Leo Dowell’s unique niche: Designer incorporates presentation, sound, even smell, into his projects
By Greg Lacour You walk down a fluorescent-lit corridor in a nondescript brick building on East Morehead Street, the standard Charlotte office warren. Then Leo Dowell opens the door to his shop and warns, “You’re about to enter another world.” And so you do. There’s a lion’s-head fountain, a 160-year-old bookcase, sections of limestone imported from France, a four-poster bed, all wedged in tight near the window overlooking Morehead and the Dowd YMCA. That aroma floats out and up from a scented candle (Moroccan Amber). And what the heck is that music, Edith Piaf? Nope. It’s a 1960s-era album featuring Eydie Gormé (!) singing Spanish torch songs (!!). It’s jarring, not the kind of scene you expect in Charlotte. But that’s how Dowell, an interior and exterior designer, does things. It’s all part of design – presentation, sound, smell, all of it. Even his dress, a sort of neo-riverboat captain: gray pinstripe suit, bow tie, goatee. He looks startlingly like the late film director Robert Altman, and he openly cops to having his temples daubed gray starting when he was 25. All part of the display.