She Has Grand Designs On How Interiors Should Be

By Ronald D. White
Los Angeles Times.

The gig: Leura Fine, 29, is founder and chief executive of Laurel and Wolf, which specializes in residential and commercial interior design. Fine is also one of Forbes’ 2016 selections for “30 under 30,” young entrepreneurs who are rapidly climbing the ladder in their business sector or completely redefining it.

Finding your space: Redefining is what Fine has done, describing the traditional model of the interior design business as “broken. It makes no sense. And 99% of the people who want to use it can’t afford it. It was always something for the very wealthy.”

The Fine way: “There is a massive market of designers here who are usually struggling to find business and can’t get connected to clients,” Fine said. “And there is this huge demand from potential clients who can’t afford it. What I wanted to do was bring interior design to the masses, online, and empower designers to do the work they love to do.”

Digital design: Working with a cadre of about 800 designers, Fine offers a Classic option for customers ($299 a room), and Premium ($499 a room.) Customers are quizzed about the space they want to design. The designers review that online and an average of three to five will offer options on what might work. Once a design and designer have been selected, customers work one-on-one on the projects.

Diverse clientele: Fine’s company has worked on projects for fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff and actress Christina Applegate. Current projects include work for Night + Market chef Kris Yenbamroong as well as actress and model Jaime King.

Fast start: Fine launched her business at her home in 2013, running Leura Fine Interiors for a year before opening Laurel and Wolf. To date, she has raised $25.5 million in venture capital to build her business. She’s gone from one assistant to 55 employees.

Welcoming workplace: The company is based in a stylish and spacious West Hollywood office that reflects the company’s millennial generation roots, with a cozy, coffeehouse atmosphere. No partitions. No cubicles. Wall art includes murals painted by employees to break up the rapid pace of business. There are bunk beds for naps or for folks who just need to lounge a bit with their laptops as they work.

Strong willed: “I come from a long line of what we like to call Steel Magnolias,” Fine jokes, referring to the 1989 movie of the same name in which five Southern women welcome a new member into their fold. Fine’s mother was an example, persuading her husband to leave Southern California, where Fine was born, to move back to the Gulf Shores area near Mobile, Ala. Fine said, “She missed her family. She wanted to raise hers among relatives in the South and she got what she wanted.”

No wallflower: After achieving National Honor Society status in her school work, Fine attended one of Canada’s most prestigious schools, McGill University. But there were no freshman jitters. On her first day, Fine worked her dorm like a candidate in the Iowa presidential caucuses. “I was never shy. I went floor, by floor, introducing myself to everyone,” Fine said, “starting to organize activities, like ‘Hey, let’s start a welcoming committee.'”

No legal eagle: There were many lawyers in Fine’s family, leading her to first consider a legal career. “I majored in English literature and political theory to prepare for that,” Fine said, “and I interned with enough family members to realize that it not like ‘Law and Order’ — 99% of it is paperwork.”

Strike two: Fine’s next career choice was public relations, figuring she’d build on leadership roles for membership, public relations and recruiting for her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta as well as working with McGill’s student government and with Hillel, the Jewish campus organization. After earning her degree from McGill in just three years, “I moved to L.A. and started working for a publicist,” Fine said. For a year, she was the PR liaison to model and burlesque queen Dita Von Teese. “Interesting, but I learned it wasn’t the career I wanted to have.”

Designing woman: “I grew up around art and architecture and fashion,” Fine said. “I thought, ‘Maybe I should look into interior design.’ So, I went back to school, at UCLA, to study interior architecture.” She also worked for Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design for nearly four years, rising to the position of senior designer, before deciding to start her own company.

Parental support: Ardis and Rick Fine, her mother and father, always told her: “Work hard. If you do that, there is nothing you can’t achieve,” Fine said. “You can be anyone you want to be.”

Advice: Play close attention to your bosses. “Watch and learn and pick their brains. You’ll learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.”

Personal: The company name refers to Laurel Canyon and a bit of an homage to famous interior decorator, Elsie de Wolfe. Fine refers to her employees as “The Wolf Pack.” Fine is engaged to be married.

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