We had the good fortune of connecting with Carly Rae Leitner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Carly Rae, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
I have come to learn that individuality is crucial to success in the design world. This means to ignore what everyone else is doing and fully surrender to your instincts and your natural eye. There are so many different ways to decorate a space, and none of them are wrong. Stop trying to fit yourself into the mold of what is most well-liked at the moment. If you stay true to yourself, others will be drawn to that. In addition to being true to your style, be your most authentic self. Clients want that human connection. The more you pour yourself and your personality into your brand, the more people will connect with you and your ideas, and the more content you will be. Sometimes this means cutting the “customer service” voice and just shooting it straight with your client. I find so much liberation in being as transparent as possible.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I would describe my style as eclectic. I’ve never met an interior design style I didn’t like — I’m a maximalist like that — and love to marry different styles together in a way that is harmonious. I’m proud of the confidence I have in my own creative voice. As a person who is naturally shy, I may not speak up all the time, but am loud and proud when it comes to my designs. I got to where I am today very purposefully. Without a degree in design, I entered the industry the only way I knew how – through sales. I became comfortable helping people select pieces for their homes and inched my way over to becoming a designer from there. I was lucky enough to be hired by a designer who also was not formally trained, which is where I learned the bulk of what I know now. I am young and still learning, but hungry for the experience. I have a college degree in psychology and have always been fascinated with the relationship between one’s mental state and their environment. As a mental health advocate and someone who takes feeling “at home” seriously, I realized the necessity for loving the space you live in. My home makes me happy and puts me at ease, which helps my mental health. My goal is to give that same feeling to my clients.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My social life revolves around restaurants as I’m such a foodie and can’t pass up a good cocktail. As a designer, I love to go to restaurants with cool decor, and Marcel may be my favorite place for design inspiration. Watchmen’s is a great spot: order their house cocktail and burger. When the weather is nice you can catch me at S.O.S. Tiki Bar in Decatur just about every weekend- another killer cocktail and inspiring decor. If you go to Decatur you can’t pass up Kimball House. The ambiance is vintage-cool and everything from the food to the service is amazing. Little Rey hands down has the best tacos. I’d never let a friend miss out of Forza Storico or Storico Fresco. Gunshow is a fun spot I tried recently. They are all about a culinary experience, and the staff is super welcoming. You can’t forget The Garden Room at the St. Regis, such a whimsical spot to share a drink or a bite to eat!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d love to give a shoutout to my mom and dad, who always allowed me make my own decisions and learn from my own mistakes. I would not be where I am today if they had not. To my fiancé, who keeps me grounded, and laughing every single day. And to every person who has seen something in me – as a creative, or a consultant – the support means so much to me.
Other: TikTok – @carlyraeinteriors
Amanda Migliaccio Kristin Karch