LEIVARS - award-winning interiors company comes home to Derbyshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 June 2020
After establishing her interior design company down south, Rebecca Leivars’ next port of call is Derbyshire.
After a hugely successful career to date, designer Rebecca Leivars is bringing her award-winning interiors to Derbyshire, the county in which she grew up.
Rebecca founded her high-end design company, LEIVARS, in 2007, specialising in creating beautiful interiors with meticulous attention to detail.
LEIVARS’ distinctive in-house style – aside from it being contemporary in its design – is that it does not have one. Instead, Rebecca and her team of three work with property owners and developers to create unique spaces in tune with their surroundings.
‘Sometimes a client might see something on our website and ask us to replicate it,’ says Rebecca.
‘In these instances, we take inspiration from what we have previously designed and try instead to come up with something unique to the client.’
The same is true when it comes to the latest trends. Rather than design interiors that will soon become dated, Rebecca prefers to create timeless backdrops whilst introducing up to date looks using accessories.
‘It’s important to get the infrastructure right – lighting, flooring, the sofa, the dining table, an expensive rug and art etc.’ she explains.
‘Then you can accessorise and transform the room at minimal expense by interchanging with accessories and soft furnishings such as cushions.’
From Cornwall to Scotland, Rebecca’s work takes her all over Britain. Just a few of her many projects include a bijou seaside cottage, an exclusive Sandbanks residence, period city homes and country houses. Recently, she has been working on a number of Grade II listed Georgian properties in London and West Sussex.
‘I enjoy restoring them,’ Rebecca says. ‘I almost feel it’s an obligation to respect the buildings we work in and restore them and not least in some respects a legal requirement. But it’s always a nice feeling to know you’ve put something back into a home that has been once stripped out. With old buildings there’s a balance of old and new as we’re giving a modern day take on what was there before.’
Such is Rebecca’s attention to detail when designing the interior of an historic property that she not only views the space but will delve into history books, archives and documents as well as visiting museums to really understand the building.
Every project begins with an informal chat between Rebecca and her client before she views the property, paying particular attention to its condition and architecture, the orientation, lighting, specific points of interest and any obstructions.
To then get an idea of what her clients are looking for Rebecca presents them with a number of images to discuss their likes and dislikes. ‘I’m looking for the spark in their eyes, that little moment of excitement,’ she says. ‘Clients don’t have to explain why they like something, their eyes will always tell you either way.’
Rebecca finds out about her clients’ lifestyles, which is crucial to informing the designs as she draws up initial concepts of how the spaces could be transformed. These are then followed with detailed designs and costings before implementation. ‘There are so many different layers to interior design,’ says Rebecca. ‘At the end of projects, without exception, clients will state how detailed and how much work goes into the job we do and the levels of administration that they were not aware of.’
For Rebecca, the most important aspect of any interior is lighting. She says, ‘Lighting often takes the longest time but it will last for decades, so get it right and it’ll be the best thing you do. We like to think cleverly about the levels and layering of light - low and high level lighting or highlighting that perfect architectural detail or treasured piece of art takes consideration and planning.’
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, LEIVARS has implemented changes to its ways of working, with more virtual meetings and social distancing, although the team was already used to working remotely.
‘I’ve always endorsed flexible home working so when my senior designer asked if they could all work from home I said ‘yes’. The studio we had was led by me but with so much travel and meetings I wasn’t seeing them often or, if I did, it was a snatched hour here or there. Now we all FaceTime – sometimes 10 to 20 times a day – and it works! We’ve been doing it for four years now for both meetings and sourcing items.’
As far as interiors go, Rebecca expects aspects of these to change quite radically. Fabrics will not only be flame retardant and stain resistant but germ repellent too. Rebecca explains that anti-bacterial surfaces such as Silestone, Caesarstone, Corian, Steel and even Quartz are now proving popular. ‘The softer marble stones are more porous so sadly I can see clients not choosing these, though with correct and regular sealant they could still be used.’
An awareness of good mental health, says Rebecca, will also feature prominently in future designs.
‘There will be a lot of biophilic designs that link to the outside world and nature, including green walls and plant-led designs in fabrics and texture. We’ve seen this a lot over the past two years, and it isn’t disappearing anytime soon. It will all be about looking to stimulate the mind and creating a calm mental state. This will be accelerated with home working and beautifully designed led office spaces in which to relax and work – having space to breathe and being productive rather than spending time in a sterile office.’
Rebecca grew up in Draycott, near Long Eaton. Her childhood, however, was spent travelling with her parents and spending time in multiple locations both in the UK and Europe.
‘Being adaptable to any situation on a building site is an essential part of what we do’, says Rebecca.
‘Having had the opportunity to mix with different people from a young age from all walks of life has definitely helped shape my work ethic and ability to manage people and trades.’
Back in Derbyshire, Rebecca began a career in Human Resources whilst spending her spare time buying and renovating properties. In 1998 she was head hunted to lead one of the HR departments at the newly merged Brighton and Hove Council.
‘I was 21 and jumped at the chance to move down south – it was close to the beach and to London! The opportunity was what I needed to explore life and I knew I wouldn’t be ready to come back to Derbyshire until I’d achieved something.’
Rebecca later left her job in HR to look after her then partner’s young children and to renovate their large property. Once the children were at school Rebecca, who no longer wished to return to a career in HR, thought about what she might do. It was her partner who suggested she apply to one of London’s top design schools and so she enrolled at the prestigious KLC Design School in Chelsea.
‘It was the best year of my life,’ she argues. ‘I threw my heart and soul into it, working up to 22 hours a day.’
Her efforts paid off with straight Grade As and she became its ‘Student of the Year’. 13 years after graduating, Rebecca achieved international recognition when she won the Best Residential House Under £1m award at the prestigious SBID International Design Awards, the interior design industry’s equivalent of an Oscar, beating entries from over 45 countries worldwide.
Yet despite all the years away, the call of Derbyshire became ever stronger.
‘When I came back to visit, I kept hearing the accent and thought maybe it’s time, maybe I need to go home! I’m really proud of my roots and I want to shout loud and proud and also support local and artisan businesses in the region.’
Rebecca has certainly achieved the success she was seeking with multiple awards to her name and has no intention of stopping as she continues to expand her ever-growing portfolio of luxury interiors.