Leslie Banker of Rhode Island- On Home Decor, Small Chairs And Keeping An Open Mind


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Leslie Banker

Here's Leslie Banker, hanging out in front of some of her favorite mirrors.

Krrb member Leslie Banker is the kind of person you really want to have living next door, because she knows at least a little something about pretty much everything, and she is happy to share the knowledge with all comers.

The two brilliantly illustrated mini-encyclopedias she authored with her well known interior designer mom, Pamela Banker, demystify the complex worlds of decorating (The Pocket Decorator) and renovating (The Pocket Renovator) and will have you talking like a pro in no time flat. Her brand new online shop and blog offer up creative solutions to help keep your place looking great, and her Krrb corner is constantly populated with treasures you’ll want to carry home.

Read on to discover what makes this author/decorator/shop owner (oh and did I say mother?) tick.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a New Yorker living in the country and loving it. I take any opportunity though to get back into the city, whether to see friends or for a work project. I just planted grass over my vegetable garden, it didn’t get enough sun and the bunnies got to the lettuce before I did. It’s kind of a relief. I collect egg baskets, but won’t pay more than $5 for one. So, there are only two baskets in my collection.

Where are you from and where do you currently live?

I grew up in NYC and now live by Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?

Being by the water is pretty awesome. Also, there is so much amazing fresh food here. I can drive a few miles down the road and go buy chicken, meat and eggs directly from the farm where the animals were raised. We buy fish that’s often come off the boats that day. Same for veggies, in the summer at least, we go a couple miles down the road to the local farm stand that’s open everyday and run on the honor system: take what you want and put cash in a jar.

What’s your favorite place you go locally to discover hidden treasures and why do you love it?

There’s a place in Newport I love called Armory Antiques, it’s a group of antique dealers working out of great old building. I love the mix of nautical and old-school Newport antiques that go through there. Also, J. S. Gustave White Auctioneers (they don’t seem to have a site!!) are good. The auctions are usually held in Portsmouth, though sometimes an estate sale they run will be held at the house where the things are coming from. They’ll often have a big pile of Oriental rugs, art by well-known regional artists, traditional furniture as well as original treasures. I bought a pair of duck decoys at auction a couple years ago, and I love how they look in my bookshelves.

Armory Antiques

The main hall at Armory Antiques in Newport, Rhode Island.

What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?

Lonny, Rue, Door Sixteen , Hither and Thither, The Selby, The Year in Pictures, Abbey Goes Design Scouting, and Kelly Wearstler’s My Vibe My Life are few favorites.

As a kid, were any of your toys and clothes hand-me-downs? Stories please!

Lots of my clothes were hand-me-downs. Now, as parent, I see it’s the only way to go. My 2-year-old daughter, Harriet, is wearing lots of my old dresses and also clothes from older cousins. I have to thank my Mom for keeping all my old clothes so nicely for all these years! I have this light blue wool jumper that I wore as a toddler that Harriet was wearing this spring. It has sailboats embroidered onto it—I don’t think you’d see anything like that new these days.

Today, how often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? What is your modus operandi? Any personal tips you’d like to share?

It depends. I go often if I’m looking for something in particular, and otherwise I go once in a while just to see what’s out there. Generally, I move pretty fast through a garage sale or flea market just waiting to see what catches my eye. I like little things, small chairs in particular, so I move quickly past anything big and clunky. I think it’s good to have an open mind—not be too focused—but also to know what you like. One tip I’d like to share: know when to say when. I have a room in my house filled with smallish chairs, most of them needing some TLC. I’m cutting myself off. No more small chairs until these find a better place in the house or a new home altogether!

Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? If so, what was it?

Yes. I once saw a whole bunch of chairs from a pre-school in a dumpster, it was on West 13th Street in NYC. Given my small chair fascination, I couldn’t resist pulling two of the chairs, one orange and one green, off the top of the dumpster pile and carrying them home.

And where are they now?
 Ten or so years later I still have the orange chair. I released the green one back into the wild. Harriet stands on the orange chair while I cook.

orange chair

And here it is, the infamous orange chair.

Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?

I’m a reformed hoarder who aspires to minimalism.

What is your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess?

Old film reels. I bought these old reels many years ago when I lived in Santa Fe. I was going to make a coffee table out of them, but ended up using them as art on the walls for a few years. Now they’ve found their perfect place just leaning against the wall.

Film Reels

Check out these old film reels. Aren't they beautiful?

Do you create/make things? What are you working on these days?

I love to make things or re-make things. I have the aforementioned small chairs I’ve been meaning to fix up. I’ve just launched Empire Delicious, a line of accessories for decorating and entertaining, which has given me the opportunity to make (and design) lots of things.

By the way, what’s your day job?

I’m a writer and a decorator and I’ve just launched my online shop called Empire Delicious—which, I suppose, puts the decorating and writing under one umbrella in that there’s an Empire Delicious blog and I’m designing and collecting accessories for the shop.

Voila! For more check out Leslie’s corner on Krrb at krrb.com/lbanker.

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