LA- based interior and fabric designer Katie Leede is one busy gal. With her compamy Digs By Katie, she designs interiors. With Katie Leede and Company, she develops fabrics. Her debut Ra Collection was inspired by ancient Egyptian motifs and the natural world. The palette is earthy and rich; the patterns a mix of block printed soft geometrics and beautiful plants and birds. What fun inspiration, it takes me back to my Art History days! The fabrics are available through Holland and Sherry in New York and Chicago, Holly Hunt in LA, and through her website. As a true Texan, her design aesthetic is bold. Her use of color and embroidered fabrics with a diverse mix of antiques and art create memorable settings. Her projects look lived in, and evoke the feeling that their is a history of accumulating great finds. She was recently named one of Traditional Home's Young Traditional designers. I spoke with her recently, and look forward to meeting her when she next visits to New York. Her latest trip found her running around town, visiting her fabrics at Holland and Sherry, and designing a table for the NY Botanical Gardens Orchid Dinner.
Where did you learn the trade?
I have no formal training. My parents had several wonderful homes (Texas, Colorado, NYC, and Maine) and collected contemporary art, so I was exposed to good design and to beautiful physical environments from an early age. I just fell into the business because friends liked what I did with my own apartments and house. I learned by doing. And making lots of expensive mistakes! I have had angels along the way like veteran Lizzie Dinkel help me by giving me access to tremendous sources like the best curtain maker ever/ greatest finisher/ uphosterers/ ,etc, which are the most important thing to have in this business.
When did you know this was your calling in life?
I have always had my finger in the air, wondering “what’s the next thing?” After my acting “career” went basically nowhere because I had no talent for my talent, I decided to start walking through doors that WERE opening for me. Doing design work just comes naturally to me. I even like the social bit—interfacing with demanding clients, etc. It’s all part of the daily challenge that keeps me interested and gives me an opportunity to grow in unexpected ways as a creative person and as a business woman and as a human being. Thinking back, I did play endlessly in my dollhouse, rearranging furniture /painting the walls/ putting up different curtains.And, yes, I have massive numbers of drawings from when I was a child as my mother always made sure art supplies were abundant and readily available.
What other designer and or architect do you most admire (living or not) and wish to meet or collaborate with?
Gosh! Where would I begin? I am the biggest thief ever when it comes to appropriating their ideas , too! For starters, I’m a huge fan of the work of Axel Vervoordt- his exceptional taste in antiques and materials and his flair for using color to create moody, dramatic spaces is extraordinary. Jacques Granges ‘ wit and exceptional juxtaposition of cool fabrics and unusual stuff is an ongoing source of delight and inspiration.I also really admire the work Alberto Pinto has done in Morocco. I bet all of them would be fun to share supper with.
What is your favorite go to fabric house/collection or singular fabric?
Hmm.That’s a tough one. Peter Dunham in LA and John Rosselli in NYC carry lots of wonderful, bohemian lines such as Peter Dunham, Carolina Irving and Martyn Lawrence Ballard .I am obsessed with the sheers and linens from C&C Milano.Manuel Canovas’ Rouge de Chien cotton velvet is a favorite. Rose Tarlow has some real classics and Holly Hunt Great Plains and Christian Liagre’s line for Holly Hunt are great for the basics. Of course, my absolute number one favorite fabric line is my own at the moment! I just love it! And my one woven in the collection called Thatch, which is based on an early 19th century homespun, is terrific for everything: upholstery, curtains, you name it.
What materials do you frequently use?
Linen, linen velvet and hemp.
What is your favorite antique you own and reproduction collection you constantly use as a resource?
The big, baroque Portuguese bed in my master bedroom. It’s made from two oversized twin beds pushed together. It’s fabulous. I do mostly custom reproductions using my own carpenters and finishers but I do order things from Gregorius Pineo and I always am watching what Rose Tarlow is up to. Both those lines have a keen sense of line and finish. They don’t look faux the way most lines do.
What trade or retail store inspires you most?
There are so many! To name a few: Amy Perlin and Wyeth in NYC and I like to hit all the stores on the 600 block of Almont in LA:Richard Shapiro/Inner Gardens/Waldo/Peter Dunham/Nathan Turner/Harbinger/and Lief..I always find lots of good things there.
What is your favorite new and old interior book?
My favorite new-ish design books at the moment are the Beta-Plus series of Belgium Interiors. My most prized old book is “Les Decorateurs des annees 40” by Bruno Foucart and Jean-Louis Gaillemin. My head spins when I contemplate the kind of break out creativity of that time period.
Is there a project or iconic room by another interior design living or not that you love?
I could have gotten very cozy and comfortable and played a mean game of cards in Nancy Lancaster’s yellow room in London.
If you were not doing this what would you do?
If I could carry a tune, I would be a singer. But I can’t so..painting would be a good way to learn to really see and enjoy everything more in depth.
What city do you visit to inspire you?
I like going to new and exotic places like Istanbul or Ubud whenever possible but nothing beats New York City when it comes to packing multiple punches. You’ve got Central Park, the museums, dance and theater and restaurants and fascinating people, great shops and I am lucky to have wonderful friends who continually push me into being brave and adventurous.
THE RA COLLECTION OF FABRICS:
Isis Bluebird in Plum
Isis in Carob
Isis in Persimmon
Hathor full length
Hathor in Grasses
Hathor in Cinnabar
Thebes full length
Thebes in Agate
Thebes in Currant
Osiris in full length
Osiris in Medjool
Osiris in Pepper
Papyrus in Clay
Papyrus in Amulet
Lux in Algae
Lux in Lichen
Lux in Riverbed
Lux in Red Sea
Sos in Clove
Sos in Lazuli
Sos in Saffron
Menna in Pharros Pond
Menna in Rush of Rose
Menna in Shells Belly
Amun Border in Charcoal
Amun Stripe in Charcoal
Amun Border in Juniper
Amun Stripe in Juniper
Amun Border in Root
Amun Stripe in Root
Cairo Stripe in Delta
Cairo Stripe in Palm
Cairo Stripe in Rames Red