Podcast, Ep. 61: editor Robert Leleux

Robert Leleux joins the Ballard Designs How to Decorate podcast

Robert Leleux joins us for a lively episode where he shares his journey into design and decorating, a sneak peek into his upcoming Southern Style Now Festival and Showhouse, what we should splurge and save on, why we should give our money to people making things with their hands, and how often one should change their sheets.

Master bedroom designed by Melanie Turner at the 2017 Southern Style Now Showhouse

Bedroom designed by Melanie Turner; Photo: Jean Allsopp

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • How Robert’s rural upbringing led to him accomplishing his dream of working at in the magazine world
  • Robert’s love for chic and stylish Southern design and decor, and his mission to bring it more into standard American design
  • All the information behind the 4 Day Southern Style Now Festival and Showhouse, including a more experiential component to the event and a sneak peek of some of the special guests, including Ballard’s very own Miles Redd
  • Robert’s love of celebrating the city of Charleston, and including up and coming young talent that he believes in such as Olivia Brock, Cortney Bishop, Cameron Stewart, and Angie Hranowsky
  • Robert’s answers to our game “Go Low or Get High” where he gives advice to splurge on bedding, wallpaper, upholstery, lighting and save on rugs, eyewear and accessories
  • Why Robert’s future husband called his living conditions “upper class squalour” back in their early dating days
  • The connection between interior design and building a wardrobe with well maintained clothes
  • Our bed habits including the frequency of changing sheets, sleeping on your back and preventing early morning face wrinkles
  • Robert’s appreciation for the art of textile design, and his fondness of White Duck
  • The impact of a yard of fabric in a room, and how to “fake it til you make it” if on a budget to add warmth and personality to a room
  • Accessories as a collection of things we gather along the way, representing us and reflecting our life story
  • Almost anything can be a lamp, and the fun to be had when getting creative with our lighting
  • If you are going to go cheap, get solid colors, or a nice white
Parlor from 2017 Southern Style Now Showhouse designed by Jared Hughes

Parlor designed by Jared Hughes in the 2017 Southern Style Now Showhouse; Photo: Heidi Geldhauser

Decorating Dilemmas

Hi ladies,

My daughter and I love your podcast and learn something new every time and over the years several of my favorite purchases including my comforter cover 🙂 have come from Ballard.

Our dilemma – how to layout our living room. We live in an old 1880s Victorian in San Francisco with my elderly mother. We have a nice big living room used for everything from mom sitting there during the day, to homework, relaxing, entertaining and tv in the evening and its been very tough to figure out a layout that works. Recently we moved the couch from against the wall opposite the fireplace between the two entry doors to make 3 zones:

  1. corner where my elderly mother sits in her chair
  2. couch area in the middle with coffee tables in the back for lamps and homework / stuff creep
  3. a reading chair in the far side.

We are redoing the family room so we’re open to getting new furniture and moving the couch and any chairs there. So the questions:

Do those groupings make sense? If yes, can we work with these pieces?

  1. What should we do about coffee / side table(s)?
  2. What art or furniture can go on the blank wall across from the fireplace (it’s not even / matching)
  3. What would be good occasional seating if we have guests?
  4. How else could we furnish mom’s little nook
  5. Note the tv is mounted (logistically couldn’t go anywhere else but swivels so don’t need to plan around that)

Like your last question this week, I hope to hear an answer on your podcast 🙂


We all agree that it is a very big, beautiful room, so congrats on that. Robert recommends studying the Fifth Ave. Parlor rooms, and through that you will discover how many seating options you actually have. We recommend adding a second chair, a round ottoman, and a pretty table next to where your mother sits, to create a welcoming nook. We would invest in a nice coffee table, and some new side tables. Find some fabulous fabrics and some bright, beautiful pillows to add to the sofa, and pull the drop leaf table over to your mother’s nook, or paint it the color of the wall so it blends in a little more.

Robert thinks your mantle space is an opportunity, and calls for something bold, grand and tall, even bolder than the television. Visually relate to a television like it’s part of a gallery wall, then work around adding art and mirrors on top of that to draw the eye up. Fabric and color will be your friend, and you can use our room planner tool on our blog. Be sure to send us photos along the way!


Hello Lovely Ballard Mavens,

I heard you ask the listeners for more dilemmas, so here you go. Our new built home has serious lackluster lighting. Really, when we did our final walkthrough I was excited to see the lighting fixtures and then…cue sad trombone! Before I could stop myself I said, “Well, I won’t feel bad about replacing those.”

Would you be able to help me find lights that relate to each other for over our front door, the foyer, and dining room? There are clear sight lines between all these areas.  So far the only lights I have felt comfortable changing were the exterior lights, because the old lights were shining into our neighbors house and function lead my choice.

Inside the home I’ve been trying to pull together a well traveled look with touches of bazaar and Asian influences. I’ve been drawn to your Moravian Star Pendant, Moravian Ceiling Mount, and Rose Chandelier, but I’m afraid of going overboard with themed lighting. Your last guest Suzanne Kasler spoke of visual sequence, I would love to hear more about this.

Thank you for your input!!

We think the dining room could take something of scale, and like the idea of the Rose Chandelier. We suggest some possible places for both the pendant and ceiling mount, but would definitely keep them in separate rooms. Additional lighting and lamps are going to be great for you, along with sconces. Add some rugs in time, and experiment with a new paint color.

As far as visual sequence, think of different sources of lights for different purposes.

Paint, Lighting and Fabric, and repeat.

Show Notes

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    May 1, 2019

    Any chance you could refrain from using the phrase “I feel like” when interviewing. It’s over used and distracting in every podcast.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      May 2, 2019

      I’ll do my best. I’m not sure I even realize I’m saying it, but I bet I’ll notice now.

  2. Reply


    October 16, 2018

    I listened to your conversation with Robert while I was doing my grocery shopping. There I was walking through the coffee aisle, earbuds in my ears, laughing so hard I snorted. Thanks for making a mundane chore so much stinking fun!

    • Reply

      Heather Daly

      October 17, 2018

      That’s so great Nancy! We’re glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Reply

    Elke Wheeler

    October 10, 2018

    Love, love, love this episode. My favorite of all. Thanks for the best 1 hour and 22 minutes of a very hectic week. (And just an aside, is it maiden name or bachelor name? I guess it’s whatever one wants it to be!). Now I’m off to search every single thing Mr. Leleux as ever said or done, since I was completely uninitiated to the wonderfulness that is Robert Leleu.

  4. Reply


    October 9, 2018

    Best episode yet!