Wendy Labrum, owner of Wendy Labram Interiors, has an unique design style that we LOVE! She incorporates pieces from several periods of time into one space to create something that’s one of a kind for her clients. She doesn’t just stick to one design style, she pulls inspiration from everywhere and that’s one of the reasons we are so fond of her work.
Scout & Nimble: We read that your passion for interiors developed when traveling in Europe, can you elaborate on how this passion developed? Was this what made you realize that you wanted to be an interior designer?
Wendy Labrum: I think I always knew I wanted to be an interior designer but it was my time spent living in Europe that gave me such a deep appreciation of architecture and history. Growing up in the United States we’re not exposed to the vast architectural accomplishments of our predecessors on a daily basis the way Europeans are! I’m a closet history lover and I think that plays into my interiors and manifests itself in different ways on my different projects.
S&N: What did you want to do before you realized interior design was the right path?
WL: For a while I thought I wanted to be an attorney – a DA, actually (a bit of a departure from design ☺). Growing up I spent many days at court with a close family friend who was a criminal defense attorney just so I could watch the DA. Obviously I made quite the switch along the way – I think I could have had a very fulfilling career in law but I would have been ignoring my creative side so I think eventually I’d have been miserable! I’d probably just be moonlighting as a designer designing all my friends home when I was supposed to be writing depositions.
S&N: How would you describe your design style?
WL: I’m a bit of a style chameleon depending on the project and the client. In every project though, I always incorporate a mix of periods and styles through antiques and contemporary pieces and I feel like that curated mixture is how design really comes together at a higher level.
S&N: Do you feel like your travels throughout Europe influenced your design aesthetic? What about living in Chicago? Does that play a role in your designs?
WL: Most definitely – I love antiques of all periods but mostly European pieces. They have been creating beautiful and functional pieces longer than we have been a country! Whether it’s 19th century French mirrors or Italian post-modern glass chandelier – I can never get enough!
Living in Chicago definitely inspires me as well and definitely plays a part in my designs as Chicago was and is home to a lot of talented architects. From my personal favorite, David Adler, to Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright – we have a very rich architectural history as a city and so much of that is manifested even in new construction today. Interiors inherently should be a nod to the architecture of the space.
S&N: What inspires you and where do you seek inspiration?
WL: I find inspiration everywhere – most of the time when I’m not even looking for it! I love the seasons and as much as I crave the beach when it’s February in Chicago, I can’t imagine living somewhere without seasons. This time of year I’m so inspired by the cozy and layered textures of fall fashion and the richness of color all around us in nature.
S&N: You have two kids, Caroline and Gray…has becoming a mom influenced or changed your design aesthetic?
WL: I think it has definitely changed my approach to design in that nothing can be too precious and everything has to be durable! Given the fact that I have two (soon to be three) children it does help me fully understand how my clients live, given that most of them have children at various ages as well. I pride myself on creating elegant spaces that suit how each family lives but that are more durable than one might expect at first glance. I don’t think families should have to sacrifice style at home until the kids go off to college.
S&N: Being a mom and a business owner, do you have any tips or advice on juggling it all? Anything that you have found that has helped you in the work-life balancing act?
WL: Oh goodness – it’s a daily struggle and I never feel like I’m doing it very well! The best thing I’ve found is to be completely present in what I’m doing. I get my kids ready and drive them to school every morning so we can have that time together before the rush of the day sets in. Then when I’m at work I am able to completely focus on my clients knowing that my children are at school or in the hands of our very wonderful nanny. Then when I get home in the evening, I really try to just focus on them and put the phone/computer away so they have a present and interested mom to make dinner, help with homework, read, and in my son’s case – shoot baskets with.
S&N: What’s one mistake when it comes to design that you see people make on a consistent basis?
WL: Using pieces that are the wrong size/scale for a space. This is the most common design mistake I encounter every time I start working with a client that has already bought items for a room. Floorplans and layouts are so crucial when designing a space – I don’t make a single selection before knowing if/how it will fit in the space!
S&N: If you had to choose, what’s your favorite room in a home to design and why?
WL: The formal dining room – it’s gotten a bad rap in recent years as a seldom-used waste of space but it’s my favorite room in a house to design. So much personality and punch can be packed into a dining room and it doesn’t necessarily need to have the flexibility of living spaces or the intense durability of the kitchen or family room. It’s an opportunity to create a unique space that is truly reflective of your personality!
S&N: What’s one piece of advice you would share with anyone beginning to design or decorate a space? Any words of wisdom?
WL: First off, really get to know your personal style. Spend time at your local bookstore or library (whichever has a better selection of design books – I’m old school!) studying different styles and familiarizing yourself with what you like and what you don’t. Second, think about how you want your space to function – what are your priorities for usage of the space? Third, hire a professional to help you. At a minimum, have a designer help you with layouts and space planning and if your budget permits; find a designer who’s style resonates with yours and start a collaboration to make your home your most favorite place in the world.
What is currently your favorite design “trend”? I’m not a big follower of trends per se, but I’m loving seeing color in kitchens again. I still do classic white kitchens all the time but I’m currently loving blue, black, green and grey cabinetry.
Fill in the blank. People don’t know that I can…make the best guacamole ever. I have a limited repertoire in the kitchen so I have to really play up the wins 😉
Favorite way to spend a Saturday or your ideal Saturday? Taking my kids for doughnuts in the morning, then swimming or to the park and then going to a delicious dinner with my husband and our friends in the evening. I love disconnecting and being totally laid back on Saturday.
Dream design job? One of the great old American estates from the first part of the 20th century – a period of grandeur when a fastidious attention to detail was very present in American architecture. So many of these grandiose estates have sadly been razed.
Favorite piece of advice when designing kids spaces? DON’T paint a girl’s room pink or a boy’s room blue – anyone can do that. Get creative!
Favorite design rule to break? Don’t paint a small space a dark color – Um, please do!! Can you say “drama!”
Favorite design set from a movie? Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby
Favorite way to add impact to a room? Bold artwork
One item/possession you would save from your house (other than your family, of course)? I would grab my favorite pieces of original artwork off the walls – my favorite ones are small enough that maybe I could grab a few! Although I should probably say my wedding album given that we got married before digital photography!
Favorite part about your job? Seeing ideas come to life – it’s so gratifying.
Hardest part about your job? Balance – I’m so passionate about design and in a perfect world I would spend all of my time just designing but unfortunately there’s a lot more that goes into running the business.
Top 3 design Idols/Mentors/Inspiration? Elsie de Wolf, Albert Hadley and Jacques Grange
Worst job you have ever had growing up? Waitressing summer after freshman year of college. I’m a klutz, so needless to say it was a disaster.
Best way to decompress? An in-home massage and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Single most valuable thing you’ve learned? A good work ethic – it takes years and years of hard work to grow a business. There’s no room for amateur divas.
Morning person or night owl? Definitely night owl – my ideal sleep schedule would be 2 am – 10 am.
Whose brain would you like to pick over coffee? (past or present) Dorothy Draper…or George Washington
What album or artist is currently on repeat? Lately I’ve been into Tame Impala but I usually have a pretty solid rotation of favorites like Joe Purdy, the Killers, Avett Brothers and Dire Straits going on.
Dumbest purchase you have made to date? Probably the sixteen pairs of expensive heels I buy every month and then spend my days running around in flats. Oh wait, you were talking about interior pieces….probably a massive stone torso I had shipped from France that my husband HATES. For a while I had it displayed in our home but every time he was home and I wasn’t, he would hide it away somewhere out of my reach. Then when he would travel I would find a way to pull it out again. We went on like that for months until I finally gave up.
Favorite Motto or Mantra? A house should feel collected, not installed!
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All images courtesy of Wendy Labrum Interiors.