Leslie Cohen Design, Raleigh
My design signature: I love mixing interesting textures, clean lines and unexpected materials. The tactile feel of surfaces and the emotions that visual and tactile textures can evoke help create spaces that my clients truly want to be in. My lighting designs are key in making sure the environments look and feel as planned. And for me, it’s a given that the spaces I design will function exactly as my clients need.
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Best way to make a statement in the bathroom: To-die-for materials and sensuous water sources. The former depends on the client but could include carved bamboo panels, textural slate, miniature pearl beaded wall covering, colorful art glass, sanded plaster walls, high-quality polished nickel fixtures, gorgeous handmade tiles and crystal hardware. The latter could be faucets that aren’t aerated so the water flows out in a sinewy thread, a shower head that gives you the option for big, fat, soft droplets or a simple countertop waterfall that provides the peaceful sound of running water.
Favorite item in your own home: That’s a toss-up between my front porch swing and the wicker rockers on my back deck. I love sitting outside listening to creatures and immersing myself in nature.
Best $100 decor refresher: Fresh-cut flowers. There is nothing like the color and aroma of fresh flowers. If you’re allergic to flowers, I might suggest dimmer switches, programmable-color LED light bulbs and music. With those items you can create any atmosphere and mood you desire.
Best hostess gift: Homemade mint-flavored marshmallows dipped in milk chocolate with crushed peppermint candy on top. Wrapped in cellophane and tied with a beautiful ribbon.
Contemporary or classic: Both. Design is about loving the space you are in. It needs to speak to you. As long as the proportions, textures and colors work together, I believe in mixing styles. Design is like art – buy it or create it because it evokes an emotional response in you.
Favorite accent color: At the moment, charcoal. It transitions easily from elegant to edgy to earthy.
Your biggest design risk and how it turned out: A glass countertop with a textured undercoating. This was close to 20 years ago when there weren’t many options for glass counters. I knew the look I wanted but didn’t have a source for it, so I decided to create it myself. After a few minor mishaps it turned out awesome. To this day, I use glass counters in a variety of forms and textures.
Where should someone spend money for a backyard makeover: I recommend spending your money on the foundation. What I mean by that is: Come up with a well-thought-out plan. Get the infrastructure done right. Use quality materials and workmanship so you don’t have to re-do the work down the road. Since most appliances are designed with built-in obsolescence and they are typically used less than the paving, decking, seating and storage, I’d only go overboard here if you have the budget for it. Spend your most money on your sink and faucet – they get used more than any other appliance. For example, I have a Franke stainless sink and Franke faucet that have lived outside for 15 years, both at the ocean and here, and they are still gorgeous. So I definitely believe in quality plumbing fixtures.