Whimsy and playful, meet modern and sophisticated. Lee Kleinhelter’s renovated Brookwood Hills, Atlanta abode captures just those words. Nestled among the lush tree-lined streets of this charming Georgian neighborhood, Lee’s home (once dated duplex, now architectural marvel) is a showstopper — making you feel like you’ve stepped into a grown-up treehouse, intertwined with the aura of an astonishing art gallery. Black, white, and gold are met with unexpected and bold pops of color, layered among intricate architectural details and travel-inspired textures. It’s something that makes you stop and stare.
Pieces.inc, Lee’s labor of love centered in the heart of Buckhead, parallels the beauty of her personal home. Like an editor, Lee carefully mixes vintage and contemporary, sprinkling her beloved treasures to make a striking statement. I am attracted to her thrill of the hunt, her willingness to showcase those rare finds that break away from traditional Southern design. But her modern twist is exactly why I selected her to represent The New Southern. In a city with deep Southern roots, Lee is unpredictable - her vignettes and selections break the rules. "We have always been recognized for having a unique look that has evolved over time. If there is a day you walk in our store and don't think something is interesting or cool, then I need to find another career. We spend a lot of time souring our product, displaying, and obsessing over the details. It’s what we do best,” Lee says.
Whether it’s her eye for clean lines, scale, or pattern play, we applaud this retail artist as she exemplifies what it means to break away from precedent, experimenting with creating “wonderland” spaces that bring an element of fun and lightheartedness back into our lives.
Alyssa Rosenheck: Tell me about yourself.
Lee Kleinhelter: I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, studied art history at the College of Charleston, and interior design at the Art Institute of Atlanta. After school, I began working under some of Atlanta’s best interior designers. I first opened Pieces in 2004 as a brick-and-mortar, then launching our e-commerce and interiors website which continues to be a resource for customers and interior designers all over the country. Pieces has since grown to be a full-service interior firm, giving us the opportunity to work on amazing projects from Atlanta to New York. My husband, Kevin Kleinhelter, is the owner of K2 Construction - his office is located right under Pieces! I have an active 8-year-old son, Holden, and a 19-year-old stepdaughter, Madison. Our newest addition is Hux - an English cream golden retriever who (by far) gets more attention than anything in the store!
AR: The shop is filled with visual inspiration from room to room .. how has the shop contributed to the modernization or updated Southern Style?
LK: We're very proud Pieces has had a brick-and-mortar storefront since 2004. The store provides us a place to express our style and interior design background, while allowing us to share this design and provide inspiration to everyone. It is extremely important to us that the store feels like nothing you've seen before. Maybe you've seen a piece here and there we have, but not done in our way. We have always been known for an ‘unexpected chic’ look. In our eyes, being in the South does not mean your style has to be typical Southern.
AR: What innovative trends are you seeing with Southern style across the country?
LK: We don’t follow any trends; however, we love seeing designers push the envelope to do something new or over the top, rather than just copy others’ designs. It's all about being authentic and doing something different.
AR: How have you mastered the growth of the shop and is there structure or tips you may share when you grow rapidly?
LK: Stay true with what your angle is on the market. Don't try to do it all or do what others are doing. It’s so refreshing when all stores look different, have different product, and support each other. You have to force yourself as a small business to reevaluate and restructure. Also, you’re only as good as those that help you. You can accomplish so much with a small efficient group, rather than growing too big and outsourcing. More and bigger aren't always better. Each month, we completely rearrange the store with a new theme to refresh the space and inspire customers with updated ways to use our pieces. Plus, it’s a design challenge for us to play with new ways to display! We play many different roles while accomplishing the distinct facets that make up our business daily. One day, we’re reevaluating the website, and the next, we’re receiving shipments, installing someone’s home, or working on an out-of-state photo shoot. It can be chaos, so we value efficiency and prioritization. Although it can be hectic, we're very thankful and appreciative of our amazing clients.
AR: What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs?
LK: Your experience and years of work should show your talent and back everything someone may question.
AR: What’s your life motto?
LK: Clean out the clutter both personally and professionally. Be efficient with your time. Make everything purposeful. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
AR: What’s your favorite housewarming gift?
LK: Our lucite frames are the perfect gift and our customers' favorite go-to!
AR: Tell us something we probably don’t know.
LK: We have chickens… silkies to be specific. My husband, the contractor, built a coop in the back yard that mimics the design of our house. Chickens are fun, easy pets, and the free organic eggs are always a plus! So now, I'm the crazy lady that talks about chickens any chance I can get!