Designing for Real Life: The Secrets Behind My Easy, Elegant Everyday Style

As an interior designer it’s my job to create beautiful spaces for clients and offer great design ideas for people’s homes. Underpinning my residential and commercial designs is the experience I gained working in makeover TV. Over the years, I travelled across the country, working for people with very real needs, usually making over a room with little money and time.

Makeover television sounds glamorous, but anyone who has done it knows it’s tremendously hard work. For me, it was also an invaluable experience that afforded an up-close-and-personal look into how people really live, what they really want, and what their needs are when it comes to the functionality of their homes.

Today, so much of what I’ve learned doing makeovers translates into crafting entire home designs for clients. My approach may seem simpler than other designer’s processes, but I believe my success has come from being accessible and open to all types of design styles and budgets.

Down to Business

When people ask how I work, I tell people that I’m a good listener first, a problem solver second and an interior designer third. One of the first things I do when working with a client is to ask them 20 questions about their lifestyle: Do they have kids? How about pets? Do they entertain family and friends? Where do they watch TV? Where do the kids do homework? Where are they on laptops, where do they eat dinner? Along with asking what design elements they like, I like to explore what styles, colors or materials they DON’T like. I find it’s often a lot easier for them to define that. Personally, I find it super helpful when someone says things like, “I hate chenille fabric.” “I don’t like olive green, rust or gold colors.” “I don’t like anything super modern.” That kind of information helps me cut to the chase and craft a design that is perfect for them.

Working in makeover television has also let me flex my creative muscles in lots of different design styles, since it’s up to me to create a space that the homeowner will have a big, happy reaction to when the room is revealed at the end of the day. I found that people always left me “clues” in the “before” walkthrough. They might have been trying for a beachy look, so there was a seascape photograph on a wall or a lighthouse on a cocktail table. In makeover television, it was my job to decipher the look they were going for and then give it to them. I was successful because I understood from the start that my job is not for me to impose my “Libby Langdon signature style” on them, but rather to give them exactly what THEY wanted to live with. This same philosophy applies to my residential and commercial design projects I work on now. My mission is always to create a design scheme that helps my clients announce their own personal style.

When I begin working on a new residential project I find inspiration for the overall design arrives in many forms.  Sometimes I’ll start by asking a client about their favorite vacation or if they have a favorite hotel or resort that they love the look of.  The springboard for a design might be a scarf, a piece of jewelry or some special family heirloom; any of these could be the jumping off point for a color combination or a mix of materials. I find if I design a home around places, spaces or items a client loves, they will be sure to adore each room every time they walk into it. 

Creating designs that are specific and tailored to a client keeps my job fresh and fun because I’m never repeating a look or doing the same project twice.  People always ask me what my design style is and the truth is that it’s less of a look and more of a lifestyle philosophy. I boil it down to my “easy, elegant, everyday style” The “easy” is approachable and accessible design with dynamic elements that are relaxed and unfussy. By “elegant,” I mean that you can have beautiful, chic looks with wonderful fabrics and furnishings that are very stylish, yet still user-friendly. And the “everyday” is about design for real life. My clients are real people with kids, pets, and friends that drink red wine. My job is to create spaces for them that look great and support the way they live…everyday.      

Common threads in all the projects I do are comfortable furnishings, accessible looks and functionality.  I believe a design can be dynamic and exciting without bold, wacky or radical design elements. Color pops, great accessories, a good furniture layout and an inviting feel have been the recipe for success for me since the beginning and still are. I also find that most of my clients are looking for evergreen spaces, looks that they will love for many years to come. This means we can try out some of the current trends, but incorporating them as an accent usually works better than building an entire room around them.

An important part of what I do as a designer is to complete the process down to finishing touches like accessories and family photos. I guess you could say I’m a “turn-key” designer and the clients I work with really enjoy that.  When I leave I know every last design detail has been taken care of and there’s nothing left for the client to finish. It’s important for me to know they simply get to start living in and loving their new home.

Great design comes in all shapes, sizes, and styles and interiors should reflect who we are and what we love.  Ultimately, I want clients to walk into rooms that I’ve designed for them and feel like their home is giving them a big fat hug. If that happens, I consider the project a total success!

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