Everybody deserves to have a well-designed home,” says Leslie Bowman, design director and founder of Wells Street Design, a full-service design consulting firm that helps homeowners with the comprehensive interior plan for their homes. “It’s a curated space of your life and you should enjoy being in your home.”
I nod in agreement. In fact, I’ve been nodding in agreement throughout my entire lunch with Bowman at CiNe in downtown Hinsdale. We were the first to arrive at the taqueria early on a Wednesday, but the tables filled around us during the course of our two-hour lunch. As someone who had just gone through a home renovation where I served as my own contractor, I absorb every piece of advice from Bowman about the home design process. This is a woman who knows what she’s talking about.
Bowman, a mother of three college-age children, didn’t begin her career as an interior designer—not even close, in fact. She has her CPA and actually worked in public accounting for more than a decade before she started to make the gradual shift into what is now her career. A native of the western suburbs, Bowman left the accounting field to join Mesa Development as CFO in 2000, where she worked on large-scale condo developments like The Heritage and The Legacy at Millennium Park in Chicago.
She then segued into real estate development and consulting and began working with builders, and she quickly realized that homebuyers often don’t have a design partner during the building process. She returned to school soon thereafter and earned a master’s of art in interior design at Harrington College of Design, and she transformed her then-company, Builders Consulting Services, into Wells Street Design. “It makes sense, if you think about it,” says Bowman of her circuitous career trajectory. She’s acquired an intensive education of the home financing, building, designing, and decorating process, and she’s become a one-stop shop for homeowners who are embarking on a major design-build or renovation project.
Her process goes something like this: During the initial floor-plan stages, Bowman works with the builder and homeowner to make sure design elements have been considered and implemented into the design plan. Would the dining room benefit from a focal wall with a tiled nook? What about built-in bookcases? Would a barreled ceiling work better than a flat one? She makes floor-plan changes and then starts talking hardscapes: sinks, hardware, tile, flooring. Then she moves on to talking with clients about more style-intensive choices like lighting and draperies. “As a designer, I’m doing the running around for them,” says Bowman. She’s pulling samples and photos, working with vendors on curating the right look. Homeowners don’t need to do that, she says. “I want to make the homebuilding and design process more enjoyable. The overall concept is that there is someone who is being the steward of your design—a concierge for your home,” she says.
Bowman describes her basic design aesthetic as modern classic. She gravitates toward an interior that’s timeless and classic with punctuations of unexpected style choices in lamps or pieces of art. “I don’t think every room has to match,” she says. “Homeowners should be able to live in and use every single one of the rooms in their home,” she adds, admitting that she’s not fond of formal living areas. Other trends she hopes will fall by the wayside: massively open living spaces, industrial design, and gray palettes. Timeless design choices? White kitchens, large lighting, classic window treatments, and functional layouts.
This summer, Bowman will be opening The Design Bar in Hinsdale, a retail showroom that will function like a model home where homeowners can come and get inspiration, design ideas, and consulting services. She also hopes the space will host monthly events for realtors, vendor partners, or local galleries as a way to display art options for homeowner. “Part of the reason I went back to school was to change the way we build homes,” Bowman says. “It shouldn’t be cumbersome or stressful for the couple or the family.”
Bowman will be one of the designers featured at this year’s Infant Welfare Society Showhouse & Gardens, which opens April 25 and runs through May 17. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit lakeforestshowhouse.com.
– By Elizabeth Hope // Illustraton by Kirsten Ulve