Two years ago, Leslie Bamburg formed her company Labexperiment, an interior design business that offers an affordable professional decorator option to the design fiend who lacks mad cash. Labexperiment works on the premise that beautiful design can be affordable, individualized, and integrated to meet the resident's needs. Leslie notes that she doesn't believe that there should be separation between people's fashion, media, tech needs, music, and interiors. With this philosophy in mind, she makes diagnoses of clients' homes, notes what they need to add, subtract, or rearrange, and then prescribes the elements needed to improve a room or home.
I recently sat down to chat with Leslie about her business, design sensibility, and advice for readers.
CasaSugar: Tell me about your initial home visit with a new client. What are you looking for? And what kinds of things do you want to know about them?
Leslie Bamburg: Besides taking all the necessary photos and measurements, I just try to get to know the client, to figure out their style and functional needs for the house. Some things are obvious — if they have little kids and a dog I will want to make sure things are easy to clean. But some things come out only after a good conversation. Inability to keep plants alive (like me), or a childhood trauma involving the color fuchsia, for example. I always bring an inspiration book of magazine cut-outs, so we can look at pictures instead of using vague words like “modern” to figure out what they like.
For the rest of the interview,
CasaSugar: How do you determine where furniture and décor will be purchased from? Does it depend on budget? Do you ever use antique/flea market finds along with retail shops?
Leslie Bamburg: The best thing about a prescription is that with every shopping list item, I explain why I chose it. So if the client wants to look for something similar at another store, or even an antique or flea market, they know what they are looking for and what is important about it. My selections definitely depend on budget, as well as style, timeline, and location of the client. Though I have an ever-expanding list of stores and websites I look at, I like to make sure I personally know the quality of all the major pieces I am recommending. I’m not going to recommend that someone buy a sofa, for example, that they can’t test out beforehand. Comfort is such a personal thing.
CasaSugar: What are your go-to stores for purchasing furniture and décor for clients?
Leslie Bamburg: I do shop at all the major retailers, like CB2, Pottery Barn, and Williams-Sonoma Home, but I don’t want a finished room to look like a page from a store catalog, so I try to mix things in from different sources, as well as the client’s existing furniture and personal items. I like rooms to look like they came together over time, even if everything was purchased on the same day. I also try to take advantage of stores where I get a designer discount, since who doesn’t like to save money?
CasaSugar: How has your fine arts background informed your interior design work?
Leslie Bamburg: I learned a lot about composition, proportion, and color, which I use every day, but I think the most important thing is the ability to edit, and stop when something is done. Also, my focus was on mixed-media art, which meant that I was rarely shopping in the art supply store, but looking for my supplies everywhere — the hardware store, grocery store, thrift stores, and electronics supply stores. This really taught me to think creatively about where good things can come from.
CasaSugar: Do you recommend art for clients as well? If so, how do you go about this?
Leslie Bamburg: Yes, though everyone has a different preference for the type, quality, and price of artwork they want on their walls. I’ve recommended everything from Ikea frames on old family photos to expensive paintings, to DIY artwork like stretching cool fabric on a canvas. From my first meeting with a client I usually have an idea of what they are up for.
CasaSugar: What are some of the most common mistakes or decorating sins you’ve seen with clients?
Leslie Bamburg: When people don’t like to shop, I often see them getting a set of furniture from a store, so they can get it over with quickly. Putting together a well-designed room takes time and effort, so I can see why people sometimes take the easy way out. I also see people who like to shop and have a great sense of their own style, but their rooms are a mishmash of unrelated items, because they don’t have an overall vision and goal for the room.
Thanks Leslie! Check back soon for the rest of the interview. If you want to see what an online prescription looks like, check out the gallery.