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Non-Conformists are entrepreneurs, innovators, and social change-makers -- living and working in the Cape Fear region. They are the people forging new paths with their ideas, innovations, and actions. This series gives readers a glimpse into their thinking, habits, and insights about originality and entrepreneurship.

ELIZABETH LEAKE - Interior Designer & Owner of Luxe Home Interiors

Helping her clients make a home and seeing them excited for all of the possibilities that lie ahead is what inspires Elizabeth Leake. An avid trend-watcher and creative, her interior designs are often whimsical and influenced by different genres. Elizabeth grew up immersed in the design world and entrepreneurship from a young age. After relocating from Oklahoma, she, along with her parents, opened Luxe Home Interiors in Wilmington,NC in 2006. Elizabeth has now taken the reins of the family business and delivers beautiful and comfortable design with the belief that our homes should bring us joy every day.

In your opinion what is the most innovative & original idea or thought you’ve seen in the Cape Fear region?

The lifestyle neighborhoods that have been developed in Brunswick County. They are truly hubs of active retired or early retirement folks who support our area in multiple ways. Their desire for good restaurants, golf, and entertainment and many more activities is great to see.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day starts with taking James, my 14-year-old, to school. Even though it’s an early start, I enjoy our time together in the car. I know that the rest of the day I will have meetings with designers and/or clients and I will deal with whatever else pops up. But I’ll get to savor the morning drives for a few more years.

What’s the most original idea you’ve had? I’m not sure that I’ve had a great original idea, but I love listening to others and borrowing what I think will be useful to our business. I listen to podcasts, some business related and some not. I read industry magazines and shelter magazines. I belong to a wonderful business coaching group and I love to get feedback and hear about people’s challenges as well. I attend the High Point Furniture Market and pose many questions to knowledgeable people in the industry and find out what is going on in the wider world. My idea isn’t original, but it is to stay informed, stay current and try new things.

What do you think it takes to stand out these days? A genuine interest in other people. We have had a lack of contact in the past two years and that has left some of us feeling a little less connected. The places that really stand out to me are the ones that offer a wonderful personal experience. At Luxe we strive to be a valuable and genuine resource for people and, in the meantime, develop lifelong relationships with our clients.

What’s one trend that excites you? I’m pretty excited about today’s focus on the home. Our homes are our sanctuaries and the past few years have really shined a bright light on that. I love seeing the ways in which homes provide a resource for their owners. Is it to make them happy, or to give them energy, or to provide them with solace, or calmness? Is it for a small gathering of wine connoisseurs or large group of sports enthusiasts? The trend is making your home into whatever serves you best and it’s an exciting journey to be part of.

What is a habit of yours that makes you productive? I’ve always been a list maker. Once I get things out on paper, I like to see what needs to be done and start ticking off the list. What I’ve started doing over the past year is making my list before I leave each day. That way I don’t waste any time in the mornings thinking about what to put on the list at the start of the day. It really helps me to dive right in.

What advice would you give your younger self? Listen more. You have something to learn from everyone you meet.

What’s the best advice you’ve received that you actually followed? There may not be a solution but there are always options. With challenging lead times and product shortages we are implementing this everyday. Our number one goal sometimes has to be choosing the right option, even if it is not the perfect solution.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Being involved in the community. In this area we have great developers, builders, and real estate agents all working toward a common goal of making our clients happy. I want to connect with each one of these people to make sure that they know that we are a good resource for them and their clients when they need us.

What is one failure you’ve had and how did you overcome it? One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that not everyone fits the same mold. We have failed some of our employees in the past and handicapped the store by being too rigid. I have learned to try to treat everyone fairly, but that does not mean treating them the same.

What new project are you working on at the moment? At this moment my biggest project is perfecting the offerings we have at the store. We just got back from the High Point Furniture Market and I am super excited to see how we can translate the latest trends and styles to work best in our store and for our clients.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

Yoga for the team. We have found a several common denominators when we set our annual goals this year. We all want to focus on finding a balance in life and a way reduce stress. This was one way of having a shared stress-free moment that I personally enjoy very much.

What is one piece of software, app or gadget that you use that is essential? My iPad. I stream tons of current shows and I prefer to watch them up close. It’s amazing what visual information and trends are being shown to us on every show we watch.

What are you reading now? Ask my team, I love to read. I enjoy books that have nothing to do with business. It’s my happy place. Two of my favorite authors right now are Louise Penny and Kate Quinn. I like a little mystery.

What is the one book that you recommend our readers should read?

For all my team I recommend Paddi Lund’s “The Critical Non-Essentials”. It’s really available only as a PDF, but it holds some valuable information about going above the expectations of clients.

What is your favourite quote?

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


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