Interview with Leah Atkins
Photography by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Leah Atkins, owner and designer of Leah Atkins Design, explains how she conceptualized and executed a redesign of a ’90s home in the Hamilton Mill community of greater Atlanta.
How did you develop a love for interior design?
My mom spent a lot of time redecorating our home when I was growing up. She had such a love for home decor that she often said she wished it was her profession. This also inspired me at a young age when I began asking if I could redecorate my room; she was supportive and encouraged me to explore concepts on my own and to not be afraid of self-expression. In high school, I excelled in an interior design class, and it solidified my decision to pursue this as a career.
When did you start Leah Atkins Design?
After completing my four-year interior-decorating degree from Carson-Newman University in Tennessee, I moved to Atlanta with my husband. There were few jobs to be had during that time, so I began working in a baby-and-kids furniture store. It was there that I got my first interior-decorating gig when a client hired me to design their nursery. This eventually led to my decorating five more rooms in their home. It was then that I decided to officially start my own business. I was only twenty-three years old but, with encouragement from my husband, I began Leah Atkins Design in 2014.
What are you best known for?
I am known as a high-end designer because I have completed projects ranging from historic Southern homes (the South has many) to Atlanta high-rises to lake and mountain homes in northern Georgia and the Carolinas. Because many of my clients are traditionalists, they seek my services to help update and create fresh looks for their homes. They also want something highly personal because it’s more than just the iconic pillars, graceful front porches, and formal dining rooms with great chandeliers. I help my clients find what makes them happy.
Which room did you find most interesting to decorate?
The dining room was an interesting room to work on due to its visually striking dark color palette as compared to the rest of the home, where neutral color tones were used. The old-world-style chandelier, lamps, sconces, and dark furniture added to the vintage and dramatic quality of the room. I am a firm believer that dining rooms should stand out rather than blend in with the rest of the home.
Can you explain how you incorporated the old furniture with the new pieces?
Most of the furniture was replaced other than the dining room table and chairs and a few other minor items. Since the goal was to keep a traditional feel, I incorporated antique art and furniture pieces such as an antique chest and embroidered armchairs with cabriole legs in the entrance hallway.
There is a lot of natural light in this home. How did you incorporate it with the lamps and overhead lights?
Fortunately, every room in the Hamilton Mill home has ample amounts of natural lighting, which draws your attention to the windows and made the space feel alive and inviting. Because natural light was abundant, I was able to successfully combine floor lamps with table lamps and sconces. Most people don’t think of using sconces as a form of room lighting, but, when mixed with contemporary decor, they give a room a warm, welcoming feel. Also, depending on the brightness of the natural room lighting, I will use varying types of window treatments to tone it down.
What’s your favorite design tip?
Mirrors are a great way to add natural light to a room. They can also make it appear larger because the light comes through the windows and reflects off them. Using oversized floor mirrors is also a great addition to any home, as well as hanging a mirror by the front door for people as they leave the home. Also, if you have artwork to display, using a mirror is a perfect technique to showcase it through its reflection on the opposite wall.
For more info, visit leahatkinsdesign.com