Thursday, April 8, 2010

AO Chat: Liz Levin

I recently had the pleasure of spending a glorious spring afternoon sipping wine and stuffing myself with nibbling on cheese with DC designer Liz Levin and her sister Katherine.

We met up at Cheesetique in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria (locals, if you haven't been, you's a great spot). Liz (left) and Katherine (right) indulged me with a picture...we were tasting a wine flight, hence the three glasses each.

I first met Liz at a party for Sally Steponkus - Sally was nice enough to introduce us and Liz and I exchanged some emails after that. I've been wanting to have some casual chats with local designers for AO, so Liz was gracious enough to be my guinea pig!

As we chatted Liz told me her background and how she got into the biz - an Alexandria native, she went to school at the University of Richmond and double majored in Spanish and Psychology (side note, I grew up in Richmond and I was a double Spanish/Psych major at UVa...don't meet too many of those, so we had a little moment over that). Liz was always a creative gal so she thought advertising would be a good industry for her - a chance to marry her artistic skills and her psychology knowledge...

But it wasn't - she worked in advertising for a bit, got married, moved to London and while in London started to piece together that her passion was interior design. She returned to DC with this newfound interest and that is when she met Sally, who had been working in the design world here in DC, through a mutual friend. One thing led to another and Liz got her start simultaneously interning for Kelley Proxmire and Scalamandre in the DC Design Center (hello, that sounds like my dream job).

Liz's internships led her to a full-time position at Vastu as one of their first in-house designers where she honed her skills for a couple of years before starting her own firm in 2005. She credits this article in Daily Candy as giving her business that initial push that helped her get started.

Liz now decorates interiors all around the DC area and has started an offshoot of her firm called Nesting aimed at providing stylish, kid-pet-family-friendly decor.

Now for the eye candy and answers to three questions I asked Liz about her work:

The above pictures are from Liz's own living room - read her blog post about how the room came together - it has good pointers on what to do when you introduce a disjointed element to a room (and can't take it back!)

AO: Where do you like to shop for your rooms in DC?

Liz: Love Sixteen Fifty-Nine in Georgetown for mid-century modern finds, especially vintage lamps and artwork. Great accent pieces there. Cherry is another sweet spot across the street with a revolving treasure trove of accessories and little tables and chairs. Found a charming antique white little mirror (actually in my bedroom shown in the new portfolio pics on my FB fan page) that felt very Domino to me. Also showed a client adorable plaid tufted chairs there and I like their sconces. Moss & Co next door to Sixteen Fifty-Nine has a mix of neutral and updated shabby chic home accessories, think Belgian linen, John Derian, boxwood topiaries and a lovely garden with planters out back.

Photography by Angie Seckinger

AO: Is there something that you start with when you design? Are you a fabric person? Or do you start with color? Or furniture?

Liz:  I'm definitely a fabric person. A patterned fabric can be the jumping off point for the rest of the room design for me. Usually, I guide my clients through a "fabric exploration" meeting before we get serious on the details. I organize bags of fabric schemes and get their gut reaction to color, texture, pattern and then take those that made the cut and begin my design. It helps me get a sense of what they like and more importantly of what they don't like. It also breaks the ice and gets everyone comfortable with expressing their preferences. I always say 'you won't hurt my feelings if you hate it- - I do this all day!'  I think the right pattern can pull together a whole room- could do the same with a wallpaper. But not all clients want wallpaper so fabric is usually my starting point. A fabulous rug could do the same thing.. direct the design from its color and pattern.  I guess then a fabulous pattern is my starting point... fabric, wallpaper or rug.

AO:  How are you using social media for your business?

Liz: I'm all over Facebook these days trying to get to know fellow designers and vendors and connect online to expand my resources and know more about what people are into, passionate about and staying on top of what's new. I also write a semi-infrequent blog for that covers current projects, before and afters or stories relevant to the living stylishly with kids and pets topic. The blog, as well as Nesting overall, gives people a better sense of our personality and approach to design that we've developed through working with our clients as well as my own personal life experience becoming a mom and working as a designer.

Liz can obviously rock elegant color palettes, but check out these punchy rooms that she also designed:

I want to thank Liz (and Katherine) for her time to chat and share some wine and insight with me - thanks Liz!

Visit Liz online:


  1. What a wonderful post. Enjoyed Liz's interview and also want to make a special trip to Cheestique. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Great interview, Daniela! I wasn't familiar with Liz (though I've seen a few of these pictures floating around the blogosphere) and I absolutely adore her style. Her own living room, with those fantastic pops of hot pink, is particularly fantastic.

  3. Thank you, Daniela! This was really fun- I have to credit and give a shout out to Angie Seckinger for making me look so good in those photos of my work.
    See you soon!

  4. such a great interview. i love the photos and her style. will head over to check out more of her now.
    great job sweets!

  5. I'll take that bathroom please. Now please. Also, Vastu was in the same building as the landlord of my old apartment in DC.. I literally went there once a month for 3 years (to drop off my check and check out the eye candy at the store)!

  6. I've know Liz since elementary school so it's great to see her successes. I love her work. Thank you for posting about it on your delightful blog!


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