The Art of Elegant Southern Living with Lee W. Robinson

If you haven’t heard of Lee W. Robinson before, you are in for a tremendous treat! I was introduced to the Louisville, Kentucky-based designer via Instagram, and I have since devoured every single image from his exquisite portfolio which embodies Southern tradition and English pedigree. In addition to interior design, Lee is renowned for his hospitality. In fact, Town & Country has featured his four-day Kentucky Derby party hosted annually at Malvern, his family home built by famed architect Ogden Codman Jr. in 1922.  Move over Martha Stewart!

The Music Room at Malvern.

After a successful 14-year career in banking, Lee decided to pursue his passion, heading to New York City to study design at Christie’s and Parsons School of Design. In 1999, he opened The Lee W. Robinson Company in Louisville, a one-stop solution for residential design and drafting, renovation, construction, and interior design. He also created the The Lee W. Robinson Interior Design and Lifestyle Academy where he teaches the essentials of interior design, along with etiquette and gracious living, to participants from around the country.

The Lee W. Robinson Brand has been described as “conjuring images of elegant Christmas parties in front of the fire; Derby balls; summery white linen cocktail events overlooking the sound; autumn hunt meets full of leather and suede, flannel and bourbon.”  With family roots dating back to 18th century Kentucky, Lee’s aspirational lifestyle harkens back to a more gracious era… yet it is a style he has adapted to modern life. “We don’t have finger bowls now and silver doesn’t all have to match, but it still makes quite an impression if you know that a plate should be served from the left and removed from the right,” he said.

The study at Malvern. 
Lee specializes in creating three different lifestyles for his clients, which he named after his sons: the Owsley, the McDowell, and the Thruston. The Owsley Lifestyle is inspired by the grandeur of Park Avenue. It is sophisticated, opulent, and eclectic. The McDowell Lifestyle is reminiscent of the sophistication of the English countryside. It is a traditional lifestyle that exudes warmth and elegance. And the Thruston Lifestyle is modern and hip “Soho Chic,” characteristic of Downtown New York City. I’m a Owsley/McDowell mix (which happens to be Lee’s most requested style) so those are the images we will focus on today…

Lee has created a fun quiz you can take here to identify which style is best suited for you. His 7,000 square foot flagship showroom is arranged in three different rooms, designed to exemplify Lee’s three signature lifestyle brands. 

“Southern style is all about family and heritage, taking family treasures and repurposing them for today,” Lee explains. “There is nothing worse than letting your silver and porcelain go stale.” Mint julep cups can be used for breadsticks on a casual table, and family pictures should be displayed throughout the home in beautiful frames. 

Known for his ability to sketch a full rendering of a room within minutes, Lee works closely with his clients to create homes that reflect their individual style. 

Lee eschews fads, preferring to blend high quality pieces from different styles and eras for a beautiful and personal statement. “Instead of buying a sofa from Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware and throwing it away in a few years, people are realizing the value of purchasing higher quality items that last a lifetime,” he said.

With Thanksgiving this week, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lee’s tips on creating the perfect Thanksgiving space. And thanks to his recommendation, I purchased “Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg” via Amazon

The Lee W. Robinson Company has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Traditional Home, Town & Country, House Beautiful, Southern Living, and Garden & Gun.  Lee has participated in the 2012 Hampton Designer Showhouse, the Evelyn Lauder Showhouse on Fifth Avenue, and he and served as co-chair alongside Mario Buatta for the Horticultural Society of New York’s 16th Annual New York Flower Show Dinner Dance.  The Lee W. Robinson Company does business in New York, Palm Beach, Louisville, and Southampton with offices in Louisville and New York City.

I hope you love Lee’s style as much as I do. Trends will come and go, but traditional style lasts a lifetime. Stay tuned, as I will soon feature a tour of his family home, Malvern, one of the most elegant homes in the United States!


  1. Dear Andrea,
    Truly impressive, I especially liked the orange stair hall- his work is like a cross between McMillen and Dorothy Draper-so classic. I was reminded of the late designer George Clarkson (mentor) who kept a farm in Virginia Hunt country as well as a Park Avenue apartment. His farm was featured in "Southern Accents" back in the 1980's. George had a big time Wall Street clientele, including Robert Fomon, who had worked with E.F. Hutton. It was through George that I was introduced to New York society, including C.Z. Guest, and many others. He would rent a guest house in Southampton, and bring his staff with him, as well as his son and other family members. Memories of olive and watercress sandwiches- and riding in the English green Rolls Royce with the tan leather hides! What a way to go!


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