15 Year Open Letter

This time of year fifteen years ago I decided to open my own design business. Looking back, that choice was a bold one. I was only about four years into my career and I had studied design in school and not business.  At the time, it didn’t feel all that gutsy. It seemed like something inevitable was finally coming to pass.

The years since have taught me many things, some of them humbling, all of them enriching.

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Design 101: Wallpaper

For anyone who grew up with a lot of it, or even just a little bit, but it was not their taste - or certainly for anyone who has ever stripped it on their own -  wallpaper can be viewed with a little skepticism.  Yet it has never been more relevant, more transformative, or varied.  

Here is my advice for picking wallpaper that will please your senses year after year. But, first, the things you need to get over.

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Sized Just Right: The Large Luxury Home

This blog is not about what kinds of rooms or how many should be included in a large house blueprint. The one piece of advice I always pass along to my clients is to build their home not for future owners or by any standard but their own. Choose your spaces because you think they will enrich your home life, not because other houses in your neighborhood have them.  

This blog post is for people who want a large luxury home where every space is useful and all of the details and proportions make the right statement.

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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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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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Design Solutions: Warming Up Office Spaces

Much like business dress, the design in an office suite should elicit confidence from clients. This makes the typical default one that in the world of fashion is the equivalent of a two piece grey suit: a classic choice, but one that needs a little help from a necktie, jewelry, or a great pair of shoes. 

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Our Market Insights

On our trip to the High Point furniture show this year, the MakeNest team focused on education and research, visiting our favorite sustainable makers in between a number of seminars covering everything from the lifecycle of trends to the latest perspectives on color theory.  We rounded out our trip with a visit to the venerable Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library, where the history and craft of furniture and design is reverenced with near monkish devotion.  Here we highlight a few of the big takeaways from our journey and discovery.


Mass Customization

There are a number of lifestyles for which mass customization in home furnishings can help solve problems and create opportunities.  For the millennial setting up their first apartment and the baby boomer down-sizing from a larger home, modular furnishings can make hard-to-furnish spaces into peaceful oases of organization.  In commercial applications, modular units make office planning flexible and efficient.  

Upon meeting a new resource this market, we are now in the beginning stages of collaborating with an Ohio-based maker who can create modular collections that MakeNest will design in-house, based on our aesthetic style and what we know is appealing to our clients.  The technology that our maker has developed makes optimal use of each sustainably-harvested unit of hardwood, all but eliminating waste and driving down costs to make custom an option for a greater number of clients.

Deco Renaissance

The fabulous Jenna Hall, a legend in international furniture design circles, places Art Deco style on the trend forecast.  Just before the advent of what we generally identify as mid-century design, there was an entirely unique period inspired by advances in furniture production. Mechanized technologies for adhering veneer led to supple waterfall fronts on dressers and sideboards.  Exotic and contrasting hues of wood veneers defined the proportions of doors and drawer fronts.  Then-new developments in plastics allowed designers to produce drawer pull styles that had never existed before.

As with all appropriations of an established aesthetic, the new trend will be interpretive and not a carbon copy.   As a designer, I can imagine how the satin glow of Art Deco finishes would offer a welcome contrast to the cerused woods of recent years - and how those same cerused finishes would compliment the fluid curve of Art Deco's waterfall fronts.  Thinking of the options opened up by 3-D printing, I see designers customizing hardware in ways that will bridge the divide between mass production and the consumer's desire for bespoke details.   

New Colors

At the Pratt & Lambert presentation, four highly-conceptual palettes - each based on a distinctive perspective - revealed dozens of new colors that will play a role in design in the coming seasons.  We studied a palette called Enigma, which embraces the power of deep and muted tones to convey mystery and even melancholy romanticism.  Through a collection named Intrinsic, we explored the use of saturated hues with strong dark neutrals to capture the immediacy and vivacity of nature.  In eight peaceful hues that take their cues from clay and minerals, the Purpose palette studies the use of gentle tones to produce a contemplative space for revery and self-exploration.  Driven by a point of view that celebrates innovation and altered realities, Pratt and Lambert's Convergence palette is a poem of pleasing demi-saturation and complimentary colors.

From my own perspective, and judging by the textiles that have been most inspiring to me recently, I feel that design is veering away from isolated pop colors and into complex blends of hues that exchange energy while creating more layered environments.  Pattern-makers are creating modernized florals and geometrics that provide a variety of tones all in one field.  From a design era that has embraced white space with a singular energy color, we will see a return to the vibrant multiple hues one finds in traditional printed goods.  This shift plays to the idea of environment as expressive and dimensional rather than austerely curated and Instagram-ready.


A new era in design is emerging, one in which the styles of the past are remastered, color looms large and diverse, and technology is bent to offer more options to a greater number of niche markets.  We're excited to be debuting designs we're developing with the many makers that contribute to our Nestology collection.  More inspirations are coming soon from MakeNest, so keep in touch to follow our design journey. - PM

The Dark Side of Color Theory


By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member


There are many things to consider at the high level conceptual stage of an interior design, but one of the most expressive fundamentals is crafting the color palette.  Here are two palettes from recent projects that, while distinctly different visually, rely on a similar theoretic principle.  Each palette was based on the decision to promote artistic drama rather than the oft over-prescribed notion that spaces should be made to seem larger.

The Garret Room

When we began to noodle the best approach to a family media room in an attic of an historic home, we rejected the obvious choice of painting the walls in light, bright hues to make the space appear larger.  In this home, we had already created fresh, sunny palettes on the main and second floors, so we felt the attic could be better served is a deeply-shaded and cozy away space.  We theorized that the value of visually expanding the room was not trumped by the greater goal of giving the homeowners a nurturing and even theatrical sense of place. 

 
 

Because the house has a classic mansard roof, the walls slant on four sides as they approach a narrow jot of ridge at the middle of the room.  Two dormers - one tasked for window seating and the other for a modest custom bar - provided a fair amount of natural light.  By painting the walls from base to ridge in a dark blue, we promoted a cozy sensibility for the attic.  The rather beaten up original wood flooring we had painted in a green hue equal in saturation and value to the wall color, so that while there was some variation, the floor and walls had minimal visual distinction; our goal was to keep the eye moving fluidly with the architecture instead of the gaze hanging up on sometimes awkward transitions.  A large sectional in dark chestnut leather further promoted the rich palette, while accents in bright yellow and taupe provided points of brightness and chilly contrast.     

The Jewel Parlor

There was something about this parlor in another historic home that seemed to be waiting for dramatic wall color.  And our client has a peaceful and yet magnetic energy that we felt would be nicely expressed in a space with muted variations of jewel tones.  Starting with a jade lamp the homeowner wanted to use in the room, we built an analogous palette that moved away from blue-greens and toward yellow on the color wheel.  The use of a rich plum on the walls managed to serve both a warm and cool helping of wow factor.  

 
 

Because the parlor had a large vista onto a sunny, off-white dining room at one end, and a large, off-white builtin at the other, we knew that there was plenty of lightness to offset our wall color choice.  We had purposed a boxy turret space adjacent to the builtin for a handsome Japanese travel bar; we opted to carry the soft whiteness of the trim onto this alcove to further contrast and highlight the plum tone of the primary space - and to frame the bar for emphasis.  Using dark emerald velvet on a tufted accent chair and a geometric woven in chartreuse and cream to wrap the outside back of the sofa, we pinned down our progression of green to yellow-green hues. 

We're big fans of white-wall decor and recognize the place it has taken in contemporary interior design, but our opportunities to work in dark hues are always a welcome change of pace.  The important things to consider when deciding whether or not a room should go to the dark side is how the color choice will serve the overall purpose of the room and how you will construct a palette with enough variation and contrast to not be flattened out by the weight of the main color itself.   

Tips

  • Remember that the walls will be the background of the canvas, and the furnishings will create the layering towards the foreground. If larger furnishings have sufficient lightness, they will alleviate the heaviness of the wall color.

  • Darker rooms swallow light, so consider using a paint finish with a bit of sheen to help bounce both natural and artificial light. Know that sheen will highlight imperfections in the wall surface, so we recommend a professionally applied skim coat to make the walls picture perfect.

  • In a room where the wall color is more assertive, the textures of fabrics should be far bolder and the scale of prints riskier. The beauty of starting from a place of intentional drama is that boldness is welcome and necessary for harmony.

  • Consider how a dramatic paint color will impact the visual rhythm of a space. If there is a series of awkwardly placed closet doors, it is sometimes advisable to paint them out in the same color as the wall. The same can be said of a chair rail, which becomes a light belt around a dark room, often cutting the perceived height of the walls and pulling attention away from more important elements of the design.

  • Before panicking when the paint is half up and you begin to waver in your resolve, pull a few pieces into the space and view them against the walls. You'll never feel more vulnerable about your choice than when the room is without any of the components that helped inspire the color.