HGTV Star Leanne Ford On Finding Design Inspiration in Travel

Leanne Ford sitting on table

If you’ve spent your time at home this year watching design shows on HGTV — and we’ve all spent a lot of time at home this year figuring out how to make our spaces better — you might be familiar with Leanne Ford. The Pittsburgh-based interior designer famous for her “modern yet lived-in” designs is the co-host of Restored by the Fords, along with carpenter brother Steve. 

And now, inspired by a trip to Portugal, Ford has released a new 28-piece tabletop collection at Crate & Barrel that features a relaxed color palette, standout serving platters, charming patterns, and everything in between. To celebrate the collection, which is available now in store and online, Travel + Leisure spoke with the new mom, who recently moved back to Pittsburgh from LA, about seeing the world as a designer, her adventures in Portugal, and how to make the most of the time we’re spending at home right now. 

Travel + Leisure: How does travel influence your design?

Leanne Ford: “Travel is everything for design. Design is global now, and every influence thrown together in this day and age gives us that new, modern feeling.”

Specifically, how did Portugal influence these designs? Tell us about the adventure.

“Portugal has an incredible history: the people, textures, porcelain, and tile everywhere. When you’re a creative type, you’re influenced by everything you see. In Portugal there’s so much to see, so I was just inspired by all of it. It was really all about going to the factories and seeing how these ceramic pieces are made and the artisans that make them. It really expanded my mind to all the possibilities for design.”

Leanne Ford sitting in floor with pizza, plates and bowls stacked

Do you have a favorite piece from this collection?

“The Uplifter Cream Pitcher With Handle because it’s a very traditional Portuguese shape and style.”

Do you have any tips for people to find their own inspiration in travel? 

“Look up! Everyone is so bent on getting a picture and showing everyone else where you are. It’s kind of that simple. Look up and be present.

The other thing about travel inspiration, you have to open your mind to how and what can influence you. In Portugal, it was all these beautiful tiles, but what I found was the nuance of that beautiful creamy white that has been lived in, and that inspired me to go in a different direction for this collection. When you see something you love, look at how and where you can take that into your home… It doesn’t have to be in that exact form.”

And what do you think people should bring home on their trips? For me, a pair of hand-painted bowls I found in Turkey still make an appearance every time I have company.

“I always like to bring home something useful, because then I can enjoy it more, get it out more, see it more. Something that has use which lets me enjoy it — not just something that will just sit there on the shelf.”

With everyone spending so much more time at home right now, what do you think is the most important thing to “get right” about our living spaces?

“I think a proper meal is everything. Right now, we are working in the same homes we are sleeping in, and there’s no division between the day. So at whatever time you’re lucky to get off work, stop work, put your computer away and have a proper meal with your family. Even if it’s takeout, put it on real plates!”

When it’s safe, where do you hope to go first?

“I miss Paris — a perk of living in Pittsburgh is that our flight to Paris is shorter than a flight to LA. But I’d have to say, the most influential design city that sparks my joy is Antwerp.”

Tanner Saunders is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure who wishes he had an HGTV show. Follow him on Instagram to watch him pretend to host travel, cooking, and design shows from his Brooklyn apartment.

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