Ashley's Window /
Based in Greenwich, CT, Linda Ruderman, president and owner of LRI, Inc. (Linda Ruderman Interiors) has been creating interior designs for residential and commercial properties for over 30 years. We were lucky enough to speak with Linda about her path to interior design, projects in her portfolio, and how STARK fits into the mix.
After learning about Linda’s background, a future in design seems an obvious path. Her father and grandfather were in the textile industry, so she grew up around fabrics. When she was five years old, she already knew what cashmere was, and the difference between cotton and linen. Her mother was a seamstress, and people thought Linda might go down the same path since she loved to make her own clothes. But in high school, she started her own wallpaper business with a friend, made mugs for the school store in pottery class, and even crafted sculptures in metal shop – one art piece she made still hangs in her high school to this day!
Later in life – after briefly taking nursing courses and then working for United Airlines – she was finally able to pursue her true love of design. Linda bolstered her education during this period by traveling with a number of incredible study tours through Europe. Her understanding of classic interiors was shaped by these trips, including touring the Loire Valley in France and the beautiful castles of the English countryside.
Back in the United States, she took classes at Cooper Hewitt, studied the history of antiques at the Met, and began to embrace her interior design career.
She started her career by growing her skills working with an architect. An amazing mentor whom she says she was able to learn a great deal from; this early training in the mechanics of design has also allowed her to become an even more integral part of construction and renovation teams throughout her career.
When she first approaches a space, there is not one item that Linda always looks to first – it often depends on the type of room. “When I walk in a room, I look at its elements – the windows, if there’s a fireplace, what kind of molding, the base, the doors, the whole architecture of the room,” Linda explains. “In design school, they can give you a white box and tell you to design a room, and you get to do whatever you want, which is fun. But when you walk into a real room, there are all these architectural elements that must be taken into consideration.”
As such, Linda has a particular interest in the architectural components of the room because building and creating the interior of homes is her true passion, though she acknowledges that in many projects, the flooring is the basis around which everything else revolves. When the client says, “I don’t know what colors I like..." or "I’m not sure what I want...” Linda’s first impulse is to send them carpet shopping.
“The carpet can inspire the design of the whole room.”
Often, because of the size or shape of the room, the carpet tends to be one of the more expensive elements of the project – which is a key reason to find the perfect flooring first, and then build the rest of the space around that. "It’s a little different if the client comes into the project with a number of family heirloom fabrics for example, but if you’re not matching up to anything, it’s good to start with the carpet,” she maintains.
What inspires her when working on a home is the people who live in the space themselves, their unique personalities and living needs. But she quickly adds, “You’re not in this business if you’re not passionate,” and that passion is a cornerstone of her inspiration. She loves to find out what her clients are passionate about, so she can bring that passion even more deeply into the project.
“Everybody has great ideas; it’s just so inspiring to go into a meeting where everybody’s excited. That brings a lot of inspiration to a project.”
Linda doesn’t consider any space as “hard” to design – she prefers to think of it as challenging, and she loves a good challenge! One type of challenge she runs into – which comes up even more frequently when you work with historic homes like Linda’s firm does – happens when working on a renovation where the integrity of the home needs to be maintained. But, she can point to something specific that has an impact: “When the architect puts a window, door, or door frame on every single wall in the room. You walk into a room and think, ‘Wow, there is not one solid wall in the room.’” Then you have to figure out how to make the space work – perhaps by moving the furniture to the center of the room.
Three words Linda hopes would be used to describe a room she has designed are comfortable, inviting, and elegant. But it’s difficult to choose just three, and Linda adds a couple more while explaining, since her firm does every kind of interior. “We do traditional, modern, contemporary, whatever the client wants. But I think the common thread that people always say about my work is that it is welcoming, livable, and warm,” she adds.
This warmth and livability extends to all her projects – even the most lavish ones, such as an incredible oceanfront Moorish compound she designed for a client in Manalapan, Florida. Two years were spent designing and furnishing the eight-bedroom, twelve-bath estate where her client entertained – among other notable people – governors and senators. He said to her, “I want you to create something that will knock everybody’s socks off.” Linda replied, “What’s my budget?” And he said, “Just go for it.”
The Moorish architecture was definitely something that they wanted to retain – so Linda traveled to Marrakesh, Morocco to source everything. “We used all reclaimed tiles and the millwork was of a Moorish design,” Linda told us. The job was very intensive, weeks and months of fifteen-hour-days, working with a huge team that included everyone from decorative painters and artisans to millworkers, contractors, and electricians. It was down to the wire, six hours before her client would be coming home; the house manager was worried that they wouldn’t make it in time – but they did! “We made it … down to every accessory, everything perfectly in place,” Linda said.
“When he walked into the bedroom, and we had saved that for last, he just looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘You have exceeded my every expectation, you took my breath away, this has taken my breath away.’ And thanked me. He often sends me emails that say who stayed in the room and [lets me know] their comments.”
This expansive estate is just one of the many lovely spaces Linda has designed that utilize items from STARK. A custom carpet was created for the living room, inspired by the already-existing motif of the fireplace. Old World Weaver fabrics are employed throughout the room, as well; other rooms that feature STARK flooring include the family room, library, master bedroom, two upstairs bedrooms – and even the main staircase!
“I used STARK throughout – we always use STARK carpet.”
Linda has been working with STARK for over 30 years, and one major reason is because she has always been able to be creative. “There really isn’t anything you can’t do when you’re working with STARK,” she told us. Just one example of how far the STARK team goes to ensure designers get exactly what they want is depicted in Linda’s memory of sitting on the floor in the back of the showroom with her rep Audrie, who is now retired, three days in a row, picking out 38 unique yarns for just one carpet that Linda had designed.
“My relationship with STARK has always been amazing and we’ve done wonderful things together over the years that I have been in business. When you walk in there, you are working with family, and that’s really important.”
Linda has worked on a wide array of different projects throughout her three-decade-long career, virtually all of which involve STARK. “We’ve designed so many carpets together,” Linda told us, including a traditional farmhouse – which is actually featured in Decorating With Carpets. Another project that comes to mind is a Georgian classic she worked on, which required a custom Axminster carpet for the stairs. Linda traveled for 3 years throughout the English countryside to shop for furniture for this home, and it necessitated a number of special carpets, custom designed with STARK, to be featured all throughout the house.
The STARK touch is employed by interior designers the world over – from veterans of the industry like Linda and Steven G. to more recently established firms like Kapito Muller Interiors. Catch up on all our designer interviews in the Design Showcase and find even more stunning inspiration via the rooms highlighted by our Senior Vice President of Design, Ashley Stark-Kenner, in Ashley’s Window.