For nearly 20 years, Beth Lacefield has been our business partner, friend and neighbor. She’s also an award-winning textile designer and founder of Lacefield Designs. We spoke with Beth on how she got her start, what inspires her and how many throw pillows she has on her sofa.
Ballard Designs: Lacefield Designs launched with a very small, select line of handcrafted Christmas ornaments and has since evolved into a wide-ranging and very successful home décor business. How did you get started in the industry?
Beth Lacefield: I was born and raised here in Atlanta and studied interior design at the University of Georgia. I began my career designing commercial interiors, but my creative interests landed me in the fashion industry for several years. I eventually discovered that my real niche was in home décor—the details of fashion definitely cross over into home décor. So I started Lacefield Designs in 1992 making handcrafted ornaments. And in 1994 we got a big job doing Christmas novelty ornaments for Ballard.
BD: How did that come about?
BL: A designer friend of mine who had seen some of my work introduced me to Helen Ballard Weeks. After meeting me, she placed a huge order for Christmas. I had just started out and quickly realized there was no way I could do what she wanted in the time she needed. I was afraid to commit and not be able to deliver, so I told her that. She said, “That’s the best answer you could have given me. There are no second chances.” A year later I contacted her and told her I was ready. I made the next holiday catalog!
BD: And the rest, as they say, is history.
BL: That’s right. We moved from making small Christmas ornaments into stockings. Eventually, our private label partnership evolved into tablecloths, draperies, pillows, bedding and textiles. You could say we grew up together in the business. We have definitely helped each other learn and grow.
BD: Fast forward to 2013. How would you describe your style now?
BL: I think my style is eclectic, a mix of past and future. I like giving the traditional a fresh, new look. But my style is always changing—I try not to limit myself.
BD: Where do you find inspiration?
BL: I’m inspired by so many different things, but mostly by world travel. Right now in textiles you can definitely see the global influence.
BD: In fact, we’re introducing a fabulous Lacefield fabric for summer that has a definite Moroccan influence.
BL: Yes! Calypso. It’s a great fabric. Most of our textiles tend to be tonal block prints, but Calypso is quite colorful. Color is so important right now. It will be a great fabric to layer in for that color pop and pattern. But getting back to what inspires me—I think it comes from everywhere: flea markets, fashion, art, nature, old books. I’m fascinated by old documents, which inspired my Document fabric.
BD: Of course we have to talk about our infamous script fabric! Document Fabric by the Yard is hugely popular. It’s one of our all-time bestselling fabrics.
BL: It really is from old documents I bought when I was in Paris. The fabric is made up of at least ten different documents I cut and pasted together. There are a lot of knockoffs out there, but this fabric is original and reproduced from old documents.
BD: We can’t get enough of it. We recently added it in Ink and are rolling out a soothing Spa for spring and a moody Gray in the fall. We think our customers will love the new colors just as much as the original natural.
BL: I think so, too. I think one of the reasons it’s been so successful is it’s considered a neutral. It’s got lots of interest in the pattern, but it’s not too busy or too colorful.
BD: Exactly. What are some of your favorite items that you have designed for Ballard?
BL: We love doing Ballard’s Christmas stockings! We started with basic stockings, and each year we add different designs that coordinate with what we’ve done in the past, so customers can add more as the family grows. We’re constantly working together to see if we can come up with something that feels fresh and new that’s not already out there. And, as you know, Ballard is right here at our back door, which makes it easier.
BD: We’re practically neighbors. We love that your products are designed here in Atlanta and produced domestically, as well.
BL: We are 100% American-made—and we keep people very busy here! I’ve stood very strong on that. I feel like you can get a better quality and turn it around quicker. We can stay on-trend and turn product around in four to six weeks rather than four to six months.
BD: Tell us a little about your foundation, Lacefield with Love.
BL: My parents were always very involved in the community, so giving back is important to me. I’m so lucky to be able to get up every day and go and do what I love. I feel that it’s part of my responsibility to give back to others who are in need. So early on in the business we founded Lacefield with Love, and every year we work with different groups or charities—here and abroad.
BD: What are some of the works you do with Lacefield with Love?
BL: I’ve been on quite a few mission trips all over the world that involve teaching locals to create handicrafts with remnant textiles we’ve donated. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of these crafts go to their local villages for construction projects. Or we might buy handmade items on a mission trip and sell them here and give the profits to a domestic organization. We just worked with a local teen organization called Lion’s Heart where we donated fabric and inserts and had pillows custom made for their art auction. It was wonderful!
BD: That truly is wonderful. We would be remiss to let you go without dishing on a couple of decorating tips. First question: what is your advice on mixing patterns?
BL: Changing your textiles—pillows, curtains or tablecloths—is the easiest way to change your look. When we roll out a collection, we do a bold pattern, like a geometric, but then we always have a more traditional tonal pattern that you can layer back in with it. Just remember, it’s important to mix the scale of the patterns.
BD: Also, we get a lot of questions about the do’s and don’ts of throw pillows. Do you follow any basic rules of thumbs when it comes to throws?
BL: I think there are no rules about throw pillows. I, of course, love to use a lot of throws since I am a pillow manufacturer! But I think that’s just personal preference. On a sofa, I like to have two larger pillows flanked on each end with some smaller pillows mixed in. They can be different shapes and sizes. In fact, I prefer to mix sizes on the sofa. On my bed, I stack my two Euros and then no more than a couple of accents.