Interview with Pieces Owner Lee Kleinhelter

The following interview is by L.A. Interior Designer Vanessa De Vargas who also pops in from time to time to share on decor8 her unique west coast perspective on interiors along with her inspirations, including designers and stores that she loves to shop. Today I'm especially excited about her recent chat with Lee Kleinhelter from Pieces in Atlanta, a store that not only has appeared in some of our favorite magazines including Domino, but one that continuously inspires me. I stalk the Pieces website almost daily looking at all of Lee's amazing finds and dream of visiting Atlanta just to see her store. Lee even photographed the interior to show decor8 readers so you're in for a real treat. I love her eye for color and style, but being that I grew up in coastal South Carolina, I understand why I'm drawn to this look. Welcome Vanessa and Lee!

Interview with Pieces Owner Lee Kleinhelter by Vanessa De Vargas for decor8.

I am so happy to announce that I have had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favorite designers and store owners Lee Kleinhelter from Pieces Inc. Lee owns a wonderful eclectic store called Pieces in Atlanta, in which she has decorated her store with perfection. Her store houses all things vintage and most of her pieces (no pun) have been revamped with shiny white lacquer and/or new upholstery. She has wonderful way of combining color and making it not seem busy or fussy. Her interiors are crisp and clean (as she mentions below) and she's known for her color bursts -- colorful curtains or perhaps an unexpected orange lacquer dresser or a bright geometric pillow. Please visit Lee?s website, as she sells her vintage items online and is updated regularly. We hope you enjoy my interview with Lee!

Vanessa: How did you come to be a designer?

Lee: I think it was obvious at an early age. I would always arrange my bookshelves and my room as a child. I never really played with toys I just organized them. I was an art history major and fine arts. I loved art, but was never a true artist. It was natural to then lead into design after college. I took an associates course so I could learn drafting and auto cad. It was very commercial and technical. Lots of presentation boards and late nights hovering over the drafting table. I didn?t feel like I really fit into the design world until I started working for designers and had exposure to amazing projects! I could see how to run a business and had to learn how to dive into it. Residential design was much different than anything we had been exposed to in school. It was very invigorating. That?s when I knew I was in the right spot!

Vanessa: What's your favorite color to work with and why?

Lee: I love color...bold pinks, browns, oranges. But, the key is how it's used. White is my most favorite color. I love to live in it and wear it! I think it's clean and simple. I like to introduce a punch of color & repeat, with out mixing too many. I normally stay consistent with one and make an impact. I think sometimes people see a room and think it needs to be a color. But, I like creating flow throughout a space. I don?t really believe in trends for your home, I think it needs to be timeless.

Vanessa: What color combinations do you see using in the future?

Lee: I?m always exploring new color ideas for the store. It?s refreshing to come up with something new in and see customer?s response. Maybe because its spring, I?m really into lighter colors, which is a departure for me. I usually got a little bold. I?m loving pink/coral colors and sticking with solids and keep it simple.

Vanessa: What is your greatest source of inspiration?

Lee: It would have to be traveling. Though I can easily be inspired by looking at a paint deck, sitting in a fantastic lobby or restaurant, flipping through Vogue Living. I think you are inspired when you?re in spaces that move you. I easily become depressed and grumpy when my surroundings are less appealing.

Vanessa: Which interior or furniture designers, past or present, do you most admire?

Lee: David Hicks, Albert Hadley, LULU DK, Slim Aaron, Dorothy Draper, Richard Meier... Many more!

Vanessa: Describe your design theory in 4-6 words.

Lee: Tailored, simple space with unexpected pieces.

Vanessa: What is your signature mark that you always try to implement in a space?

Lee: Throwing in a rustic textured piece as the focal point to an all white crisp/ modern background.

Vanessa: If you could redo any space, past or present, what would it be?

Lee: I know this is the best answer, but it's so true, every dentist and doctor's office I've ever been in! I literally wait in the lobby thinking... Why? What happened? Did they not have any other option besides burgundy and hunter green?

Vanessa: What have you learned about having your own business that you wish you knew when you were just starting out.

Lee: I feel like I'm always learning something new or how to handle things more efficiently. If you aren't organized, get someone to help you, because there is a lot of paperwork involved. From a retail standpoint, trust your instincts and stick to your policies and don't let anyone take advantage of you! It's a business!

Vanessa: What are your best practices when it comes to client relations?

Lee: Always be honest. If we don't know the exact origin or era of a piece, we don't create a story. Form a good relationship with customers so you have repeat business. Be accommodating and helpful to everyone. Treat everyone the same!

Vanessa: What 5 things does a well designed home need?

Lee: 1. No clutter! Clean out or find a place for everything that is hidden. 2. Large master closet painted a dark color so your clothes pop! 3. Dimmers on all lights! Lighting is so important. Landscape lighting adds so much to the exterior of the home. 4. Chic outside fireplace. We use ours daily! and 5. Central Vac System (If you have a golden retriever!) My new favorite thing.

Vanessa: If you hadn't become a designer, what do you think you would be doing now?

Lee: Professional organizer!

Vanessa: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Lee: Continue having a successful store with hopefully adding our own line of chic products like textiles, furniture, and accessories, that would be fabulous! Great customers and enjoying life!

Thank you so much Lee and Vanessa for stopping in today on decor8, and Lee your store is as amazing as I imagined it to be. I think many of us want to know when we can move in!

(images from lee kleinhelter)