As Isabel Ladd sees it, most people's definition of maximalism is child's play. “So many people say they love color and pattern, but my passion for both is on a whole other level—like OTT” says the designer, who founded her Lexington, Kentucky, firm, Isabel Ladd Interiors, in 2015.
With no formal design training (“Fake it till you make it,” she quips), she made her way by “saying yes to one friend at a time"—and by applying her bold style first and foremost in her own home. "I was staying at home with two young kids and found great pleasure in decorating and rearranging my house while my kids (didn’t) nap," Ladd recalls. "Friends would come over for playdates with their littles and would comment on how I had such a pretty house, even with kids."
That cemented another foundational principle for Ladd: "I strongly believe you don’t need to sacrifice style just because you have kids," she avows. For proof of that, look no further than her jubilant abode, where graphic patterns and bold colors form a welcoming refuge for Ladd and her family.
"Homes have such a special place for me, and I truly want each of my clients’ homes to be for them what my home is to me," Ladd says. "I want my clients to be so in love with their homes and in their spaces."
By now, she's applied that belief to a slew of loyal clients who are drawn to her fearless style—and her magnetic personality, too.
“To me, design is so instinctive,” says Ladd. “I know when to keep pushing and when to rein it in. And I love the thrill of adding unique and distinct materials, furnishings, and -accessories on a whim.”
Get to Know Isabel Ladd:
What project are you the proudest of and why?
My house. No matter where I will ever live in my life, my house will always, always be my favorite and proudest project … even at the times when it’s not totally finished. My current home is now exactly as I’ve always wanted it to be. I bought it in a nearly dilapidated state and over the course of almost ten years, I have renovated and decorated it to my heart’s content. Now that I am fresh out of home projects, I am looking out for my next favorite project: my future house.
What sets your work apart?
My curated maximalist design style is really on point. I know so many of us say how much we love color and pattern. But my passion for both are on a whole other level—like, OTT. I love exploring unique color and pattern combinations. Things that at first you may be like, “Wait. That can’t go together” but then, it somehow works.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My mom—who doubles as my life manager and dabbles as my on-call therapist—is always reminding me that “it will all be okay.” When designing—especially in construction settings—you not only have to expect but also accept the times you have to pivot. I have behind-the-scenes panic attacks on the reg as I am so emotionally invested in projects. My mom just helps me through it, reminding me that things have always worked out in the past, so it will always work out in the present and future.
What or who was your first design crush?
Jonathan Adler. I was studying textile design at the Fashion Institute of Design + Merchandising and during my research, I stumbled upon his book My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living, and because I do judge books by their covers, I was hooked on the idea of creating your Happy Home and the correlation between emotions and design.
Your current design crush?
Can Instagram be my current crush, please? There are just SO MANY insanely inspiring designers and as I scroll through my feed viewing and saving, each new designer becomes my new crush. I have too many crushes to keep straight!
Where do you look for inspiration?
Magazines and my filing cabinet. I have hoarded design magazines since my teenage years. I tear out my inspirations, and then I file them in a very OCD manner. This works well, because instead of just seeing what’s hot right now via Instagram, I’m referencing designs from years ago, which makes things feel fresh.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
If I weren’t an interior designer, I’d be a stage mom. Like, Honey Boo Boo’s mom. Or Kris Jenner. So by the grace of interior design, my kids are spared.
For under $100—or even for free!—what decorating trick that has the most impact?
CHANGE YOUR LIGHTBULBS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. It’s about that warm glow, y’all.
What’s the first thing someone should do when they move into a new space?
Decorate (this can be done in phases) and then re-decorate. Analysis Paralysis is a real thing. And YOLO. So, like: get it together.
What’s overrated in decorating?
Playing it safe so you “don’t get tired of it.” Because … what if … not playing it safe brings you SO . MUCH . JOY ?!?
What’s underrated in decorating?
Papering or painting the ceiling; it’s the fifth wall and just as important as the other walls!
What’s your favorite—and why?
Things to collect:
Chairs. It’s more of a fetish than a collection. I have 56 places to sit in my modest-size home. And only three people live here.
Brazilian Style. It’s vibrant, layered, unapologetic, and Brazilian antiques are in a league of their own.
Crushed Velvet by Benjamin Moore. I just painted my ceilings + trim this color in my studio. I choose paint colors like I choose which horse to bet on: by their name.
Artist or piece of art:
I love Sam Sidney and the magic she creates with her scissors and felt. I commissioned her to make me Britney Spears, which I lovingly hang in my kitchen against the fanciest Quadrille wallpaper. It’s a gentle reminder that if Britney could make it through 2007, I can make it through anything.
Local shopping destination:
Scout! It’s my favorite vintage-y store and I love a treasure hunt.
Pinterest. It’s kinda like a store, because it leads me down rabbit holes, where I ultimately encounter things to buy.
Brazil. It’s where I’m from.
Decor item you buy from Amazon:
Extra-Extra Long Shower Curtain Liners. I LOVE to custom make shower curtains, and I hang them so close to the ceiling that they feel like actual curtains. And Amazon is the ONLY place I can find liners so long!
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.