moving a little bit away from the gray that’s been so popular, still keeping it a neutral palette, but doing more layers of bone, and tan, and deep browns.
These are the kind of colors that we see in the Pacific Northwest. You look outside, and you see the lakes and the trees. So many people think of Seattle as being gray, but it’s not. The hues of the Pacific Northwest are those colors. I love bringing them inside. And again, my designs don’t really have “pops of color.” They’re more layers — gradations.
What is it about the layers of color that feels different than the pops?
It’s a subtle change. You know when you look at the water? You see layers of green. It’s not just one green color. I think sometimes pops of color can appear interesting, but they seem a little jarring. Even if you’re looking at a sunset; what we love about sunsets are the layers of color, not necessarily just the pop of color.
What are some little elements of intrigue that can take a space to the next level?
It’s not just about finding a rug and furnishings — it’s how you accessorize. Also, what’s the treatment on the ceiling? What do you see when you look up? Is it just a beautiful light fixture? Do you put wallpaper on the ceiling? Have you done a unique trim detail? Shiplap has become really popular, but there’s so many other ways to accomplish that by adding texture to walls. Everyone wants these giant multi-functional rooms, and yet so many people are neglecting the ceiling. It’s just a big wide-open space. And you know, when you really look at pictures, that can be the biggest piece of the picture — this huge slab of ceiling. There are so many ways to make it more interesting, and to really warm
up the home.
So, what kind of wallpaper patterns or colors do you like to turn to for the ceiling?
Often metallics — something that has kind of a reflective quality to it. I’ve done silvers and Champagne-colored ceilings, but also some woven material. I mean, there are just so many things you can play with. I like the texture as well as the color.
Who are you looking toward for design inspiration?
I spend a lot of time on Instagram following quite a few people. Just seeing what everyone’s doing, even if their style isn’t exactly what I’m wanting to do. I love seeing the way other designers think about things and take things in. (I love) Kati Curtis (@designerkati). She’s someone who uses like a ton of bold color and pattern mixing, which you don’t see in my design, but I’ve been inspired to think outside the box the way she does.