Friday, February 26, 2010


Classic, young traditional, American design. These are the words that come to mind when describing Markham Roberts work. His eye for color, elegant small printed fabrics and the best suited antiques to his projects make him a designer that bridges old world and modern day aspects. He got his start working for the venerable Mark Hampton,where he learned how to buy with a well trained eye and make a room interesting. His sense of scale and proportion makes the rooms he decorates instant classics-- in ten years they will still look fresh. After having lunch with Markham and his partner, James Sansum, I knew I had to figure out a way to get his genius across and that pictures would not be enough to tell the whole story. Luckily, he opened up in great detail about his design process, and I am so happy to be able to share it here.


The house I grew up in made me love all those truly American houses built in the 20’s. Ours was a brick Tudor, but it had a sort of French influenced hall with stone floors and a pretty metal banister. I can remember my sister and I being able to stick our heads through it to spy on my parents when they were having parties and we were supposed to be asleep. There was a Georgian style paneled library too, so like all those American houses of the period, it was a complete mixture of different periods and styles, which is something I’ve always loved.

A very little me in my grandmother’s house. There’s a period Georgian wing chair covered in a colorful Samarkand print which she had had quilted for the chair. There’s also an old American rocking chair (ubiquitous in 60’s traditional d├ęcor probably due to the DuPonts’ influence) covered in a great little Indian woven texture. It was early exposure to taking something exotic and using it on something traditional. The library had great bleached pine paneling and flag stone floors, which are elements I use all the time.

Me with my father and sister on the porch of our cottage in Michigan. It was a crazy old wood house with old fashioned porches – completely casual with all types of furniture – some made of tree limbs mixed with painted pieces and quirky old fashioned turned pieces and wicker. That house totally influenced that side of my decorating for country houses where you can mix anything for a very easy and comfortable feel.

Here’s a picture of my grandmother on a chic porch she had in Indianapolis. She was my all time favorite person, and I loved spending time at her house. That porch had really chic wrought iron furniture with big blue cushions piped in grey, painted brick walls and a slate floor. It looked over an interesting modern garden she had which had no grass, but rather beds of ivy and pachysandra with pretty tall pines and sycamores. It was an interesting mixture to have a traditional white washed brick house with pretty bay windows surrounded by this simple modern garden – the only ornament for the garden were lead grey urns planted with boxwood or other evergreens.


This is the study in my apartment where James and choppy and I spend most of our time. This room has all the things I love - my books, my desk (a big flat surface for Dominos pizza), a comfortable daybed, and most of all the TV.

I love this beautifully paneled library. It's something you rarely see any more and it's such a shame that most new construction today favors hideous new mahogany libraries with bad detailing. The architecture of this paneling is so simple and perfect, and the golden soft finish of the wood is mellow, old, layered and pretty much perfect in its imperfection.

When I went to meet with my client about working on this room, half the walls were pink and the other half were mirrored. my client confessed she had never really liked the room. so we decided to take a totally different approach and to add the tall bookcases, the mantel and the teal silk wall upholstery to return the room to the beautiful prewar feel that had previously been taken away. I loved being able to work with a totally clean slate and to design every last detail. It is now a very cozy room and my client loves it.

I did this NY apartment awhile ago for a good friend who had small kids. She and her husband had both grown up in fancy apartments and wanted a younger more modern look. so I got to design and make a lot of cool furniture for them, got to play with dragging and tinting plaster on to the walls to make this layered subtle wall finish. It ended up being a nice backdrop to all the modern furniture. i always thought it looked very sophisticated and cool.

This is the living room of an old carriage house I redid in Southampton, LI. It is a favorite room of mine. I love that you can see the old stable planks on the walls, which I painted a crisp white to offset all the greens in the scheme.

This is choppy-Benet our treasured poodle. I feel like a real pageant mother pushing her into every photo shoot I do. I like this strangely shaped entry hall of this old house for all its imperfect charm.

I did this hall for young friends of mine as a backdrop to some of the serious antiques the client had from her family. I wanted it to feel young and fun. Since this entry gallery has no windows, I chose the bright rug and the bold stripes.

This is an entry hall of a very grand penthouse apartment here in NY. It was the first project i did when I opened my own firm. The fantastic Kent- style carved and gilt console was the very first thing I found for this client, and when it wouldn't fit into the apartment through the back, it had to be walked up 14 flights of stairs.I 've never been so nervous in my life, nor so relieved as when it made it through and i was able to see how beautiful it was in the room.

For this big fancy house in Locust Valley, the client had the Georgian dining table, and I wanted to make sure the room didn't feel stuffy or "old lady", so we lacquered the walls this bright, electric green and made these comfortable chairs to downplay the traditional formality of the table.

Taken for a Christmas dinner story, this room was styled for it. So normally the pretty wire chandelier does not hold greenery like this - just felt i had to put that out there...

This is the perfectly square dining room of a Colonial style house in Greenwich, CT. I love the pattern of the upholstered walls and the totally romantic feel in this room by candle light.

Who did you work for to learn the trade?
I moved to New York after school and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I took a part time job at Sotheby’s working in client services. It was not a rigorous job, but it was very interesting to get to see how the auction houses work and to be exposed to that volume of furniture and decorative arts. My first real job was working for Mark Hampton, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. He was incredibly talented as we all know, but he was also super generous and fun as a boss and mentor. He could be very tough, but he was never unfair to me, and I learned so much from him and from being able to work on so many great projects.

What is your signature look?
Seriously, if I hear one more decorator describe his or her style as “eclectic” or “traditional with a twist”...I like to think that I don’t have a signature look or easily definable style. I try very hard to approach each job individually – keeping in mind what I want to do and making it work with what each client wants. I hope the result is that people don’t look at a project and automatically know that it had been done by me. My goal is not to imprint too much of myself on my clients’ houses.

Where did you learn to be so fearless with color?
Using different colors together in schemes and seeing how they work in combination is very interesting and can really make a room go one way or another. I studied art history in school, and looking at the colors in paintings has always been inspiring, whether you’re looking at an Ingres or a Rothko.

What is your favorite color to lacquer a room?
A high gloss lacquer is as beautiful in white or bright poison green as it is in a more traditional color like red or brown. I am drawn to lacquered walls like a giant decorating Moth to a flame - lI ove them all, however everyone should keep in mind that a color like mauve should be avoided.

What advice can you give on mixing patterns and geometrics?
My advice is to stick with what looks good – ha, ha. No really, there aren’t any set rules about mixing stuff, so don’t be afraid to try things together. Do trust your instincts though. If you’re unsure about things working together well, then they probably won’t.

You create exceptional, inviting dining rooms. Is it the round table the room so cozy or the patterned walls?
Round tables are great – even in large sizes they create a very intimate experience and seem so much more relaxed. The most important thing to think about for a dining room is to make it comfortable. Chairs are key – avoid creaky old ones, which stick you in the back.

What other designer and or architect living or not do you most admire?
There are a lot of designers working today whose work I admire. To name them for you however would be like voting for another candidate if I were running for student council president. Dead ones I can certainly share. Mark Hampton comes first, and other favorite decorators and architects: David Hicks, Stephane Boudin, Henri Samuel, Nancy Lancaster, Harrie Lindeberg, Van Day Truex, Billy Baldwin, Elsie de Wolfe, John Volk, Samuel Marx, Jean-Michel Frank, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and though Albert Hadley is alive and well and still working, I am going to include him with Sister Parish.

What is your favorite go to fabric house or fabric?
There’s no one favorite, but here are a few shout outs: I love Pierre Frey’s timeless Braquenie prints, Carlton V’s bright cotton tickings, Chelsea Editions faded embroideries, Quadrille’s modern prints, and Holland and Sherry’s handsome suiting materials.

What material do you love?
I probably use cotton velvets more than any other material. They’re luxurious and durable, and they work in all climates.

What is your favorite antique you own and reproduction collection you constantly use as a resource?
It’s an early 19th Century French mahogany and brass Cartonniere with beautiful red leather compartments. It is so handsome and it totally appeals to my sense of order. I keep it full of photographs, letters, papers, adoring fan mail etc. And I often use pieces from John Rosselli, Bungalow 5, Oscar de la Renta’s line at Century, and Robert Leighton’s British Khaki. They’re all great sources.

What is your favorite project?
This is an impossible question to answer diplomatically, so I’m going to choose my own house in the country, which is truthfully my favorite house. It’s an old Second Empire style house built in the Centennial, which I have been restoring for a few years now. The outside looks a bit like an abandoned crack den at this point, but I have finished a lot of the work on the inside.
I find it so exhausting always rushing everything for clients who are always in such a hurry to get everything done. One of the best things about my house is that I can move at whatever pace I want. I have no one else’s expectations to meet (other than my boyfriend James and our dog Choppy, whom I probably should have mentioned first…). Actually James is very patient and easy going, and having had his expertise in helping us find beautiful things for the house has been great. Choppy is quite impatient and demanding, so I’m grateful she can’t talk. It’s going to take me many more years to finish the house as I have far reaching plans for what I want to do to it and to the garden, but I absolutely love it and am so happy to go every weekend.

What trade or retail store inspires you most?
My boyfriend James’ gallery is one of the best resources I know. He carries all sorts of interesting furniture, art and decorative accessories, and it has been totally helpful for me as a decorator to be able to offer things from him to my clients. I love this type of shop where I know I am seeing pieces, which have been selected and edited by someone who has a chic eye. So many shops just cram stuff in and apparently have no focus or evidence of taste. It can be completely uninspiring and often a bit depressing. Where alternatively it’s a great pleasure being able to go into a shop like James’, knowing you’ll get to see beautiful and interesting things. Some of my other favorite shops, which I think share that interesting feel of someone’s particular eye, are Cove Landing on the upper East side, Gallery BAC and Da Vera in SOHO, and Alan Moss in the East Village.

What old and new books are in your library?
New is Jacques Grange’s book. Old is the great Jansen/Decoration book or the Horst Interiors book.

What country house in England and America do you most love?
I’m going to start with a very grand French House – the Chateau d’Anet. It is a masterpiece of the French Renaissance with it’s beautiful Chapel by Philibert de l’Orme, complete with a marble inlaid floor in a totally cool Spiro Graph pattern. It was built for Diane de Poitiers who was the mistress and confidant/advisor to Henri II. She was a great beauty and avid hunter and saw herself as an incarnation of the goddess of the hunt of the same name. So all over the gardens and especially on the frontispiece of the Chateau there are allegorical references to the moon and the hunt. The coolest ones being life size recumbent stags flanking the portal to the Chateau. Jean Cocteau used the Chateau and gardens for his great film rendition of Beauty and the Beast – a perfect visual fantasy of 1940’s glamour in black and white. My favorite English house was Nancy Lancaster’s Ditchley Park. It shows perfectly that very grand furniture and architecture can be inviting and comfortable, which is something a lot of people miss. Everything about the house in the pictures of it when the Trees lived there is just perfect and totally inspiring to me. The other thing that house shows, because of Nancy Lancaster, is the perfect arrangement of furniture down to every last urn or potted tree in the garden or on one of the terraces. For an American house, I am always excited to see any house of Oscar and Annette de la Renta’s published. They really have great taste and beautiful things. Their houses show one how completely thought out a house or property can be – taking decorating to far more than just curtains and paint colors etc. Every table and every piece on those tables is something beautiful and interesting to look at, and this is something that really makes a room or a house come to life. Clients very often hit the spending wall, so I always explain at the outset when discussing budget, just how far their money will go and just what they will get for it.

If you were not designing, what would you do?
I’d be a telemarketer.

What city besides NYC do you visit to inspire you?
I really love London. I love to walk everywhere, and just looking around at all the buildings and greenery puts me in a good mood – even on a grey day. And there is so much to see in and around London.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Hollywood at Home has a new home! Since 2007, the shop has led the way in California traditional design. Interior designer and Brit Peter Dunham came to LA in 1998, changing the design landscape with his eclectic mix and bohemian vibe. He recently moved his shop from Almont Yard to the bustling La Cienega antique shop row. His new shop oozes charm and livable design, with textiles from Lisa Fine, Carolina Irving, designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Jed Johnson Home and his own line, Peter Dunham Textiles. Furniture from his Hollywood at Home line is comfortable, well-designed and provides a sense of history in an interior. The final touches comes from well-edited antiques, vintage textiles, and accessories placed throughout shop--the home you never want to leave!

A red awning and door set an upbeat tone, welcoming visitors. Dunham red has become a trademark in his work, and it can be seen in the distance at 724 N. La Cienega Blvd.

Upon entering the space, you are transported to a casual chic environs, filled with antiques, chic finds and furniture and accessories of Dunham's own design. A large scale framed print by Peter Dunham for Natural Curiosities hangs to the right of the front desk.

The scene is set. White walls are the perfect backdrop for the printed fabrics.

Fabrics are hung on hooks that extend along the wall, showcasing the spectrum available in full lengths.

By creating a homey setting, shoppers are encouraged to hang out and scheme rooms. Natural light streaming in the windows makes for accurate color matching.

Hydrangeas in an antique vase sit in the center of the table stacked with vintage books and a Martyn Lawrence-Bullard exotic scented candle.

A 19th Century Hudson Table by Hollywood at Home is available in custom sizes and finishes with leaf extensions. Everywhere you turn, there is another great fabric to look at.

Amazingly, the numerous fabric collections all work together. Their bohemian style and rich colors go together well.

The Bobbin Chair, based on a 1910 Austrian chair, is made of hand-turned walnut and hand-woven rush, adds a rustic element to a room. Panels made of Martyn Lawrence Bullard's Majorelle fabric hang in the windows and a sofa is upholstered in his Moorish- inspired print, Marrakech. The rich Italian and ethnic colors and patterns look great en suite.

A bedroom set up in the large room is dominated by a 4 poster bed with bed hangings in Carolina Irving's Patmos stripe in Lake. Walls are upholstered in her Calico print in blue. A cozy seating area sits next to shelves with pillows.

A bedroom is not complete without a cozy reading chair. The Gibbs Chair, with a deep seat and tufting, is based on a late 19th century English model. It is on brass casters so it can easily be moved. Blown glass jugs have been made into gorgeous lamps by Dunham.

An antique 20th Century Tanzou lacquered chest holds photos and books, along with a mid-century turquoise crackle lamp on white bases, creating a lived- in home ambiance. A Hollywood at Home Moorish mirror in a black crackle finish hangs above it. The rush How to Marry a Millionaire Chair is a big success for H at H for its comfort and modernist lines.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Come March 14th, there will be a stampede to Target stores and website for the latest design collaboration with Liberty of London. Since 1875, the small scale prints have been a staple in British life. Just in time for spring, they are launching home accessories, fashion, and garden items sure to lure every Anglophile living stateside.

Don't let rainy days get you down. Scoop up the Green Floral Print Boots and Blue Floral Print Umbrella.

To market! Ride the Pink Floral Print Liberty bike in style. This is a favorite

Green thumbs unite! Garden in gear that competes with the blooms by wearing Garden Gloves and using the Pink Floral Print Tool Set

Watering cans come in a black and white or a multi colored print to create a magic garden

A quilt in the Pink Floral Print comes in Full/Queen and King sizes with Standard pillow cases

Even le bebe can sleep in prints charming with the Baby Bed Set and Quilt

Colorful Notecard sets for sweet messages

Picnic time! Melamine Dinnerware in a pink and white floral print

A stack of pillows in the multi colored floral with large blooms would look adorable in a teenager's room

A Ceramic Teapot in a multi colored floral print makes a cuppa tea a conversation piece

A spot of tea in the multi colored print is happy and bright

Ceramic Canisters in assorted florals come in large and small sizes

Let's not forget the tie that makes a suit charming. Tie one on with the Liberty classics-- the tie comes in adorable prints I wish they did more with.


Sara Gilbane, the super talented New York based interior designer I covered a few months back on Stylebeat is featured in the 3rd issue of Lonny.
Thank you Sara for saying Stylebeat is one of your favorite blogs!

I am thrilled to be on her must - read blog list and will show more of her work here soon!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Sister Parish On Decorating goes to New York apartment dwellers Kelsey Hubbard and Christophher Rollinson. Rollinson, a decorative painter and designer used his paint line, Rollinson Hues to create a bright oasis in the city. The couple embraced a bright, mood-altering hue for big impact. Their furniture and accessories choices make their home young and fresh.

The inspiration: A room by LA designer and expert colorist Mary McDonald is full of life with bright pink, zebra and blue and white plates and vases.The vignette provided insight to placement, scale and working with color.

The creation:
The couple searched high and low for things they loved. "The mirror and chandelier we rescued from the Plaza Hotel sale before it turned into a condo. The stools we found from the Somerset Hills Visiting Nurses Assosiation rummage sale at Visiting Nurse Association. They were painted black with a blue velvet covered board, so I stripped and reupholstered them. The botanicals are from a street vendor in Paris and the carpet is from Source Perrier. The walls were the fun part. They are a metallic strie I mixed with a Rollinson Hues, my paint line, as a custom pigment formulation. Kelsey loved this picture (shown above) and while she was away one weekend, I hand mixed the color that Mary Mcdonald had used and put it on the wall. It was INTENSE! Like "Pepto" intense, so I figured I would try an experiment. With paint there is no such thing as a mistake, just another layer on the way to a beautiful finish! I grabbed some silver metallic paint and added pigments to make a raspberry glaze which I stried over the intense pink. The result made the walls look like pink ribbon candy. While quite a bit darker, the reflectiveness of the metallic along with the colorful Rollinson Hues pigmentation of both layers resulted in a colorful but mellow pink. It works really well with the adjacent high gloss chocolate brown walls in the living room." Their dog Matisse is actively involved in all major design decisions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


A recent visit to Hinson stopped me in my tracks. The reason is this chair!

Van Day Truex, the legendary designer, president of the Parsons School of Design and Tiffany's Design Director, lived with such great style. He designed my favorite flatware pattern, Bamboo, which won the 1966 A.I.D. International Design Award for Silver. His home was a true reflection of his trained eye, where is sense of scale and proportion was evident. Truex was given a pair of circa 1870 Louis Napoleon chairs as a gift. They graced his New York apartment, and were coveted by many for their charming scale and simple silhouette. He redesigned the darling pull- up chairs in 1978, together with Harry Hinson, who made the model to his specifications. The sketch of the piece appeared in the the book Van Day Truex: The Man who Defined Twentieth Century Taste and Style, by Adam Lewis. His friend Albert Hadley wrote the forward.
The chairs are now available! The re- editions have just been introduced in limited numbers at Mrs MacDougall in Hinson. Choose from a black satin lacquer or polished mahogany stain on English hard maple. On March 1st Hinson moves into Brunschwig and Fils in the D and D and PDC in LA.


Lindsey Harper, an interior designer in New York, wins David Hicks by Ashley Hicks. The use of bold elements in her work, love of Billy Baldwin, and punchy graphic interiors made awarding her this book an easy decision.

The inspiration: Using black and white to make an impact.
A room created my Mark Hampton that was published in House & Garden in 1971, ran in the House and Garden Book of Interior Design will be included in the upcoming book on Hampton coming out this spring. It inspired and gave Harper her jumping off point.

The Creation
A wide entrance hallway is a good place for the dramatic and bold palette. She used blocks of graphic rectangles that lead your eye up the wall. Lindsey shares her experience, saying,"If there is one thing I have learned it is to trust your instincts, especially if it means taking risks-it's so much more fun than being safe. Black walls are not for the timid. I painted the walls of this large foyer of a New York City floor-through apartment flat black and the trim brilliant, glossy white. The space asked for something dramatic and grandiose not only because of the scale of it but also because it was the first thing you saw when you opened the front door. I used Farrow and Ball Colour No. 95, Black Blue. This color serves as a beautiful backdrop for my client's art collection. The gilded frames really pop off the inky walls."

The inspiration: one of the most coveted design books of all time, Billy Baldwin Decorates. The influences are many, inspiring designers in the 80's 90's and today.

The inspiration: a kitchen by Billy Baldwin from Billy Baldwin Decorates, a book of Practical Decorating Ideas.

The creation: a checkerboard floor in a New York apartment she recently decorated.
Her design tip: I also believe black works best when it has an undertone of another color. It adds another dimension to the dark color.