Leatrice Lu: Combining Interior Design and Fashion

New York-based interior designer Leatrice Lu can create stylish spaces as much as she can whip up fashionable ensembles for herself. Read about how she started being creative and how she made it into her career. By Katherine Lopez-Hernandez

Leatrice Lu
For Leatrice Lu, the best part of being an interior designer is "creating something that can influence how people live or use a space.”

You will immediately notice interior designer Leatrice Lu when she enters a room, what with her warm smile and stylish outfit. And when she starts to chat with you, it’s as if you’ve known her for a long time. There’s a certain familiarity that makes you feel at ease. It’s similar to the spaces she designs. Yet they don’t lack the pizzazz to make you take a second look. It is clear that each space is a product of Leatrice’s creativity and talent.

Getting educated in design

As a child, Leatrice has always gravitated towards the arts. Raised in Davao, which back then “was as urbanized as how it is now,” she says everything from fashion to the advent of the internet was pretty much delayed.

Her access to the arts was from the daily paper. She would read the articles on fashion, homes, and “anything artistic” on Saturdays when these stories were published. “When I was about 9 or 10, I started cutting out the pictures that I liked and made mood boards out of them.”

When it was time for her to pick a major, she felt that interior design combined art and science that was design was more right up her alley as she was active in production designs and table setting competitions in high school.

Leatrice graduated with a degree in interior design from De La Salle – College of St. Benilde in consortium with the Philippine School of Interior Design. She also went to take her master’s degree in Strategic Design and Management and Continuing Education in Residential Interior Design from Parsons – New York campus.

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Learning from the best

The beginning of her design career was not without challenges. When she was starting out, she shared a condo in Greenhills with her best friend, who told her that world-renowned interior designer Belen Morey also lived on the same floor. “I remember being so determined to learn so I knocked on her door one day and introduced myself. I asked her to teach me everything I needed to know to make it in this industry.” Leatrice learned a lot from their discussions and always felt grateful for Morey’s “encouragements and counsel.”

When you see Leatrice’s work, you would know that she’s not confined to textbook theories and principles. “It always starts with an assessment of the client’s needs and how to manipulate a space to fit these needs,” she says.

Leatrice also throws in interesting items like one-of-a-kind decals or accessories that help bring out her client’s personality. “I have a penchant for items or pieces that are out of the ordinary or unique as opposed to choosing “cookie-cutter” pieces. It always gives a room character and its own story,” the designer says. This is probably what makes each space she designs homey and familiar, even if you’re just seeing it for the first time.

Passion for fashion

Leatrice’s creativity also reflects on the way she dresses up, which in turn also influences her choices when designing interiors. “When designing interiors, I would habitually pick a monochromatic palette for the walls and add pizzazz in the form of furnishings and whatnot. In the context of fashion, investing in classic pieces you’d want to wear again and dress it up with make-up, a nice bag, and statement jewelry.”

For Leatrice, fashion is a reflection of the different aspects of one’s life, that’s why it is hard to give her style an exact definition. “I think everyone is multi-dimensional in his or her own way and the style of wardrobe is an expression of different facets.”

These days, Leatrice is practicing interior design in New York, and she is having the time of her life. She fell in love with the city that never sleeps three years ago when she was taking her master’s, and she knew she had to move.

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“My life in NYC is more structured, which is something I prefer. At first, it was a learning curve—learning how to use the imperial scale, learning new materials and building codes, etc., but design-wise, the fundamentals, and principles are the same,” Leatrice explains. She doesn’t discount the possibility of moving back to Manila, but right now, she is happy where she is. “NYC is a place I knew I had to try, as this has been a lifelong dream of mine.”

Wherever she is, Leatrice will always remain the passionate and talented interior designer that she is. “I think one of the things I like about being an interior designer is regularly meeting people, and in many instances, getting to know them on a personal level. But the best part is creating something that can influence how people live or use a space.” With this driving her, Leatrice will definitely go places.

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