Symphony in Neutrals
Designer Leanne Ford revamps a home in Ohio with a strict color story that leaves plenty of room for possessions to shine
Serendipitous might be the best word to describe the career path of Leanne Ford. The Pennsylvania-born aesthete got her start in New York City’s fashion world before making her way to Los Angeles, where she worked as a stylist, creative director, clothing designer, and tambourine player. It wasn’t until she transformed a century-old schoolhouse outside Pittsburgh into a photo-ready country getaway that Ford garnered attention for interior design, nonchalantly adding yet another notch to her belt.
“Interiors have become my favorite outlet; the work lasts longer than fashion and more people can enjoy it,” says Ford. This fortuitous discovery eventually led her to the charming German Village neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, where Erin Crotty and Craig Kent had caught wind of her decorating talents. “They’d heard about me through a previous client. When Erin sent me pictures of her house and vibe, I knew I had to do it—the project was right up my alley,” says Ford. The homeowners had just finished a thorough remodel of their late-1800s home. With only a few key pieces to speak of and little in the way of demands from the homeowners, the house was open for a decor reinvention.
Right away, Ford designated a strict color story of creams, blacks, whites, and metallics. “Given as many styles as I like, one way to keep things grounded is to use neutral hues,” says Ford. With this concise palette in mind, she sought to incorporate an array of materials to warm the entire home. A tufted black-leather chesterfield sofa anchors the white-walled, sunlit living room. A speckled cowhide rug simultaneously contrasts with and softens the gray cement floor of the piano room. A well-worn farm table adds character to a modern kitchen. Every design decision was made to create textural interest.
Maintaining the couple’s self-described minimalist aesthetic proved to be the project’s most rewarding challenge. Ford found it pleasantly ironic that the less-is-more couple opted for floor-to-ceiling shelves in the main living space. Rather than going for a stark, showroom-like effect, Ford did the exact opposite of what was expected, filling every single nook to the brim. Collections of vintage typewriters, weathered glass bottles, and patinated silver platters mix playfully with old books and chunky knit throws, grouped by color in their designated cubbies—ensuring that the wall of shelving remains clean and uncluttered.
Furthering their dream-client status, Crotty and Kent were eager to get their own hands dirty. “I always give the homeowners a little project—some homework to really feel part of the process,” says Ford. She assigned Crotty the task of painting the family piano, covering the dated stained wood with a milky-white coat to make it feel less hand-me-down and more hip heirloom. (The couple’s two young sons still boast about how they helped arrange throw pillows.) And for those exhibiting the slightest sense of surprise at seeing such urbane interiors in the middle of the country? “There’s freedom in design outside of Los Angeles and New York City,” Ford says. “I’ve noticed a huge movement of design-forward people leaving the big cities for small towns where they can own more land and have more time and space to create. All of that feels good to a designer.” With projects like this, we’re more than likely to follow suit.