Kismet: 2012. Future Chroma partners Alexis Tompkins and Leann Conquer both move across the country, pulled, in some ways unknowingly, by the possibilities and the feeling of San Francisco. Leann starts working with Nicole Hollis; Alexis, with Steven Volpe. And it’s an insanely prolific, formative time. And yet. After meeting (through the genius insistence of their husbands, now also business partners), Alexis and Leann’s conversations quickly spark with huge intentions—of building something, one day, for themselves.

Two years later, together, they manifested Chroma—an interior design studio, yes, but more than that: a psychic space for reveling in the beauty of being human; a chorusing howl to fellow fans of the far out.

A decade on and Chroma keeps vibing on connection, building a community of devoted clients and collaborators who share a tenderness for creative expression and for places called home. Recently invited by Architectural Digest to be featured in its latest Be Our Guest series, Alexis and Leann got deep with host Maceo Paisley, kindling existential questions about the vulnerability inherent in nurturing connections through collaborative creative exchange. Continuing to dig into the heart of Chroma, Alexis and Leann reflect on how they show up for each other and how connection informs every part of their practice.

Alexis Tompkins: We’ve been talking a lot lately about how who we are as people, beyond the work we do, informs that work deeply. And for me, so much about Chroma is about who you are as a person. In operations mode, you’re so technical and precise. But I see you taking the time to develop personal connections with our team, our clients, and our collaborators in really beautiful ways—something that’s very fluid and emotional. You meet the challenges of these different mindsets so seamlessly. I love the way you prioritize bringing this community together.

Leann Conquer:  For me, the way that we’ve built this community is all about your energy. When you get excited about something, it’s euphoria. Which makes what we do together so much fun. Here we are, ten years later, and you’re still so unwavering in what Chroma should be, how people should feel in the spaces we create, how they should feel during the process of working with us—it’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen.

A woman dressed in black standing in front of a wood credenza, red photographic artwork, and pale blue wall
Chroma’s creative partner Alexis Tompkins in our Dogpatch studio. Photo by Sam Frost.
Be Our Guest | Chroma, produced by Architectural Digest with Maker’s Mark®.

AT: The vision is really about how we invest in people, how we engage with our clients, and how we support each other, too. We guide people through this very profound, creatively fulfilling process, and we nurture an appreciation for design and the history of design. It’s amazing, because we get to experience the artists and designers we love—like Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti, Maria Pergay, Max Lamb, Wonmin Park, Aldo Bakker—in these new, exciting ways. We get to bring that to the work we do every single day. It goes far beyond putting furniture in someone’s home.

LC: I love experiencing the creative process with you—and through you, getting that window on your world. You have the best aesthetic, something that I don’t think we’ve seen before. Unique and distinct. And you have this incredible natural instinct. You just know, intuitively, how you want spaces—and people—to feel. And I can guide us through every trajectory to get there and help us continue to build sustainably. We used to think of each other as the “what” and the “how” of Chroma, but it’s become so much more fluid than that.

AT: There’s a strength in our differences that’s nurturing. And you have such a natural instinct, too. You’re always looking ahead, anticipating, analyzing. And you’re meticulous where we need to be meticulous. You’re that important balance for me, as someone who’s very comfortable in the messy chaos of the creative process.

LC:  And I love that about you! Sometimes I’m uncomfortable in the unknown. But you thrive in the possibilities and it’s beautiful to witness. I knew from the start, from the very first time we met, that our partnership was something I could pour all my energy into.

AT: We’ve always had such a strong connection, just an instant bond and complete faith in each other.

A woman dressed in black sitting on a dark yellow lounge chair in front of a red artwork hanging on a pale blue wall
Chroma’s managing partner Leann Conquer in our Dogpatch studio with Davina Semo’s Fire, courtesy of Jessica Silverman Gallery. Photo by Sam Frost.

LC:  Yes! It’s the best feeling to work closely with someone who I trust explicitly. And I love helping our clients experience the creative process with you, too. We’ve really honed a method all our own of creating spaces with a powerful energy. And I think that resonates, because our clients are a lot like us. They want their lives to be fun and creative; they want to be in community with people who are kind and caring and trustworthy; they want balance in their lives and in their homes—and they want their homes to express all those things, and to be expressions of themselves and the visions they have for their lives.

Sharing insights with 'Be Our Guest' host Maceo Paisley.
Sharing insight with Be Our Guest host Maceo Paisley

AT: When I think about how we’ve built this community—and how we continue to build this community—I think about how deeply we connected with our client on The ’70s Rêve. Do you remember how she described the experience of working together?

LC: Of course! It was a really lovely tribute.

AT: She said she was moved by the experience of working with us because we introduced her to this world of people who have built careers on their creativity, this community of people choosing this other path—and now she was choosing this path, with us, and expressing these innate creative desires. And also tuning her children into this creative energy and a more sensuous awareness, a new way of seeing and engaging with the world. It’s the reason she’s become such a trusted client and has continued to welcome us into her life. She understands what we’re all about, how what we do is different, and why it matters.

Alexis and Leann featured in 'Be Our Guest' produced by Architectural Digest with Maker’s Mark
Alexis and Leann featured in Be Our Guest, produced by Architectural Digest with Maker’s Mark®

LC: Her commitment to the vision, and to connecting with us on a deeper personal level, has been so validating and motivating. She really embraces the process. So much love for her. 

AT: And it’s a reflexive process, too—creating spaces that inspire our clients through the art and the fashion and the culture that inspires us: Hayal Pozanti, Alex Prager, Trevor Paglen, Markus Amm, Dries Van Noten, Maison Margiela, sacai, Bode, many eclectic genres of film and music (big Idles fans!). We draw on our strengths and our passions and our creativity—and those of incredible artists, artisans, and designers—to create spaces infused with our clients’ strengths and passions and creativity. And then being designers, being artists. It’s about an aesthetic of care—for each other, for our clients, and for our collaborators and artisan community.

Detail view of sleek wooden table with stacked books, gold desk light, rose-colored couch behind, with pale pink abstract artwork on a pale blue wall
Detail view of Chroma’s textured, layered studio space

LC: What initially hooked me about design was creating something from nothing, and that’s certainly been a constant throughline of our work and our personal lives—creating a business, a family, a space, an experience. But what I’ve really come to love about design—what I love about how we create spaces—is bringing people together.

AT: Right! What we do is all about creating partnerships, and deeply caring for those partnerships. We have our network of creators—furniture designers, textile designers, lighting designers, fabricators of every make and medium, artists. We have our trusted collaborators, architects—like Marmol Radziner, who have just been a dream to work with. And we have longtime clients invested in our process—and in us as people. It takes immense effort, immense care to bring it all together. But we wouldn’t be happy any other way. Interior design is our art, and Chroma has never been a solo practice.

Alexis and Leann stand in Chroma's Dogpatch studio. As featured in 'Be Our Guest' produced by Architectural Digest with Maker’s Mark.
Alexis and Leann in Chroma’s Dogpatch studio, as featured in Be Our Guest, produced by Architectural Digest with Maker’s Mark®

LC: Exactly. Chroma is what it is because of who we are and who we partner with.

AT: The people in our community, they all value the vision—and they also value the time and the energy and the process that it takes to bring that vision to life. We create really beautiful, unusual, unique homes—spaces with many layers, like us.

LC: We’re friends, we’re artists, we’re entrepreneurs…

AT: And we’re partners. I couldn’t do Chroma with anyone else.