Southern Comfort: Atlanta-based Interior Designer Leah Atkins Welcomes Clients Home

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Leah Atkins always knew her destiny. By the second grade, when her peers were playing princess, Leah let the world know that she planned to become an interior designer. By her early twenties, she had established herself as a fresh, yet expert authority in her field with a knack for creating original and personal spaces within the framework of traditional Southern hospitality.

Leah Atkins Interior

Atlanta-based Atkins says, “Our state is called the Hollywood of the South because so much film production takes place here now. It’s deeply gracious, just like driving through a copy of ‘Southern Living’ magazine.” Her gift lies in maintaining a classic look and feel while gently pushing boundaries, ideal for clients who feel rooted in the past but refuse to be confined by it. The designer reveals that her clients frequently pay her the ultimate compliment of describing their homes “pre-Leah and post-Leah.”

Leah Atkins

Southern culture, meaning a love of history and hosting large family gatherings, is Atkins’ north star. She curates color, pattern and furnishings to convey what is most important to her clientele: a welcoming feeling. “My clients tend to call this a homey feeling,” she says, “but that typically doesn’t mean patchwork quilts and weathervanes and barnyard décor. Atlanta is cosmopolitan.” For many clients, this feeling begins literally at the front door, where stately pillars define screened front porches perfect for balmy days of sweet tea and mint juleps.

Atkins’ clients are rarely devotees of Marie Kondo-inspired minimalism. The spaciousness favored by many modernists “would just feel empty in the South,” she says. “Emptiness is not perceived as feeling friendly. Because here, less is definitely not more.” The result: a rich, but tasteful mix of styles and eras, melding together ornately carved furniture, luxurious leathers, lush velvet upholstery in jewel-tones, china cabinets brimming with family treasures, Persian rugs, replicas of Roman and Greek antiquities, gilt finishes, and walls packed with formal portraits, along with vintage prints of botanicals, birds, and dogs—pieces that Atkins calls “well-travelled.” She will often turn up the drama by adding further interest with deep-hued walls, or placing a vividly patterned wallpaper on the ceiling. A bit of convincing may be
needed, but to date no client has regretted what some may consider a daring choice.

The designer singles out light and lighting as the most important aspect of her work, one which is often underestimated. “Light, like color, has a definite effect upon everyone’s mood and well-being,” she says, adding that her husband is a mental health professional. “Lighting should never be an afterthought,” she says, adding that many homes, including recently built structures, are equipped with only perfunctory electrical outlets and wiring and lighting options. Atkins’ solution is often a chandelier, even if that choice requires that she hand-assemble hundreds of fragile pieces while perched on a ladder. She says simply, “I’m obsessed.”

For more information, visit: Leah Atkins Design

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