Sean Leffers, founder of Sean Leffers Interiors, believes that interiors should be truly personal and diversely inspired. In every project, he strives to build collections that are both expressive and astute, drawing from a deep knowledge of architecture, decorative arts, antiquity and modernity. We sat down with Sean to discuss his passion for art, designing restaurants and his alter-ego as a novelist.
Can you tell us how Sean Leffers Interiors was conceived?
It was a slow evolution from design publishing to house flipping to realizing I wanted to focus on creating special interiors and learning as much as possible about our world through the lens of how people want to live.
Tell us about designing your first commercial project, Pacifique in West Hollywood — was this the first of many more to come?
Designing for restaurants is fun because there isn’t anyone living there to object to your crazier ideas. We didn’t have a ton of time or money, but we got to include nice details like lighting from Davide Groppi, meteora stone from Brazil, and little private dining booths inspired by Japanese Izakaya dining rooms. We are working on a new space in West Hollywood with chef Wes Whitsell. Mostly open-air seating with a courtyard centered on an ancient olive tree. The vibe is kind of Brazilian mid-century meets Japan in California.
“I love working with clients who have the time and the interest to go deeper and explore what artists really move them and help them make sense of the world.”
How does art factor into each one of your projects?
While art is always one of my top considerations, how it is incorporated into the project changes depending on the space and the client. Sometimes we are working with an existing collection and our job is to edit and place works to show them in the best way and to have interesting conversations with other works or the environment. For the new restaurant in LA, we commissioned the Argentinian painter Santiago Quesnel to travel around California making studies, and to paint a magnificent 30 foot oil-on-canvas semi-abstracted landscape based on his studies. I love working with clients who have the time and the interest to go deeper and explore what artists really move them and help them make sense of the world.
If you had to choose, what has been the biggest influence on your career?
When I was a kid, I spent a huge amount of my free time reading novels. I especially loved Austin, Tolstoy, Dickens, and James. I enjoyed reading so much that I decided to study literature and dreamt of becoming a novelist myself. I didn’t have much talent for writing, but I do think spending so much time with complex plots and nuanced characters gave me a sense for storytelling and an attraction to detail.
What would you consider to be the most substantial change in the field of design since you opened your firm?
We haven’t been around for very long, but one of the developments that I find most heartening is people connecting more to their own personal style rather than chasing trends. This is important because it encourages people to invest in high quality pieces that they will continue to love for decades, helping reduce environmental waste and ultimately making people happier in their spaces and lives.
What advice would you give to those just entering the design industry today?
Educate your eyes by seeing as much as you can, visit museums, great architecture, showrooms. Read as much as you can about history, art, and design. Think about what is important you in design, and in life in general, so that you can develop a point of view that has integrity and meaning beyond just making things look pretty.