Romantic American Style:  Designer Lee Ann Thornton

Bringing together style influences from cities as diverse as London and Los Angeles, the work of designer Lee Ann Thornton is an awe-inspiring blend of color, pattern and texture. Despite the sophistication of the spaces she creates, her goal is always to make a home feel comfortable and lived in. Her ability to achieve this delicate balance of form and function while still creating looks that are nothing short of stunning has made her a beloved and sought-after designer with rave reviews from a wide variety of prestigious publications including House Beautiful and Coastal Living and receive awards such as Connecticut Cottages and Garden 2015 Innovation in Design Award for Interior Design.  She also manages to find time to dedicate to the Decorator’s Club  (an organization of professional women interior designs and industry executives in the New York area) as a board member. We caught up with Lee Ann to discuss her love of antiques, the era she can’t get enough of and her tips on mixing pattern and color for a show stopping room.

Photo by Francesco Lagnese

One of the striking elements of Lee Ann’s designs is the way she seamlessly blends styles to create a completely unique look for every space she touches. Her design aesthetic draws influence from the places she has lived, from London to Los Angeles as well as Connecticut. From her time in Los Angeles, she has been inspired by nature. “I am drawn to the indoor/outdoor lifestyle in LA, the idea of seeing the climbing roses growing up the lattice through the windows in the dining room, pairing with a beautiful floral fabric on the drapery inspires me.” In Connecticut, she loves the coastal New England charm: “warm inviting rooms, centered around the heart of the home – bringing people together…” and from London she adores “the English textiles, the countryside, overstuffed comfortable furniture with big floral patterns, and checks – all so inviting and comforting.” It is clear when seeing the homes she transforms that her favorite elements have come together to beautiful effect, so it will be exciting to see her upcoming table wear collection – perfect for pulling together a gorgeous and welcoming meal.

Photo by James Merrell

In addition to the beauty she finds in the environments around her, she is also inspired by many of the iconic designers to come out of the 1980s. “Sister Parish, Albert Hadley and Diamond Baratta were creating a lifestyle.” Looking at the work of these designers, “without even knowing it, I was formulating my future aesthetic.”

Photo by James Merrell

The outcome of her designs often involves eye-catching colors and masterfully mixed prints in a blend that feels effortless (though it most certainly is not created without serious talent and skill). “We find most clients are initially timid in mixing patterns but we feel our best results are when we take those bold initiatives. I also recommend taking advantage of all aspects of the room including painting a beautiful high gloss color on the ceiling which immediately elevates the design. No canvas wasted!”

Photo by Francesco Lagnese

Despite the high level of design skill that goes into the plan for each room, her ultimate goal is to create a comfortable (and beautiful) place for her clients. “I want the room to feel lived in and comfortable. Many of our clients are young families and we create spaces for them and their children and to grow, love and make memories. That said, we don’t want any of our designs to feel too precious! Our aesthetic is achieved through paying attention to the mixing & matching scale of pattern and scale of furniture.”

Photo by Karyn R Millet

Creating a unique mix can often mean turning to antiques and vintage pieces. “I love to incorporate an antique or vintage textile in all of my projects – we love the storied layer it adds to a space. Everything is so attainable these days for end users who might not be working with a designer to shop and source found objects. Many online retailers offer a curated collection of vintage or antique items.”

Photo by Karyn R Millet

The designer loves seeking out special vintage finds for her own home, (the design of which she describes as: “Romantic American. Lots of blue & white, antique side tables, white cotton duck monogrammed overstuffed sofas, and custom lampshades”) as well as for her clients. “I have been collecting Asiatic Pheasant Transferware for the last 30 years and try to incorporate a collection for my clients as well. I have a sneaking suspicion this is where my love of blue & white began!”


Five Questions with Designer and Tastemaker Lee Ann Thornton


TLV: Go to color combination / Most beloved pattern?

LT: I’ll never tire from florals and checks for as long as I live… the same goes for blue & white color combination.


TLV: Favorite era for design?

LT: Here and now! I am loving that the attention has shifted back to traditional.


TLV: Currently reading?

LT: The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Verant


TLV: Ideal way to spend a summer evening?

LT: Cooking for family and friends


TLV: Dream travel destination?

LT: Cooking school in Aix-en-Provence


Photos Courtesy of Lee Ann Thornton / Profile Photo by Francesco Lagnese / Text by Liana Hayles Newton

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