“Warm minimalism.” That’s how designer Leanne Ford describes her approach to interiors. Ford’s warm minimal aesthetic is a defining ingredient on her new HGTV show , where Ford and her brother, contractor Steve Ford, are making their mark by transforming dated Pittsburgh-area homes in a way that enhances each home’s original character.
Each week, Ford’s signature lived-in style translates into magazine-worthy renovations as she adds polish to homes while embracing their architectural charm. Ford’s secret? “When I design a home, I let the house do the talking,” she shares.
The sibling-duo’s latest restoration also required some outside-the-box thinking to bring a fresh perspective to an early 1980s home that had remained untouched since its build. In fact, the homeowner had lived in the house since she was a child, now with a family and children of her own.
Ford took on the task of transforming the entire first floor into spaces that would reflect the personalities of its current residents while upgrading furniture, art, and décor from hand-me-downs in the process.
Throughout the home, Ford was inspired by the lifestyle of her clients to bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘zen den’—or at least a more sophisticated approach to the concept.
“The homeowners are both full-time doctors and were looking for a haven to come home to,” she explains. “They wanted simplicity and serenity.” Ford layered natural elements in a warm neutral palette to create a fresh, organic modern vibe that invites relaxation.
Each room is filled with a balance of clean lines and rich, textural surfaces along with lots of lush greenery to maintain the connection to nature. “I used the large windows overlooking the greenery of the woods as my first inspiration point,” she continues.
Ford’s favorite part of the final design is the heart of the home, where she essentially started from scratch on a new layout. Starting fresh, of course, opened up the option for new custom cabinetry that would fit best with the warm natural vibe of the entire home. Ford commissioned a local carpentry shop to create walnut cabinets, then juxtaposed the warm wood with stone countertops, concrete walls and concrete-wrapped hood to create a more modern mix of materials and finishes.
“I am in love with how the custom walnut kitchen turned out,” she gushes. “It was risky putting wood cabinets back into a home of this style. But the key to making this work was gorgeous, simple design and clean lines.” The space feels simple and understated, but rich in texture.
A walnut dining table doubles as a kitchen island that’s perfect for both entertaining and family time, with Tolix chairs hand-painted white to brighten the space against the darker wood tones and oversized brass Tom Dixon pendant lights to add warmth and shine.
One standout feature of the home is Ford’s use of wood planks on the floors and ceilings, which she stained in both dark and light tones, then positioned in a perpendicular fashion in order to add dimension. “I consider the ceiling and the floors to be just as important as the walls of a room. If not more important!” she shares. “So we wanted to give them both their time to shine.”
The statement ceilings also help to connect the entire downstairs despite having a variety of heights in each room. “I wanted to unify them by adding beautiful planks,” Ford adds.
The entire home has a fantastic feeling of warmth and welcome, from the wood planks to the gold metallics to the desert-washed ceramics and pottery. In the living room, a cream safari sofa is complimented by warm neutrals that include an antique teak surfboard table and Jens Risom chair. “The caramel tones were a way to warm up the space and add more to the natural elements,” says Ford.
The dining room is a masterclass in creating a collected, global appeal in a space. Ford mixed and matched Pierre Jeanneret with Eames and vintage equipale chairs. She created a chandelier from an old fishing net found in a vintage store in Austin, Texas. And Ford curated vibrant art by Alexandra Valenti to turn the dining room into the most colorful spot in the home. “I knew this room needed a punch of life,” she states. “And the warm bohemian color tones were the perfect play off of the neutral space.”
Ford notes that the biggest challenge of the project was striking a balance between old and new as well as picking the right ways to fuse the two together. Ford remembers asking herself, “How do I take a home that you can pinpoint exactly when it was designed and built, and blur the line between then and now?”
But at the end of the day, Ford also knows that sometimes, the most rewarding design endeavors are the ones where the ideas seem the riskiest at first. “Coming into this home, I knew the architecture, style and feeling of the home as is was going to be a challenge,” remembers Ford. “Which is why I said yes to this project."