The Collective Questionnaire

Leslie Banker

By Megan Deem
February 12, 2018

The Manhattan designer believes in taking a timeless approach to design—and buying what you love—whether you’re decorating a first home or a fourteenth

Leslie Banker, of Pamela Banker Associates, didn’t set out to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She began her career as a newspaper reporter before joining the family firm, eventually taking over the business in 2013. Now Banker works with both her mother’s longtime clients, as well as with her contemporaries, to create inviting spaces in her signature classic style, which emphasizes clean lines, warm colors, and a modern look.

Manhattan interior designer Leslie Banker. Photograph by James Bleecker
Manhattan interior designer Leslie Banker. Photograph by James Bleecker

Q: How do you know when you’re ready to begin collecting?

A: There’s no need to wait until you own your own home. It’s fun to start young with smaller pieces that are easier to move, such as a painting or a little side table. A good rug is definitely worth investing in as you’ll have it for years to come.

Q: What about figuring out your style? It seems as though that’s something you would need to know before you start.

A: I think your style is really what you love tempered with a dash of practicality. You have to be confident and go with your gut about what makes you happy. Be true to yourself, no matter what’s in fashion, because that’s what’s going to help you enjoy your home. Just be sure that whatever you select fits your current space and that it’s easy to move. I had a nine-foot long marble table at one point, and it got really expensive and difficult to change its location. I think it’s 85 percent you love it and 15 percent some practical thought of, can I get it into my house, use it successfully, and move it if I’m going to a different place?

A light-filled Long Island house features a custom-made étagère, Holly Hunt dining chairs, a Cassina dining table base, and painting by Minjung Kim. Photograph by Peter Margonelli
A light-filled Long Island house features a custom-made étagère, Holly Hunt dining chairs, a Cassina dining table base, and painting by Minjung Kim. Photograph by Peter Margonelli

Q: If you’re ready for an investment piece, what should you spend your money on?

A: I always think it’s important to have a good reading chair. And lighting is key. Have a couple of good lamps, so you don’t have to rely on overhead lights. Also, a small dining table. You should always be ready to have a friend or two over for dinner. If you don’t have space for a little bistro table, it could just be a cocktail table that you pull some ottomans up to. I think any space should be designed with an eye towards being able to entertain friends because, for me, that’s what a comfortable house is all about.

Q: What mistakes do you see people making when they’re decorating their first “significant” space?

A: Sometimes they just want to do it really fast, and I do think it makes sense to take a little time to wait for the right thing versus running out and buying stuff just to finish the area. And that means looking at vintage or antique or auction houses or sites like Collective. It takes a little time for the perfect item to come up, and you just need to wait and be patient.

Sometimes, says Banker, a single piece of art—this one’s by Minjung Kim—can change a whole room. Photograph by Peter Margonelli
Sometimes, says Banker, a single piece of art—this one’s by Minjung Kim—can change a whole room. Photograph by Peter Margonelli