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Kat Liebschwager, co-owner Ruth & Ollie and interior designer at Kat Liebschwager Interiors. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Liebschwager changed the look of her living room; here it is in 2007. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Liebschwager's updated living room features a more neutral color palette, combined with graphic punches of black and white. The new art is by Chris Shands. The living room's old painting was split in two and rehung in the dining room. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Liebschwager created an intimate dining area in a corner of the living room with the addition of a game table and chairs. A dramatic beaded chandelier from Ro Sham Beau helps to definethe space. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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A burled wood chest and brass mirror in the living room help to create the sense of a foyer, since no real entryway exists. The mirror is by C. Jeré.The reproductionPedro Friedeberg hand chair was powder-coated in gold fora whimsical touch. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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The dining room’s formerly dark walls are now a light grass cloth. A black-and-white rug from Ikea and black-and-white drapes help connect it to the adjoining living room. An eclectic mixof original art is a hallmark of the home. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Liebschwager likes to mix graphic patterns when setting her dining table. The balloon dogs makefun placecard holders. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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Liebschwager transformed a spare bedroom into a dressing room. She painted unfinished shelving from a big-box hardware store to create custom-look storage for her shoe collection. Mirrored surfaces, striped silk curtains and gold accessories amp upthe glam factor. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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The simple black- and-white kitchen is accented with original art and unexpected touches such as a bergère chair painted silver and upholstered in lime vinyl. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
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The comfortable family room combines a mix of textures — leather, hide, rattan and velvet — in a range of neutral tones. A bold painting by Laura Loe, hanging above the couch, is one of Liebschwager’s most treasured possessions. (Photo by Sarah Walor)
When Kat Liebschwager and her husband, Mike, opened their home furnishings and accessories store in 2006, they made a decision to purchase items they liked, even if they didn’t all match. “We had to acknowledge that they all might end up in our house anyway,” Kat says, laughing.
Ten years later, Ruth & Ollie is thriving in Carytown, and the Liebschwagers continue to purchase what they like. While many items exit the store as quickly as they enter, some linger, and that’s OK with Kat. “I’m lucky,” she says. “The store allows me to purchase what I love and visit it every day.” The pieces that find their way into the couple's Musuem District home are there intentionally.
Thanks to a recent redesign, Kat has been able to move a few of her favorite pieces from the shop into her house, originally featured in R•Home’s December 2007 issue. Then, the story was Kat’s use of vibrant colors and striking juxtapositions. Today, it’s all about a quieter palette and how to manage and embrace change.
R•Home: Why did you want to redecorate your home?
Kat Liebschwager: My taste evolved. I felt the black sofas we had in the living room were too hard, and I wanted the room to be warm and inviting — more comfortable, since that is the first room you see when you come into the house. I also realized we needed a table where we could gather with friends. But the space is not large, so it’s important that it feels very open and is very functional.
R•Home: What was your inspiration?
Liebschwager: I have a longtime obsession with the Greek key design. This wonderful fabric [with a gold embroidered Greek key pattern on delicate ivory linen] came into the shop, and I began thinking about it for the draperies. I pinned a swatch of fabric to my idea board and just looked at it for six months. It became the foundation. I have to look at things for awhile, to make sure I absolutely love them, because I’ll be living with it every day.
R•Home: How did you manage the process?
Liebschwager: I treated this as a project for a client. My husband, Mike, lets me run the show, but he has veto power. Once I settled on the fabric for the living room curtains, I put together a design plan for the entire room and presented it to Mike to get his input. He loved it, and off we went.
R•Home: What’s different about working in your own home versus a client’s?
Liebschwager: It’s my personal taste, not someone else’s. I have an edgier art collection than some may expect. I like there to be some whimsy, like the reproduction Pedro Friedeberg hand chair, which we found and had powder-coated in gold. I’ve always thought it was so groovy.
R•Home: Describe your style.
Liebschwager: I’m a pattern-on-pattern girl! I like a boho mix of furniture and accessories, and I’ve brought that in, in multiple places. I love a neutral base with pops of color through art, pillows and accessories. And I love gold.
R•Home: What did you change? What did you keep?
Liebschwager: We changed almost everything in the living room. One of our first purchases was the sofa. We custom-sized it to fit in the smaller space and covered it in a Teflon-treated velvet so it’s pet- and friend-friendly. The coffee table in the living room is the same, but the game table and chairs are new. We took the reproduction Barcelona chairs from the family room, recovered them, and moved them to the living room. We put the more comfortable leather chairs in the family room, because that is where we watch TV. And we gave the walls in the living room, hallway and kitchen a fresh coat of bright white paint. We still have color throughout the house, but it’s more subtle.
R•Home: Was it hard to decide what to remove?
Liebschwager: I do have attachments to some things. Some of the furniture, including the old black-and-white sofa, is in my office, and the turquoise drapes are in Ruth & Ollie’s window.
R•Home: Any surprises?
Liebschwager: We have several broken objects! The crane lamp in the family room kept coming to the store broken, because it was being shipped from California. Finally, the company gave up, but they told us to keep the last one, which had a crack on the back side. In the living room, the footed table has a hole in the back, but you just turn it, and no one sees it.
R•Home: How should a nondesigner approach a redesign project?
Liebschwager: Gather pictures of things you react to — colors, patterns, shapes, overall feel. After a while, a common thread will appear. Changing paint is easy and low-cost. Think about how you plan to use the room, and tape it off, make sure everything fits. Invest in quality pieces you can keep forever, and don’t be afraid to ask for a custom change [to furniture]. There will be a little upcharge, but it’s the way to get exactly what you want or need. Mix high and low [price points]; flea markets and antique or vintage stores are great places to find accessories. These become your personality pieces. Above all, don’t be afraid! Your space should reflect you.
Kat's Design Tips
1. Break Rules
Use rooms how they fit your lifestyle. Our family room is technically the dining room of the house, but switching the rooms gave us more lounge space and allows for better flow when entertaining.
2. Hang it Up
Hang art and objects in unexpected places. For example, I have a small gold rhino head hanging in my hallway bookshelves and a small painting hanging in my kitchen bookcase.
3. Be Yourself
Incorporate items that truly reflect your personality. The gold balloon animal dogs that I used as placecard holders in my dining room make me smile and they are gold and shiny — all things I love.
4. Add Texture
Using different textures — linen, velvet, leather, fur — adds layers and interest to a room. I placed a small sheepskin rug across the back of the pink sofa in my dressing room to add softness to the room.
5. Love It
You should love something if you are going to put it in your house. The things you love will have longevity and you’ll always find a home for them. The “fireworks” painting in my kitchen is one of my favorite things.