Leslie Shapiro Joyal is a modernist furniture and interior designer whose aesthetic is heavily influenced by her time working for the late, great architect Franklin Israel. Design aficionados know her for her locally sourced, minimalist pieces, but it was her turn on the first season of "Ellen's Design Challenge," which painted her — some say unfairly — as a villain, that had viewers questioning how real design-reality TV actually is.
Her favorite room is the unusual two-sided living room in her 1962 Charles DuBois home in Calabasas.
Why is this your favorite room?
We have this huge living room, divided by one fireplace that feeds both sides, and it's almost as though there are two living rooms. One is where we converge on a regular basis off of the kitchen; the other is our second living room, which we use as a music room. That music room looks out over our backyard to a low, expansive pool.
Anything memorable happen there?
Through a window in that room, we've been treated to the sight of a mama duck [hatching] a dozen or so ducklings. These ducklings are then taken down to our pool, where they learn to swim, dive and eventually fly. It's chaotic, funny, hilarious, and we have a private showing of it every spring and summer for the past eight years.
Does the room feature any furniture you designed?
Every piece there is mine — the couch, chairs, side table and coffee table. I also have some of my grandmother's and my paintings there.
It's been a year since your appearance on "Ellen's Design Challenge." How do you feel about the experience now?
I was prepared to go into the show and be played the villain in a tongue-in-cheek way — I'm a big personality, I was opinionated — but I was not prepared to be thrown to the dogs the way I was. But in the end, the experience brought me out of my shell.
I'm not a mean person at all, and I wish I had not come across that way. That hurt me. I'm glad for having done it, but I do wish it ended differently.
FOR THE RECORD
April 8, 4:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Joyal's home was built in 1926. It was built in 1962.
What attracted you to designing custom furniture?
I never wanted to have just a store that people would walk into and buy something. I wanted to put together more of an experience for people.
There is a catalog where [customers] can order something in a standard size and using standard wood, but custom designing is what makes me happy. I love collaboration with clients. It's what makes my business different.
A lot of times, someone will commission a piece which works quite well, and we work on another one until we end up doing an entire project. My furniture is expensive, but they're signed and dated. They're investment pieces.
What are you working on now?
I just finished a designer showcase at Wattles Mansion with the American Society of Interior Designers, the city of Los Angeles and Angeleno magazine. I took a peculiar room with strange angles and a slip of balcony and turned it into a hangout room inspired by Clark Gable in his ranch, which was beside the Encino home I grew up in.