Q & A With Designer Leslie Fine

By Paula M. Bodah

In her work for the home featured in “City Slick,” in our May-June issue, Boston-based designer Leslie Fine showed that downsizing and simplifying doesn’t have to mean sacrificing luxury and style. The space she designed for a couple who moved from an eighteen-room suburban house to a high-rise Boston condominium has an air of ease and comfort, but it also has a healthy dose of drama.  Here, Leslie shares her design philosophy as it relates to this home.

leslie fine mandarin

Photograph by Eric Roth

Grays and purples seem to be enjoying real popularity lately. What makes them so appealing?

These colors have a very calming and soothing effect, and who doesn’t need that in their home after a long, stressful day? Grays are a wonderful neutral to work with in a space, and I’ve found that people who like purple really LOVE it! Even though I don’t give much credence to what’s trendy when it comes to selecting colors for one’s home (I believe you should live with the colors you love and not what happens to be in style), there must be a reason why Radiant Orchid was selected as the Pantone Color of the Year.

Vinyl isn’t the first material that comes to mind when we think of luxury, but in this room you used vinyl for the ottomans.  What materials might we be surprised that you use, and why?

I love using vinyls or “faux leathers.” Vinyl got a bad rap back in the ’70s and ’80s when they were shiny, stiff, and fake looking. These days, there are so many amazing materials that are made from vinyl or polyester, in great colors and great textures, so not only are they chic and attractive, but they are also extremely durable and easy to care for. I’ve done some of the most high-end homes using, for instance, a vinyl on dining chairs. I love when a guest come into a client’s home and starts to stroke the chair, muttering, “I love this yummy leather.” That always makes me smile!

This is a room with a lot of corners, straight lines, and squares, yet it doesn’t feel at all blocky or cold. How did you get the soft, glamorous look you ended up with?

What makes this room warm and comfortable are the variety of textures and the mixture of materials. The space is generally monochromatic with pops of soft color. Patterns are kept to a minimum and the fabrics themselves are soft to the touch. I did not overcrowd the space with furniture but kept the floor plan functional and easy to navigate.

Your work so often seems to have a look of “effortless glamour.” How would you say your style reflects your attitude about and perspective on life?

First of all, thank you for saying so! I feel so strongly that an attractive home is absolutely not just about the aesthetics. While aesthetics are important, function and comfort play as much of a role in what makes a home’s design successful. This is my mantra for other aspects of my life outside of the interior design world. A happy and fulfilled life is definitely not just about appearances but is based on the relationships that we have and our sense of self-fulfillment. A home should also reflect those values.

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