An In-House Chat with Our Designer on Commercial Design

We recommend looking at the business from two perspectives: inside out and outside in. How staff experience it inwardly and how customers and clients perceive it outwardly. By sharpening the image of a business through interior design, clients and patrons feel more confident in their choice and more apt to refer the business to friends and colleagues.

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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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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.

Design is so Manipulative

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One of a designer's tasks is aligning the physicality of a space to the principles of good aesthetics.  At times, creativity and skill can make the space as pleasing as architectural changes.  What follows are a few general insights to alter the perception of space.  

Large spaces lacking intimacy can become more welcoming when the furnishings are arranged in a central, conversation nest with space all around, rather than spread out merely because footage allows.  In such rooms, medium color values are often the most satisfying, as light, mild tones recede from the eye, implying vastness, while dark, shadowy tones suggest greater depth.  A medium shade pulls the walls in without fooling the eye into thinking the corners are farther away than they are.  Remember that artists use deeper values in landscape painting to create depth and know that this effect is equally true in real space.

One persistent myth about small spaces is that the walls must be pale for the room to feel larger.  In truth, the space feels larger when the eye can pan over it without jumping from dark to light values too often.  A small space painted even a rather deep tone will feel more open if the strongest elements, such as window treatments and large furnishings, contrast only minimally with the wall color.  A narrow hall with numerous doors becomes a messy jumble of forms when the walls are dark and the trim white.  Resist the craving for color in such an area and tone it down- another opportunity for splash will present itself.  

It is true that a quantity of objets d'art can make a room feel small, but this can also add a lot of character and story.  The trick is to display art and accents in tight, visually harmonious compositions with open, uncluttered spaces between to give the eye rest. As with so much in life, success in design is less about what we do and more about how we do it

-PM

Order

There are many simple methods for creating memorable and pleasing areas of focus within your spaces.  Here are some principles to follow for great results...

Bring together objects of like purpose, such as small clocks or boxes, to make a collection.  It takes three or more to look like a grouping and not an accident. As in planning a garden, think in layers of height and fearlessly experiment with creating variation.  When many objects of like color are grouped which can be lovely, mix it up by alternating shape or texture.

Look to nature for simple objects that add spontaneity to a vignette.  An orphaned branch or a handful of cleaned oyster shells make great friends with even the loftiest accents.

Peek into your cupboards for forgotten objects.  Pieces deemed unworkable in the past may now have a new chance due to subsequent changes. Relax and enjoy- all can be arranged and re-arranged infinitely.

-PM

Sustainability

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Some companies have practiced responsible forestry for years, harvesting and replanting in turn to provide resources for future production, but now there are more offerings made of salvaged wood.  This practice not only cuts down on waste that burdens landfills but it also lessens deforestation.  Old wood has characteristics difficult to reproduce in virgin wood, such as raised grain and general weathering, so for those who love a lot of texture and a sense of age in their pieces, the benefits are obvious.  Knowing you tread a little lighter on the planet feels nice, too.

One furniture designer I met with at market some years past opts to produce her line of rubberwood, a trend out of Asia. Rubber trees too mature for latex production used to be thrown on burn piles.  To my understanding, an English furniture manufacturer a few decades ago began to experiment with this 'waste wood' and discovered that it was not only useful in furniture making, but took both painted and stained finishes beautifully.  This extremely heavy species has a dense, attractive grain, and, once properly kiln-dried, is very consistent, meaning that splitting and warping are not an issue.  The furnishings my new acquaintance designs and manufactures are not only stylish and durable, they follow this direction of taking some responsibility for our planetary health by reducing the rate of deforestation.

-PM

 

Warm & Cool

In recent design projects, we have been put to the task of infusing warmth into our clients homes. Traditionally, either warm or cool neutrals predominate a space. Cool tones like grays, silver, and washed wood tones still find favor with many homeowners due to their modern and understated sensibilities. Even so, warm neutral tones are making a comeback from their several year hiatus.  

We remember looking through resources during this peak in cool tones and wondering if everything warmer than taupe had  become extinct. Embracing warm tones comes naturally to us as they add a wonderful comfort and richness to a space. We love encouraging a mix of neutrals as we have found that it creates a sophisticated and unexpected palette that our clients love.

One of our favorite examples of a piece that brings in warm wood tones while still being harmonious with predominantly grey toned elements is this beautiful tusk table. Don’t underestimate the power of accessorizing to enforce the striking balance of warm and cool as well. From rugs and gimp tapes to wallpaper, we find that this trend is really taking off within the design community. 

Here at MakeNest, we love a confident mix. Just like wood tones and upholstery, try mixing neutrals in other materials too! We are looking at you, gold and silver.

-PM