Interview with Leah Richardson, author of “Interior Wisdom” Part 2
Yolanda: One of the things I love about your book is how you use the process of interior design as a metaphor for spiritual renewal. You give us metaphors that show that the process of designing is akin to the process of having the Lord work in our lives. To clear up the old and the unlovely to make room for His best. Can you give us an overview for your personal process of interior design from the inside out?
Leah Richardson: You know Yolanda, over the years we all accumulate lots of stuff. Lots and lots of stuff. And we can push that stuff aside… we can even walk around it. Hide it. And even today, we look at society and see the sadness of the dark side of hoarding.
What got my attention in what I needed to do in my life was through walking in people’s homes around the country. The outside looks fabulous. And I go inside, and it would be a mess and it would be chaos and there would be no peace or tranquility in the home. It made me realize that the most beautiful interior and the most beautiful life reached far past my human design to the power and presence of God in our lives and in our homes, because we all try including myself, to fill our lives with temporal things.
And at some point we get overwhelmed and we recognize we have lost our way. I recognized this through working in client’s homes. The Holy Spirit showed me that I had lost my way. And for me the accumulation was a little of both, being overwhelmed that I allowed my life to be littered with compromise, to outright sin. And I knew I needed a makeover. I needed a change. And I started crying out to God. I looked really good on the outside, but inside was a mess. I am somewhat of a perfectionist, and God has worked on me over the years to practice “good enough”, but when you do what I do and you work for clients that is really hard!
There is a balance. You have to learn that draperies are not cardboard! Draperies are fabric. And I have to remind my clients of this. There is a point where we have to practice “good enough” and let go of perfectionism. But with God’s help , I was able to remove a lot of those broken things in my life. I was holding on to broken relationships. You know the dirt, the grime… and the Holy Spirit filled those empty places and really transformed me to make me more like a picture of Jesus, to make me more like God.
And that is that pebble in the pond effect. You know when we allow that first pebble to be dropped into our pond and there is an initial splash. It makes an impact in our lives. And then the ripple of that, I love it, because God started in the heart and what He did was transform my home… my family… my work, and those around me; I started seeing changes just from allowing God to change me. To work in my life, and I am so very, very thankful. It is definitely a process. It was definitely a process from the inside out. But it’s worth taking the look inside and working through that process with God.
Yolanda: Right. So you are really saying the process starts in the heart first. Before we get to the material.
Leah Richardson: Excellent.
Yolanda: And yeah, it is something that we probably need to sit down and think about before we even start planning to decorate or design, but I don’t think you are saying… You are not saying that we have to have it together to even move forward.
Leah Richardson: Absolutely not. No, we don’t have to have it together. And I certainly by no means have it together. And you know God grabs us right where we are. And I was in the midst of doing design work and the outside looked good. And the end result looked good but I knew inside that I was hurting. There were a lot of broken things in my life. And I asked myself why am I holding on to these broken things? When I know and love and believe in a God that can change the brokenness and can heal, and can redeem. It’s a deep work that I started doing. It is a long process, and I won’t ever be through. For someone who wants to check all those boxes, Yolanda, you know I’ll never check that box!
Yolanda: Right. None of us can. You are so right… it’s an unending process… the process of decorating and designing, and God’s process of continually remaking us and molding us. It is unending. And that is a good thing.
Leah Richardson: Yes, it is a good thing.
SIMPLIFYING YOUR HOME FOR BEAUTY
Yolanda: It goes together. So I guess we’ve gone into the second question which really relates to the New Year having just past. I know I made resolutions to declutter my home. And the first thing that you talk about in your book Interior Wisdom, is decluttering in a way that relates to our spiritual life, with confession and with reflection. Is there anything that we should keep in mind when decluttering our home not just for organizing, but for decorating?
Leah Richardson: Yes, there is a word that I have used with every client. And it is the word “edit.” “Edit. Edit. Edit.” It’s to take a good look at each room of your home. For some women it is more like a purging to get them to let go of things. But, it can be a real eye opener. I promise you every time I work with a client and say, “ I am going to go through and let’s edit first. Let’s pull away first.” Every client says, “Leah I had no idea that I had so much stuff.” You know we just get used to having all these things around us, filling every single space in our homes, in our lives and even in our schedules! And I speak on Interior Wisdom. I encourage women to think about the process this way — wise remove things, you are making room for better things. Not just more things. But better things. I think a key to this is simplicity.
I truly love a simple design. My style is not about a lot of things, a lot of stuff. And I love going back to the scripture I found in the Bible, the apostle Paul says we should live our lives in this world in “simplicity”. Some manuscripts substitute the word simplicity for holiness. I love that! So keep it simple. Simplicity makes a beautiful sanctuary at home, and heart.
For example when I walk into a well-designed room there is a clearly discernible focal point. There is something in that room that my eye immediately catches. It says “I am the anchor of this room. I am the most important thing in this room.” It starts by pulling away, editing everything out of that room first and then place back that focal point, that main thing. Whether it is something that is structural, like a fireplace, or a piece of furniture or an oversized piece of art. You place that focal point in that room first. Then allow everything else to support that focal point, the possibilities of design are going to flow. You’re going to have balance and rhythm. It’s going to be end up being a beautiful room.
The most boring rooms to me are the rooms that are so filled and everything is shouting “Look at me! Look at me!” You can’t stay in that room, there is no peace. There is all this little stuff cluttered everywhere and your eyes cannot make sense of it. So when we start editing, you can start pulling away the clutter. And you put that “main thing” on the focal point, carefully add things back into the room. My challenge to you, to my clients, to myself is when we get a room exactly like we want it to look, pull one more thing out. Pull one more thing out… just see if you can do it! It’s hard, but it will be a simple beautiful interior, uncluttered. Where your eye and your mind can relax. Where the principles of design just naturally come into play. It is going to be a beautiful sanctuary of a home.
Yolanda: Now the pictures in your book are beautiful interiors. I can’t tell whether they are multiple projects, or just one? Is that your home?
Leah Richardson: It’s multiple projects.
Yolanda: Multiple projects okay.
Leah Richardson: They are pictures of my home and a couple of clients homes too. There are four different homes displayed in my book. But then, as an interior designer, you have a certain style, the longer you are in your career, the more people come to you to create that style in their home.
Yolanda: I understand.
Leah Richardson: You can see my personal stance, design-wise, in some of the homes. Yet everything is a little different, because when I leave, it is not my house. It is my client’s home. And I want it to look and feel like their home, not mine.
Yolanda: Right. I remember you saying that some people are cool with the decluttering process at the beginning. Maybe they have thought it through and have gone through the interior design process before and know that the best project start at an empty room. But you console them, telling them that everything is going to come out of the room, but not everything is going to go. There are going to be things that you bring in along with the new things. Some of the old things can come in of course with the new things that you bring through the project. And that is neat to know.
Leah Richardson: Right, it gives what I call an “acquired look.” You know if we go through and select the things that are really important. Everybody has some nice things or things that are really important to them. If there is a way to creatively incorporate some of the things that they have, I think this is very important. It gives that acquired look. Old and new. It also brings in the principles of interior design, because you don’t want your home to look like a furniture showroom. And it makes it more personal, doesn’t it?
Yolanda: Right. It does. It does. I guess the little things that your family will treasure can always be… If they do not belong in that room you can always put them maybe in another part of the house. I am guessing there is a give and take that you have with your clients when you go through the process. You said in your book that you approach from an “organic mindset.” Can you give us your perspective on that focus as an interior designer and believer? I was really impressed with how you talked about designing from a “green” mindset.
Leah Richardson: I look around at God’s creation and nature and I don’t want part of my job to be to destroy it. And it’s very raw and very real, natural beauty. I love to think about the harmony of the seasons working together. How colors change and work together. We really derive our principles of design of balance and scale from looking at nature. God is the grand designer. I take my cues from looking at nature using natural elements and natural fibers and textiles. Then I think about my daughter and the generations to come. I want these things to be there for them too. We must be careful how we treat nature. I guess I would say being good stewards of the world that we live in. As an interior designer, I think that that is very important.