Tastemaker Tuesday


I'm Erika Ward

Over a decade ago, I exchanged my corporate life in building construction for an opportunity to enhance your personal home via decoration and renovation.  My mission? To help busy professionals make their homes their sanctuaries.

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I love to hear stories of successful women in design who balance work, family, and their social lives and make it look completely effortless. Lee Kleinhelter is a perfect example.  She has been a woman on my radar even before I featured her work back in January of this year. Owner of Pieces, a high profile home boutique here in Atlanta, she has made quite a name for herself as a purveyor of vintage finds. Pieces carries a range of furniture and lighting from the 1940’s through the 1980’s that have been upholstered, painted, rewired, or reworked in a way that transforms them into unique treasures.

The night I finally met Lee was at a Pieces event featuring Jonathan Adler’s pottery collection where I professed my love of her work and admiration for all she has accomplished.

As Part 2 of Lee’s original feature, she graciously agreed to an interview with BluLabel Bungalow. In this interview, I asked about her early beginnings, personal style, family, and her greatest piece of advice. Enjoy!

How has your Southern upbringing influenced you as a designer?
Actually it’s not about a region but more about a person. More than the South, I was influenced by my Southern mother.  She was always pointing out interesting Southern architecture. Growing up in Greensboro, NC her love for old homes really shaped me. Probably my first major influence (in that way) was Otto Zenke, a famous architect/designer, who built much of Irving Park. My early appreciation for the quality of work in that era has really stuck with me. I continue to love design that is built to last.

With a husband, two children, and a business that has the demands of a “third” child, how do you manage to keep it all together?
It’s a juggling act that’s not easy because I like order. Kevin is an amazing husband and father and he is a huge part of keeping everything on track. Our businesses are integrated into our lives so that’s not only fun…it’s helpful. As a woman, we sometimes feel like we have to do everything, and of course we can’t. Kevin and I are very much partners in parenting and I’m thankful for that.

Please describe an average day in your life.
Honestly, there really isn’t an average day. I’m serious about that. I think that’s why I am so in love with what I do.

The blog world went bananas over your feature in Lonny Magazine and Atlanta Homes and Lifestyle Magazine. How does it feel to get instant feedback from a blog audience when reading the post comments?
The blogging community has been so supportive and it truly makes all the hard work worthwhile when people understand or appreciate what you do. I love that there is an outlet for people to express what they enjoy in design. And wow, there are some amazing bloggers out there who are extremely talented. You all inspire me!

Define your signature style.
Fresh, clean modern approach using updated vintage finds in an unexpected way. Having said that, I think that description is probably used a lot for designers. I guess what sets me apart is that I layer and I’m a ferocious editor.

With Fall’s pending arrival, what changes will you make to your home’s décor?
Our home is always changing. (an occupational hazard) I obviously keep the main pieces but I’m always rotating chairs or other finds in and out of our space.  I like our home to have little clutter. In the store we are currently having a big pillow sale (which I never do) so that I can transform the look of the store for Fall. Can’t wait for the new. We are changing it up and completely inspired right now. 

 What are some of your favorite finishing touches when designing a room?
There is really no set answer or formula for me. I just know when it’s the right balance. My favorite moment is when we install the “wow” piece. (like a fabulous light fixture that anchors the room) I don’t add a lot of smalls. I think each piece needs to be incredible and make a statement.

What is your ideal work environment?
Very clean and ORDER. I cannot handle stacks or messes. I like everyone that I hire to have the same OCD qualities. It’s true…

When not designing I am…
Always designing. Otherwise I am playing with Holden.

Highest Compliment…
30 pages in Lonny was extremely flattering.

Lucky Break…
Working for Dan Carithers.

Eureka Moment…
Thinking its around the corner!

Looking forward to…
What’s next…stay tuned.

Best Advice…
Don’t spend it all in one place. (However, I always seem to blow it on the shoes!)

*Thank you again Lee for sharing your passion with our readers! A special thanks to Kyle Jones Tibbs of And She Told Two Friends Communications and to Susan of Pieces.

image courtesy via Pieces, Inc, David Naugle for NaugleWorks, House Beautiful, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles Magazine, Lonny Magazine, and Erika Ward for BluLabel Bungalow

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Hi, I'm Erika.
Your Design + Happy Healthy Home Advocate.

Over a decade ago, I exchanged my corporate life in building construction for an opportunity to enhance your personal home via decoration and renovation. My mission? To help busy professionals make their homes their sanctuaries.

Learn more