A Room of Her Own

With a knack for layered spaces, antiques and maximalist interiors, Julia Hall Liegeois reflects a new, brighter age in interior design.

BY August 1, 2022
Julia Hall Liegeois
Growing up with local design legend Judith Liegeois as a mother, Julia was exposed to the craft early on. She developed a sharp eye that draws from site visits with her mom as a kid, her family’s travels to museums and fine hotels, and her French grandmother’s affinity for layered, antique-filled spaces. The 6-foot-tall Maitland-Smith architectural birdcage (pictured) was inherited from her late stepmother, Dorothy Breen. (Photo By Dan Cutrona)

When Julia Hall Liegeois was young, her mother took her along on design jobs over the summers. “I’d watch her meet with clients or choose fabrics, and I saw these homes being transformed,” Julia says. “I would see fabric on a roll, then it would become a sofa or a pillow.”

Those early experiences shaped Julia’s aesthetic, which is best reflected in her home. From the outside in, the Old Naples bungalow is “bold and whimsical, elevated and dramatic,” she says. The exterior is painted in black-and-white cabana stripes; oversize, emerald-green foo dogs guard a boxwood-covered wall. Inside, it’s an eclectic mix of furnishings punctuated by vivid colors: a red velvet sectional in one room, a teal end table in another. “I buy things I love, and I don’t care what style it is—it all ends up working together,” Julia says.

She has a knack for antiquing, and sometimes unlikely pieces end up as the stars of a room, like a worn rug framed as art, a Maitland-Smith birdcage as a sculpture, gilded French Louis chairs covered in feminine floral upholstery, or a coffee table handmade by a local artisan. Naples’ artistic talent fills her home, including paintings by Carmelo Blandino, Marti Koehler and Gullah folk artist Jonathan Green. Her home is always changing as she finds new things and older pieces move on. “Sometimes my mom will come in and be like, ‘This is perfect for a client,’ and she’ll take it,” Julia says with a laugh.

This approach to design—unpretentious, always evolving—informs her new boutique interiors firm, Julia Hall Designs. “I’m always growing and refining,” she says. And it mirrors a local trend: As more people live here full-time, the emphasis is shifting away from decorating coastal-themed getaways, and toward more personal, layered spaces that incorporate inherited furnishings, collections built over time, and bolder colors and patterns.

For the Naples native, those roots run deep. Her mother, interior designer Judith Liegeois, imbued her with an appreciation for the craft early on: “My mother always had a deep appreciation for art and design, and would constantly point out the intricacies and nuances of the places we visited—from the layout to the materials to the color of the throw pillows. She taught me that everything has a place and nothing happens by accident.” Her father is French, and on visits back to his home country, Julia would encounter a totally different style: “My grandmother had the plates on the walls, the grand wooden furniture—it was a maximalist style, something maybe you’d see up North, but certainly not in Naples in the 1980s.” 

Julia grew up in Naples and moved to France as a teenager. She came back in her early 20s and studied interior design and hospitality management, learning about scale and color theory and the back-end workings of hotels. “I’d always loved beautiful restaurants—I love the designs that Richard D’Amico does—and learning about how hotels were built with, say, secret passageways so the guests wouldn’t see staffers with the laundry,” she says. A single parent at the time, Julia worked in various industries over the years: restaurants, finance, in an attorney’s office. “As much as I loved design, my focus was on being a mother,” she says. All the while, she fueled her passion for interiors through books and magazines and by decorating her own home. “I love to push boundaries—if you say, ‘Let’s paint the wall,’ I say, ‘Let’s paint the whole room and the ceiling, too!’” she says.   

By late 2019, she found herself working in her mother’s showroom. “I wore a lot of hats; it was stressful, but I loved it,” she says. In January 2020, she had her youngest son—in addition to her daughter, who’s now 13, she shares a son with her partner, Frank McMackin, plus his son and daughter from a previous relationship—and quickly went back to work with the support of her parents and in-laws. But soon, the situation was untenable: She was juggling four kids, a full-time job and postpartum depression. Within a year, her stepmother and aunt were killed in a violent attack, and then her father-in-law suddenly passed away. “I lost three very important people in my life in a short time,” she says. “It was the way I lost them that was so difficult to overcome—all so unexpected.”

Julia took time off work to regroup, and as she began to reemerge, it was clear that something would have to change. Frank encouraged her to branch out on her own with a boutique approach, only taking a few clients at a time. The push helped Julia launch her brand last November. Her design is guided by her own style and creativity, and she continues to learn on the job and by the book (recent favorites include Summer Thornton’s Wonderland: Adventures in Decorating and Celerie Kemble’s Island Whimsy). She’s grateful to have grown up within a design community because it means she can tap longtime Naples pros for advice. “I love collaborating, and I still go to my mom—more often than I’d like to admit—for advice,” Julia says with a laugh. “I don’t claim to know it all, I just want to learn; I’m a sponge.”

Humble, open, willing to try something bold, to take what she likes and discard what she doesn’t—that approach, combined with an innate love and talent for design—poises Julia to carry the next generation of Naples design. “I’m always trying to learn more,” she says. “I’m still on my road.”

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