unexpected guests: leanne ford.
by victoria comment

10/22/18

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

*editor’s note: there were some images that needed reshooting so we’re re-running this story with editorial revisions so you can enjoy it again fully! 

i couldn’t be more excited about this unexpected guest. i’ve followed her for ages, and have always wanted to meet her. so i really lucked out big time, when interior designer extraordinaire and HGTV star leanne ford moved in just around the block from me! she and her husband erik (of buck mason fame) restored an old cabin i’d been eyeing for some time, wondering what would ever become of it and i can tell you (and you too shall soon see) it has become simply smashing, that’s what!

rustic stone mantle with mid-century modern fireplace. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

exterior of designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

i dropped by this week for a visit and could not stop oggling every nook and creative cranny, because what leanne has done with her very enviable curation skills is create a wee masterpiece. once the secluded echo park home of hollywood silent film star, clara kimball young, leanne has transformed the old cabin using her signature white-on-white-washed palette, and her eclectic mix and match talents. she has that killer instinct we all wish for and sees possibilities where i don’t think i’d ever dare to look. for instance — that mirrored coffee table — that was once a disco floor! and placing vintage portraits face up on the coffee table — inspired!  i could seriously gush here for an eternity (this home just oozes love, including that of the lovebirds who live there), so i’m going to move onto the interview. but for more endless inspiration from leanne (who’s as warm and lovely as you might expect) — watch her HGTV show restored by the fords, follow her on instagram and check out her beautiful website to see what glorious renovations she’ll be up to next.

mirrored coffee table with portrait painting and books. / sfgirlbybay

oversized art in cozy echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

How did you get started in your career, and are you doing what you always imagined you’d be doing?

I was in fashion for 15 years. But I always, always decorated my rental, or my house, or my dorm or my room — since I was a little girl. It surprises me now that I never thought to do interiors for a living until I was in my 30s. I had done my first major construction project and it was featured in Country Living Magazine. That started my career! People started calling and asking me to design their home and offices, and I said YES! (And figured it out as I went along, with the help of some very wise interior friends advising me along the way.)

I always knew I would be creating. I just never saw this coming. But I have a feeling I will say that in 20 years again — ain’t life the adventure, huh?

designer leanne ford's rustic modern echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

magazine print in floating frame. / sfgirlbybay

decor details inside designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

How did the HGTV show come about?

My friend Peter told them about my work and what I was doing in Pittsburgh. They reached out and we talked for honestly four or five years before this all happened. I was totally fine with the time it took, I have always believed that it all works out as it should — and if not we adjust anyway. ;) So even though HGTV took a long time for everything to click I used that time to hone my craft and make a name for myself on my own! It turned out just right!

inspiring decor inside designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

inspiring interior of designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's whitewashed echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's mirrored coffee table in her echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

How would you describe your style and how has it evolved?

My style is easy, warm, maximalist minimalist in a strange way — and always more curated than decorated. I think my easy style has stayed pretty consistent since the beginning, as the style is based fully on the client and the home I am working on — but my taste seems to be getting much more expensive. To my chagrin.

artwork inside designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

mismatched dining chairs in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

What’s your favorite feature in your L.A. cabin?

I love the stone fireplace with the mid century malm inset. That was a wild card! We actually built that fireplace out of stones in the yard. It wasn’t there when we bought the house. I wanted it to look like it’s been there since 1906.

rustic farm table in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

ceramic dishes in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

rustic farm table in eat-in kitchen. / sfgirlbybay

eat-in kitchen in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

What part of your job would we find most surprising?

How hard it is! Budgets, timelines, etc. Construction is NO JOKE. A house is a living breathing thing and not everything works as you planned. That’s hard. But art is an evolution. And you have to be open to that.

whitewashed open shelving in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

kitchen decor in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

kitchen decor details in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

white smeg in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

What has been one of the best moments of your career so far?

Having a TV show is pretty darn WILD. But I think doing my own projects how I want, where I want, when I want is the most satisfying creatively. Those projects keep my creative blood flowing!

industrial lighting in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's rustic kitchen in echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

trinkets inside leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My dad always used to say “Don’t major in the minors.” Think big picture and make decisions based on that, and don’t sweat the small stuff along the way. I also loved when I was going into high school freshman year. I had straight A’s up to that point and as I went into school my mom said, “Leanne, get a B early! Relax and have fun, it’s just high school!” HA. I love her for saying that. And for the record, I got lots of them. And here I am, still a contributing member to society. ;)

white-washed walls with art in designer leanne ford's home. / sfgirlbybay

rustic white-washed walls in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

Do you have any quick tips for renovating an old house?

Renovating an old house is NEVER quick. It’s a can of worms. If you want to be nice to yourself. JUST PAINT! Though if you’re reading this I doubt that’s all you will do either. We creatives are gluttons for punishment!

minimalist bathroom with clawfoot tub in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's bathroom details in echo park home. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin bathroom. / sfgirlbybay

What’s the easiest way for you to find inspiration?

Look UP! See everything. Watch everyone. Read everything you can get your hands on. Let your mind wander.

Who would you like to sit down to drinks or tea with?

YOU! (editor’s note: yes, please!)

whitewashed bedroom of designer leanne ford. / sfgirlbybay

whitewashed bed and bedroom in echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's whitewashed echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

Do you have a favorite artist or recent exhibit you’ve seen?

I’m in love with Alexandra Valenti’s work out of Austin and Carly Kuhn’s The Cartorialist drawings, out of los angeles. Also, Being a Pittsburgh girl I always go get inspired at the Warhol Museum. He was the original marketing genius! And his art is so fun, gets my mind thinking of lots of fun ideas!

whitewashed bedroom in designer leanne ford's echo park home. / sfgirlbybay

whitewashed decor in designer leanne ford's echo park bedroom. / sfgirlbybay

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin bedroom. / sfgirlbybay

What’s souvenir did you bring back from your last trip?

I collect the key cards from every hotel I stay at. Someday these things are going to be history, just like keys, so I am excited to have my collection!

designer leanne ford's echo park cabin with whitewashed decor. / sfgirlbybay

What is your idea of a perfect day in L.A.? Any favorite secret spots we should know about?

Breakfast at Flake with my man, then off to the mart collective and venice vintage paradise for vintage buying. Then to the beach in malibu (in my perfect day the ocean water is much warmer and bluer than in reality) and dinner and drinks at Chez Jay with the jukebox playing only our songs!

open bookshelves in designer leanne ford's home. / sfgirlbybay

creative workspace in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

oversized art in designer leanne ford's home. / sfgirlbybay

If you had to select the perfect soundtrack for being your most creative, do you have a musician, album or genre you’d recommend?

Close your eyes, lay down and listen to the Burgs by Mt Wolf! Follow it up with Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.

double white doors with book storage above in leanne ford's echo park home. / sfgirlbybay

books in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

You’re taking a road trip – what’s the perfect dream destination?

Cross country. I’ve done it over ten times now. I say, if Ima gonna do it I want to do the WHOLE THANG.

inspiration wall in designer leanne ford's echo park cabin. / sfgirlbybay

closet details inside designer leanne ford's home. / sfgirlbybay

• photography by victoria smith for sfgirlbybay.

14 responses to “unexpected guests: leanne ford.”

  1. Loved seeing this home a few weeks ago on your site Victoria. Love it even more now with the additional photos. Thanks so much.

  2. So lovely! I loved seeing this, because we have an old house, with very similar characteristics (stone floors, wood paneling/or “shiplap”, etc.) We’re also in the process of updating the house, nothing too major, but all changes revolve around “brightening” it up. I often wonder if it’s going to look good once it’s all done. So far, I love the changes we made, but I can’t help but wonder. After seeing your beautiful place I have the confidence that it will! Quick question, did you treat your stone floors with anything? We want to keep them looking good for years to come!

  3. Must be something folks in a different area appreciate. I find the interior too stark, white, and not cozy – to my eye. Then again, I’m form the Pacific NW and all this white is really harsh.

    When you started by saying “cabin,” my thoughts turned to brown, blue,, reds, something that reflects the cabin feel, not one that is stark and “beachy” to my eye.

    Glad you have lovely new neighbors and will have peeps living so close at hand. Delighted that the couple DI enjoy this decorating, since they will be surrounded by the brightness and chic for many years to come. Well done….

  4. Love the brightness you’ve created. Seems previously there was lots of wood…walls, ceilings and floors. The monochrome is lovely. Calming and peaceful backdrop for everything else.

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