Sized Just Right: The Small Luxury Home

As a seasoned designer with diverse clients, I am often either helping a family decide how much to add to a home they are outgrowing or I am figuring out how to put unused rooms to work in a house that is a little too big for its owner.

Generally my opinion is that less house is better than too much house, but my skills and vision afford me the opportunity to create impactful designs no matter the scale of the project. For the homeowner who is trying to decide the size of their next home investment, there are a number of ways to evaluate what will be the perfect fit.

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Design 101: Perfect Drapery

One of the most impactful features of a room can be window treatments.  The most classically appealing of these is drapery.  Whether fully operating or stationary, drapery adds pleasing vertical lines while providing additional expression to the design through textiles. 

To help demystify these treatments, here are the factors I keep in mind as I design drapery for my projects.

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Design Snapshot: Loudoun Row


Perhaps one of my greatest passions is visual composition.  In our Loudoun Row project we employed rugs, art, lighting, and accent furnishings to add drama and warmth.  In the dining room of this historic house, a custom American-made rug softens the acoustics and provides tonal contrast to the pumpkin pine flooring.  The center hall is grounded by a steel and marble accent table with explosive lines.  Cheekily we placed an over-scaled hourglass just outside the powder room.  A found abstract painting from a regional artist in the front entry provides a bold organic graphic and a spectrum of tones to evoke the comforting energy the client gets from the color orange.  We heightened the drama of the dark grey mantle with a pair of limed oak pedestals and dynamic orange and clear glass vessels.   - PM

Five Designer Favorites Vol.1

Hello, Nesters!

There has been a lot to inspire me this year - from finding new innovative makers to rediscovering classics that had fallen off my radar.  Not too long ago I would have been steeped in roughened woods with a grayish wash.  Today we have rediscovered the quiet elegance of walnut and cherry woods. After many long seasons of linens that pretended to be burlap, we see the uprising of lux velvets and graphic prints.  Even rusty finishes are ceding the way for a tsunami of molten gold faucets and fixtures.  Design is always changing, always expressive of something about the moment.  Perhaps our economy picking up has whetted appetites for things that lean toward the refined.  Here are just a few of my current delights.   

Sap Cherry Wood

I find the lighter sapwood from the outer portions of the cherry tree so engaging.  When selected artfully, the result is a striking hi-low pattern that adds immeasurably to the impact of understated furniture like our Heartland Table. For many years Queen Anne-inspired furniture cloaked the warm and deep grain of cherry in dark stains that essentially masked the wood's characteristic cathedrals.  Makers now are drawing influences from Arts and Crafts and especially from Mid-Century design, so the grain is left visible by the use of light clear finishes.  This is the way sap cherry is meant to be dressed.

Photo: MakeNest

Photo: MakeNest

Graphic Pillows

Our collection of pillows from Arnge embody everything there is to love about mid-century design.  The bold retro graphics make me want to binge watch The Dick Van Dyke Show for hours, while the kaleidoscope of colors are a study in harmony with just a skosh of friction.  Having been schooled in the finer points of sewing, I was pleased to see that the patterns match from front to back so that the design moves fluidly around the pillow.  Each one is made to order in the USA without the use of sweatshop labor, which is another reason to tip our hats to this maker.

Wool & Silk Carpets

When I was apprenticing in design back at the turn of the last century, my mentor was a dealer in fine hand-made carpets.  Helping to show her selections to her clients was an education. Peeling back dozens of beautiful carpets was good exercise, but it was also like peering into the pages of a journal from an ancient people.  Combining forms from nature and architecture, the patterns and colors - as well as the art of weaving itself - are part of a cherished tradition.  While wool is still the most common material in a hand-knotted carpets, the addition of silk adds highlights that outline the design and glimmer magically.  

Vinyl Rugs

I discovered the designs of Spicher & Co. a couple of years ago and am still finding new uses for these fabulous designs.  Not surprisingly, these graphics are created by artist designers and not fabricated from a short list of popular motifs.  Drawing inspiration from vintage linoleum rugs that were popular well into the first half of the 20th century, there is something about these rugs that feels simultaneously fresh and nostalgic.  I like using them because they add a strong graphic to a room and because they can exist in spaces where sometimes other rugs aren't ideal.  And these are printed in house in Pennsylvania, so we feel like they come to us from just over the mountain, as they say.

Deco Influences

When I first spotted this chair at market, I knew I wanted to put a whimsical and magical fabric on the frame.  With its graceful arms and deeply scooped back profile, I was reminded of chairs from my favorite 1930s black and white films.  This piece would have existed in a screwball comedy - in the country house of the haughty old aunt who wears a lorgnette, winds up getting a little tipsy on dandelion wine, and eventually comes around to like the mustachioed anti-hero her wide-eyed niece wants to marry.  Her house would have gilded things but also ruffles. For me those Hollywood sets are an escape into unabashed style.  So we outfitted this chair in a colorful Asian toile, trimmed her skirt in velvet, and the rest is history.

Thanks for indulging me on a journey through some of the things that have been in my look book and on my mind this season.

Cheers!

PM

Behind the Scenes

For our autumn home furnishings collection we drew inspiration from some of our favorite design projects.  The coastal oases of Martha's Vineyard and Rehoboth Beach offered us soft colors and buoyant graphics.  The smart simplicity of our urban homes guided us toward mid-century modern forms and artisan details.  And the elegance of the old homes we've designed in our native Virginia reminded us that antique wood and romantic silhouettes never lose their allure.  Creating a collection of American-made and sustainable furnishings was an ambitious undertaking; here are the mood boards we used to define our vision.

The Oasis.  Here not everything has to be 'just so' - this is a home that makes the hours after work and school feel like vacation.  Sturdy iron tables plant themselves where they're needed and the soft linen slipcover on the sofa looks its best when a little rumpled.  Shoes come off the moment you walk through the door and the piece of modern art everyone compliments is the doodle your daughter brought home in third grade.  Here you don't cry over spilled milk; you wanted a cocktail anyway. 

The Modern. This house isn't frilly or lacy or precious.  It is a thoughtfully composed design that favors simplicity.  The chill of minimalism is chased off by rugged textures and natural elements.  Each piece of furniture serves a purpose and everywhere you look there are testaments to artisan craft.  The sap cherry dining table is as smart as a suspension bridge and the custom sofa as handsome as it is comfortable.  This is the home of someone who doesn't believe in filler. Here thoughtful intention reigns.

The Estate.  You may or may not have grown up in this house, but you love that guests feel transported to an earlier era the moment they broach the porch steps.  This home isn't shy about embellishments; the moldings are elaborate and the walls are papered in garden scenes.  This is where emerald velvet doesn't feel too fancy and brass never went out of style because this is the good stuff. And while there may be the occasional new acquisition to add a spark of funk, the table at Thanksgiving is always set with antique china and Irish crystal.

Our design style is to mix more than match.  We use color, texture, and scale to make spaces pleasing, but a close inspection reveals that we don't play by the book when we're pairing objects.  When it comes to composing stylish design, we've thrown most of the rules to the wayside.  While we crafted our collection of American-made and sustainable furnishings with some specific inspirations in mind, we're sure each piece will shine when it finds new interpretations in rooms waiting to unfold.  Visit our boutique to explore the collection.

Summer Prints

As the sunny days of summer continue to unfold in an endless splash of blooms, we're taking inspiration from some of our favorite prints.  The craft of printing on fabric dates back to China in the third century and has spurred a world of gorgeous graphic imagery ever since.  Many of the 20th century's most prolific designers - we're thinking of Dorothy Draper, her protege Carlton Vernay, and The Prince of Chintz himself, Mario Buatta - have used prints to stunning effect in some of the most iconic spaces in design history.  Follow us on our indulgent journey through five glorious prints.  To keep up with our fabric obsession, check out our Fabric Friday hashtags on Instagram.

This Jacobean-inspired print is a classic, rendered in bold indigo on an ivory field.  There are few punchy pop colors we'd hesitate to mix with this beauty.

Drawing inspiration from the primitive forms of South Pacific heritage art, this playful print is the perfect foil for its warm plum and oyster white palette.

The art style of this bold tropical print has all the innocent charm of a children's coloring book, yet the thoughtful mix of blues and greens keeps the palette tight and polished.

The whimsical waves of this cheerful print cannot help but uplift any space they wash over.  A toothy linen weave adds dimension to the block-print styling of this design.  

Perhaps our favorite motifs in prints are ones that speak to the Asian origins of the art form.  This gentle and joyful garden scene invites us to take a journey into a serene state of mind.