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Five (Well, Maybe Six!) Questions for Sara Bliss, Design Writer

Hotel Chic at Home by design writer extraordinaire Sara Bliss.

John and I have known the fabulous Sara Bliss for years—ever since our early magazine editorial days before we moved into the wild, wild world of interior design. We have watched the brilliant Bliss morph from penning articles for shelter publications to crafting numerous, high-flying books—on topics ranging from beauty and style to travel-meets-design.

Sara is smart, fun, and really gets “it.” Plus, she is a bright light and a really kind soul.

Here’s her bio in her own words:

Sara Bliss is a freelance writer who covers beauty, inspiring women, design, and travel. Sara is the author of nine books including Hotel Chic at Home (The Monacelli Press) that launched in 2016. She is the co-author of Beauty From The Inside Out (Chronicle Books, 2017), her third book with Bobbi Brown. Other books include The Thoroughly Modern Married Girl (Broadway Books) and Exotic Style (Rockport Publishers). Sara is the creator and primary author of the weekly travel and design blog Hotel Chic. Sara’s articles have appeared in Esquire, Town & Country, Oprah, Domino, Travel & Leisure, and Refinery29. Sara is a former Senior Writer for Yahoo.

Sara Bliss on the streets of her hometown of Manhattan.

1. MADCAP COTTAGE: Tell us about your background in magazines and how you came to be a go-to lifestyle writer.

SARA BLISS: I began my foray into magazines as an Editorial Assistant at House Beautiful magazine. I was on my way to interview at another magazine and in the elevator met editor Lisa Schlang who handed me her card and told me that House Beautiful was hiring. I bombed the interview I was headed to, called Lisa, and two days later I was an HB staffer working for the travel and architecture editors. I went on to be a staff writer with the amazing John Loecke at American Homestyle & Gardening magazine, but started freelancing on the side for City magazine. My editor was Christene Barberich who now heads up Refinery29. I went freelance way sooner than I should partly because I wanted to break out of just writing about design and write more profiles, which is what I was writing for City. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve managed to write about a really wide range of subjects–health, beauty, design, travel, and profiles. It is honestly partly due to editors like you (amazing Jason Oliver Nixon) who realized I wasn’t just one type of writer. I have written three books on my own and seven as a ghostwriter to high profile people like Bobbi Brown.. I’ve been a blogger, magazine writer, web writer. I was a Senior Writer at Yahoo for two years, and now I am back to freelancing again. It’s non-stop hustle, but I love every minute.

2. MC: What was the genesis of your last book, Hotel Chic at Home. How did you pick the people in the pages to discuss their favorite hotels?

SB: For years, I wrote about travel and design as separate subjects for completely different magazines. However, when the boutique hotel craze took hold in the late 90s and early 2000s two of my main beats really merged. Hoteliers realized that design was a way to stand out from the crowd and create a signature look and brand.  The result is that some of boldest, most innovative spaces in design, are happening in hotels, not in residential interiors. Hotel designers like India Mahdavi, Michele Bonan, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, and Kit Kemp are creating one-of-a-kind spaces that are designed to feel like the rooms you wish you lived in. So I had the idea to write a book about all of these amazing hotel spaces and how to bring the look home. I started Hotel Chic as a blog and a few years later thanks to the persistence of my wonderful agent, Alison Fargis, Hotel Chic found a publisher and The Monacelli Press released the book in 2016.

In addition to design and travel, I write many profiles. I found that when I interviewed designers and tastemakers and trendsetters—they were often citing travel and hotels as the source of inspiration. I picked some of the best designers and tastemakers that I know—John Robshaw, Mary McDonald, Alessandra Branca, Tilton Fenwick, Christiane Lemieux, Joe Lucas, and, of course, Madcap Cottage—to find out what hotels inspire them the most.

3. MC: In your opinion, what makes a hotel great? What role does service play at a hotel? Your favorite hotel?

SB: When you step inside a hotel and feel like you have entered an entirely new world—that is perfection to me. There is a magic that happens only every so often where you just feel like you couldn’t have this same experience anywhere else and I think that is what makes a hotel great. Part of that magic is the service, of course, an experienced staff that knows your name and anticipates how you want to experience the hotel.  My favorite hotel is probably The Connaught in London. If I were a real life Eloise, that’s where I would live. I love the Connaught Bar with India Mahdavi’s fringed wing chairs and killer cocktails, high tea with champagne in the sunroom, and the suites filled with antiques—especially the mirrored bars fashioned out of 19th-century Chinese armoires. Plus, the service that makes you feel like royalty.

4. MC: How can someone bring the hotel experience into their own home?

SB: Next time you are on vacation and you are feeling completely happy and relaxed, look around and see what it is about the design or space that might be enhancing that. Is it the cool soundtrack? The unique dishes you are tasting? The gorgeous hue on the wall? The cozy dining chairs that make you want to linger over your meal for hours? The cheery wallpaper? The lighting that makes you look a decade younger? Then take one thing you could do at home. It’s not so much about copying the look exactly, just creating the same mood. Bring a little of the spirit of Paris to Poughkeepsie, and make it your own.

You don’t even have to travel to use hotels as inspiration. Click on your favorite travel site or, even better, pick up a copy of Hotel Chic at Home and look for design ideas that you love. Hotels often have the same issues that we do at home—small rooms, dark spaces, awkward layouts, and tight budgets. They solve those problems with design, so hotels can be a great source of practical ideas for making the most of a small space or creating a budget-friendly solution. In the book there is a whole section on chic bathrooms where clever applications of wallet-friendly subway tile transformed the space.

5. MC: Have you incorporated aspects of favorite hotels into your own home?

SB: Yes! Often! My favorite was doing a triangular color-blocking move on the wall in my son’s room. It took about an hour and transformed the space, all for the price of a can of white paint. I also tried to recreate the look of a green guest room at the Crosby Street Hotel in my own bedroom. I found my own floral print for my headboard and did a graphic pattern for curtains and loved it for a couple of years. Then I saw the dark inky walls of the rooms at the C.O.Q hotel in Paris, and the green got swapped for a deep inky blue/grey/green hybrid that makes it feel like a cocoon. I honestly have never slept better.

6. MC: What’s next for you? We hear that you are writing a new book, tell us about it.

SB: I write about so many different topics—travel, design, beauty, and health, plus I do a ton of profiles. My new book will be for Touchstone and comes out in the Fall of 2018: I feature inspiring people who have made radical moves in their lives. I am so inspired by these stories, and I can’t wait to share them.

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Five Questions for Natalie Reddell, Social Siren

Photo by Kathryn McCrary Photography

Natalie Reddell, the Golden Hastag Döppelganger.

Gang:

All Hail, the Commander in Chic!

John and I love making new friends on Instagram, and the very talented interior designer—and blogger-meets-social media force—Natalie Reddell (@nataliereddell), aka Commander in Chic, aka The Golden Hashtag, has quickly become a tastemaker whose opinion we truly value. She educates, she instructs, and she brings folks into a wonderful world that has plenty of ups and a few downs—and that’s part of her magic. Natalie carries us along on her colorful, insightful journey, and what a ride it is!

Living Room

A fabulous interior crafted by Natalie Reddell.

We recently sat down with the winsome, funny Reddell in her current hometown of Richmond, Virginia and sipped coffee in the lobby of the perfectly pink, quirky Quirk hotel. (Of course, I quickly segued on to cocktails from my latte, but that’s another story.)

 

 

So let’s learn a little more about this southern sensation.

Here’s Reddell’s bio, in her own words:

Natalie Reddell, Commander in Chic, is an interior designer and the social media queen behind The Golden Hashtag. Natalie, a Florida native, received her degree in interior design from Florida State University and studied the history of architecture and interiors at Parsons Paris. She now resides in Richmond, Virginia, with her husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Scarlett O’Hara. Her only son recently left for college, so Natalie keeps busy with her design projects and presence on Instagram at @nataliereddell. Follow her and the Golden Hashtag for humor, inspiration, and all things fabulous!

1. MADCAP COTTAGE: Tell us about your background and how you came into the world of interior design.

NATALIE REDDELL: I have always been very creative and in love with color, pattern, fabrics, fashion, and art. My very first scar as a child came from a burn I acquired from a glue gun in an effort to “remodel” my dollhouse… Again! I was also very interested in psychology, though, and went to Emory University in Atlanta to become a psychologist. It did not take me long to realize that I longed for something more creative. I spent all of my free time browsing through Atlanta’s antique shops and fabric stores, and I decided to change my path. I am from Florida, and Florida State University has a wonderful interior design program, so I headed back to the Sunshine State and, as they say, the rest is history…

2. MC: How would you describe your interior design style? What sets you apart in the marketplace? What do you deliver to your clients that create a unique selling point?

NR: My home is definitely a mix of styles: I’m a traditional girl at heart but love to mix in modern pieces and bold color. My most favorite design style is GREAT DESIGN! I really love mixing pieces and textures and colors to create a space that reflects my clients’ taste and lifestyle. I am a bit of an art junkie and love to use art and rugs for inspiration and direction. And I never met an animal print that I didn’t love, and I enjoy all things glamorous!

3. MC: You grew up in Florida. What role did growing up in the south play in your design aesthetic and vision?

NR: My southern roots are important to me. My grandmother loved to entertain and decorate and my mother is the same way. My grandmother used to say that, “Home is a prepared place.” That really resonates with me. I am still sort of old-fashioned about setting the table and eating in the formal dining room, but mostly because I enjoy it. I love to use my silver, china, and crystal, too. I am a big believer in using your “nice things” everyday and will NEVER have enough china!

4. MC: What about the role of social media in your business? How did the Golden Hashtag come about?

NR: My most favorite thing about social media is the REAL relationships that have formed as a result of my VIRTUAL contacts. Instagram is my favorite social media platform. It is an amazing resource for sourcing product for my clients, getting fresh design ideas, and staying current in the industry. Instagram is also a great place to feature your current projects, and that has had a wonderful impact on my business.

Living Room with art.

A Reddell-designed living room that demonstrates the designer’s passion for artwork.

The Golden Hashtag was born when I found a rusty number sign in an antiques shop a few days before I went on a blog tour to KBIS, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. I had recently started on Instagram and thought the “hashtag” would be a fun prop for my Instagram posts at the show for my blog, Commander in Chic. Not long after, I was heading to Las Vegas for a furniture market and decided to doll “her” up in gold sequins. (When in Vegas, right?!?) I took the Golden Hashtag all over that market and staged photos in my favorite showrooms featuring products that I love. The posts were a big hit and by the end of that show, CEOs and marketing executives were inviting the Golden Hashtag to visit their showrooms and wanted to schedule a photo shoots. At that point, I realized that I might be onto something and decided to apply for a trademark. Now, the Golden Hashtag is really a reflection of my (pretty meets sparkly) personality, and my personality is my brand.

5. MC: What’s the five-year goal?

NR: My five-year goal is to still be absolutely in love with what I do. Running my interior design business is a full-time job. Building a brand for Commander in Chic with the Golden Hashtag is a full time job. It is easy to get overwhelmed with so many balls in the air, but I feel incredibly blessed to work in an industry that makes my heart skip a beat and still gives me Design Goosies every day.

I also absolutely love to travel for inspiration, and I dream about travelling the globe to curate the perfect pieces for my clients. It means so much to me to meet the artists, artisans, and designers behind the products I specify for my projects. Globetrotting would allow me to hand-select products and see first hand the back stories of the items I choose for my clients. Incorporating international travel is definitely a short—and long-term—goal for me AND the Golden Hashtag!

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Five Questions for Anthony Baratta, Design Legend

Tony Baratta, the master of color and dream worthy design.

Gang:

John and I have long been passionate about the incredible design duo of Diamond Baratta, and we cherished the many, many magazine write-ups on their spectacular design projects over the years that often featured completely custom furnishings, rugs, and textile to glorious effect. The Diamond Baratta firm is no more, and, sadly, William Diamond is no longer with us either.

Happily, the wonderfully kind and engaging Tony Baratta has been cranking along on his own, and the results—from licensed products to bespoke interiors and a retail shop in the Hamptons—are as whimsical and wonderful as you might hope.

We were thrilled when Tony agreed to sit down with us for a few Madcap Cottage queries.

1. MADCAP COTTAGE: What does the Anthony Baratta brand stand for?

ANTHONY BARATTA: The Anthony Baratta brand is all about classic American luxury with soul. Always colorful. Always a clear narrative. Always a sense of humor or touch of whimsy. The brand is a direct reflection of myself and my interests… I enjoy beautiful things that have their own stories to tell.

A Southampton, New York home designed by Tony Baratta.

2. MCC: Tell us about your favorite design project and why?

AB: Two recent projects come to mind. One is a winter home in Deer Valley, Utah for its color palette and our use of American antiques. The project started with a very literal ski lodge theme in mind, and then we took it to the next level of design. It’s pretty spectacular! The other is a summer home in Southampton, New York. I was able to design every aspect from the ground up, including the architecture, furniture, textiles, and rugs. Each project is owned by long-term clients who I’ve designed multiple homes for. They support me 100%, and they let me be at my creative best by putting no limitations on me. I love working with clients who appreciate my design and understand my process.

 

 

3. MCC: We are crazy about your color-packed Westhampton Beach, New York shop. How did it come about, and what’s the vision?

AB: What I started as a hobby has become a design laboratory for myself and my talented team. We want the shops to be both a source of inspiration and a place to find those special pieces that make a home personal and unique. We also want the place to be a full-service decorating shop, and we always enjoy the challenge of creating new spaces or revamping existing ones.

A Tony Baratta-designed ski house in Utah, packed with plaid perfection.

4. MCC: You have a furniture line with Thomasville, rugs with Capel, bedding with Wildcat Territory… What’s next?

AB: We want to be able to offer our customers a curated collection under one roof, so we’re currently working with several partners on some new collections to bridge the gaps. Our goal is to continue to explore ways to bring the classic Anthony Baratta look across all of the home furnishings categories. We’re even extending out into the world of designing apparel. You’ll have to stay tuned and see for yourself.

5. MCC: What’s the next frontier in interior design?

AB: The world is changing rapidly, and the way people live is changing even faster. Homes are becoming much less formal as focuses shift with priorities of modern-day living. My observation is that as we’ve become more health-, family-, and environmentally-driven people are living completely different lifestyles than we were 20 or 30 years ago. Two people living in a huge 15,000+-square-foot, over-scaled property, with formal living spaces the size of the average American home, is just not necessary anymore. It’s out of whack. People are rethinking what’s essential for living comfortably. Our responsibility as designers is to realize this change of tides, rein it back in and adapt to the new way of living. Creating a world for simplifying lifestyles. #HealthIsTheNewWealth

6. MCC: And, OK, this is the sixth question, sorry, but how do you see the social media having changed the interior design landscape.

AB: First of all, I’m obsessed with all of the visuals available at my fingertips. I love seeing how people live and what inspires them. It’s fascinating to me that it all happened so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to track how influential it’s become. I get constant inspiration across all platforms. On the flipside, I find there to be a lot of Insta-gratification. Which is all well and good but, you have to understand it’s fantasy. The imagery can never replace real-world knowledge and experience. It’s not easy to make that fantasy you see come to life. It’s nice to look at but people see these static images and try to replicate them precisely. Not taking into consideration that they’re often removing or replacing things that they have a real connection to. Items with sentiment and history. Literally stripping away layers of their home’s character. The essence of what gives their space soul. #AllThatGlittersIsNotGold

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Home on the Range!

Home on the Range

The fabulous BlueStar Cooking range in the House of Bedlam kitchen.

Gang:

John and I are so tired of sterile white-on-white kitchens with white countertops, white subway tile zipping across the walls, and stainless-steel appliances. B-O-R-I-N-G!

Who wants clinical when you can bring color and pattern into your kitchen. And, no, that was not a question.

“Oh, but white is classic and never goes out of style,” you say.

Well, frankly, color doesn’t go out of style either, just don’t choose “of-the-moment” hues such as the avocado and orange color ways that were so popular in the 70s. Choose colors that aren’t too bright and garish. If you need something “on trend,” go for it with your kitchen wallpaper.

As for colors to employ, think pale greens, buttery yellows, gray, inky blues, and more when it comes to cabinetry.

As for appliances, stainless is so 2007. Snore. Boring. Why not bring some color to your appliances such as we did at the House of Bedlam with our divine BlueStar Cooking range in a pale green shade.

So let’s talk about BlueStar Cooking.You can choose from over 750 colors.

And the configuration options are equally endless. Bespoke chic, we are crazy about customization in this decidedly un-customized world.

Plus, of course, the performance of the BlueStar ranges is exceptional and chef quality.

And the ranges are built in the United States, and we love that!

We asked our friends at BlueStar for a few testimonials from satisfied customers.

Here’s one from a gent in Vancouver, Canada:

“I was able to fire up my shiny new BlueStar for the first time yesterday, and I can’t thank you enough. Everyone who I spoke/emailed with at BlueStar has been outstanding with fantastic and friendly service, and the entire experience has really been top-notch. The stove itself really is an amazing piece of machinery. My contractor, who had never heard of BlueStar, couldn’t stop talking about how nice it was, and I think that may have turned him into a future customer as well. My 2 year old daughter walked into the kitchen and saw it for the first time and just said “cool!” She obviously has excellent taste.”

And here’s another from a woman in Newton, Massachusetts:

“Yippee! I just ordered my second Blue Star RNB. I own a 30″ RNB in a home in Wisconsin. I’ve had that for two years, and it is a workhorse and looks as good as the day I bought it. I did exhaustive product research before buying BlueStar. I focus on reliability and functionality instead of talk-show celebrity endorsements. This product hands down beats the competition. So, since we are moving to South Dakota, my new kitchen has to have a BlueStar range. So, Blue Star #2 will soon be on the way. Thanks for an outstanding product.”

So when it comes time to refresh your own kitchen, the Madcaps suggest giving BlueStar a once-over.

We are smitten.

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Five Questions For: Hannah Alderson, Robert Allen

The talented and textile-minded Hannah Alderson.

Gang, meet Hannah Alderson, Director, Design & Merchandising, Robert Allen!

John and I are so lucky to work with the amazing studio team at Robert Allen (now the Robert Allen Duralee Group) to bring our fabric vision to life. Among the shining stars who help us on the Robert Allen design front: Donna Rinaldi, Lucy Maitland, and Holly Merry. We are also so very fortunate to work with the brilliant Hannah Alderson, the Director, Design & Merchandising at Robert Allen and a shining star in the glittering textiles world. Smart, creative, a visionary… and Hannah’s really darn cool, to boot.

So, dear Hannah, let’s unveil your stellar bio:

“Hannah Alderson has served as Robert Allen’s Director of Design since 2011, where she is always on a search for the next great color story. She grew up in Brooklyn, studied painting at Harvard, and received her MFA in Textiles from Rhode Island School of Design. Her work provides her an opportunity to touch and feel every conceivable fabric available under the sun as she seeks out the most inspiring linens, wools, cottons, velvets, and prints for Robert Allen’s collections. Her all-time favorite fabric is denim.”

Wow, impressive.

Let’s dive in!

  1. MADCAP COTTAGE (MC): Tell us about your position at Robert Allen and what a typical day is like for you.

HANNAH ALDERSON (HA): I am Design Director for all collections under Robert Allen’s residential division which means I play with fabric all day, and sometimes trim.

On a typical day I am meeting with textile mills that are showing their latest collections. Mills visit our lower Manhattan studio from Italy, Turkey, India, Belgium, and, of course, the US. I am usually looking for great embroideries, interesting wovens, textures, and, of course, pattern. When I start a project, I develop a creative brief, but I love to be surprised. Sometimes a mill will come in with something fantastic that we didn’t know we wanted and we will make it work.

When we find something we like, we will either develop it with a new piece of artwork or color it in the color palette we have developed for the upcoming season at Robert Allen.

My favorite days, of course, are when I get to work with the Robert Allen @Home team on the Madcap Cottage collection. I particularly love the beginning of a project when we scope wide and soak up all of your amazing influences. EDITORIAL NOTE: Swoon.

With every design project, I keep the ‘big four’ parameters in mind: Color, Pattern, Construction, and Application. I usually start with color.

While we develop our own color chips in our CAD studio, it is important to actually see how that color translates from a paint swatch into three-dimensional yarns and fabric. For example, a mossy green might be beautiful in a silk-velvet, and look dead in a cotton twill. That is why we have our mills develop color blankets, or trials, of each pattern that we want to put into the line. As for pattern: it’s all about the layout and scale (I always say go bigger). A great pattern should work on a pillow… or a stage curtain. Hopefully the repeating pattern creates a rhythm and environment that becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. Madcap Cottage’s Bermuda Bay pattern is the perfect example of this kind of drama!

  1. MC: Where do you find inspiration? Is there one city that is especially inspirational? A certain magazine? A favorite book? Movie?

HA: Ever since I can remember, a wander around the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been my go-to to kick start inspiration. I like to start with no particular destination and take turns into obscure galleries. Open storage in the American Wing has lovely vignettes of cups and glasses and can inspire color palettes. My favorite quiet spot is under the main staircase where you can see Coptic textile fragments from the 3rd century. The Arts of the Islamic World galleries are a must on every trip.

For the last two years I have visited Florence by myself at the tail end of my annual trip to Lake Como for a textile fair. I take the same wandering approach there that I take at the Met, going everywhere on foot with only a vague sense of my final destination. That process of getting a little lost, of looking, and, of course, taking pictures gives me so much energy for my work. I feed on it all year. This year I became fascinated with the engraved marble tombs on the floor of Santa Croce. I still haven’t made it to the statue of David, but rain brought me to the Uffizi this year (usually I like to be outside) where I saw Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ for the first time. I almost died. That dress!

In all of my wanderings I try to incorporate some vintage clothing hunts. I am a sucker for a 1960s dress suit. I have collected over the years some very snappy pieces though they are getting harder to find (and fit into). My style icon is Ingrid Bergman in the film ‘Indiscreet.’ There is one scene where she is wearing this amazing printed opera coat and kisses Cary Grant on the banks of the Thames. Goals.

  1. MC: What do you see coming up down the road on the fabric front, any trends? Any colors?

HA: Great patterns are always in style. I think the lasting ones usually have some grounding in history. The history of textiles is like one long remix: styles and motifs get reinterpreted over and over again. As for color, I just watched a documentary on Fabergé and am obsessed with the cobalt blue on the onion domes of Russian Orthodox churches. They often have gold stars. I have to make this happen on a fabric.

  1. MC: Is there a designer from the past or a certain era that has really influenced you?

HA: I have some favorite textile designers I never get tired of: Vera Neumann, E.A. Seguy, and Leslie and D.D. Tillett. I have lately become fascinated with the ceramics Finnish designer Birger Kaipiainen. My favorite painter is Alice Neel.

  1. MC: Tell us about your home and your personal style. What would surprise us about your home?

HA: That my sofa is badly in need of new fabric! I keep saving it for the next Madcap line… I’ll need to consult with you. Chintz, please. I love a green room. My favorite room color is Gumdrop by Benjamin Moore. My favorite piece of art is a big vintage botanical print from Kabinett and Kammer in Andes, NY which was a gift from my aunt-in-law, Brooke Alderson. Pink, green, and sunny yellow are my go-to colors for a cheerful home. Is there anything more pleasing than a bookshelf full of Nancy Drew yellow- and black-spined books? My twin sister and I split our childhood collection—she got the even-numbered editions, I got the odd.

I love vintage ceramic lamps, too. Overhead lighting is the worst. When I was a teenager, I removed the ceiling light bulb in my room. Blanche Dubois, even at a young age. As for my personal style, I keep it simple (except for special occasions). When I’m showing fabric with a lot of pattern and color (like Madcap), I don’t want to compete!

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Five Questions for: Jana Platina Phipps, AKA Trim Queen

John and I are simply mad for Jana Phipps, a dear friend, the most knowledgeable person we know in the “trim” space, and the force between the Trim Queen blog and social media presence. Jana knows everything about trim. And we mean everything. So here’s a little more about this design-world force from her bio: […]

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Five Questions For: P. Gaye Tapp

John and I are crazy about interior designer and blogger P. Gaye Tapp’s incredible new book How They Decorated, a must-have design Bible from Rizzoli ($55) that chronicles the highly individual, incredible decors of the likes of Bunny Mellon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Fleur Cowles, and Mona von Bismarck, among many others, paired with stunning visuals.

Interior Designer and Blogger P. Gaye Tapp

Says John, “The book shows how real people live. It’s not decorators flaunting their homes. These are real people with real taste and a real sense of style. It’s about personality. Everything doesn’t have to match or be perfect, furnish your home with pieces that you love. Have a point of view. How They Decorated captures this sensibility that is too often lost in today’s beige world.”

Last week, John and I were lucky enough to have been invited to dine with the charming Ms. Tapp in Winston-Salem, NC, and we decided to get inside her head, if just a tad.

But first, a little bit more about Ms. Tapp in her own words:

“I have been an interior designer for more than 30 years and have an abiding passion for the original in design, fashion, and history. My blog, Little Augury, was born on New Year’s Eve 2008. It began as a way of continuing a conversation with a beloved mentor Sandford Peele and the promise to keep just a bit of his wit and wisdom alive by sharing it whenever possible. As a born-and-bred Southerner, I am passionate about things that have been passed down to me, and also to clients that I work with. It’s the backbone of beautiful rooms in the South. Traditions are important to me, with an eye always looking back to the past, in the hope of understanding what is authentic and what will endure in the future. My favorite quote is by 16th-century philosopher and author Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban who said: ‘There is no Excellent Beauty that hath not Strangeness in the proportion.’

Perhaps I was born in the wrong era, but I make the best of it by living a bit in the past. From an early age I’ve loved reading, and in elementary school began reading biographies. Little has changed. Reading is like a lullaby—I cannot go to sleep without reading for an hour or so. My reading interests range from mysteries to British novels to history. I profess to being a bit of an Anglophile.”

So here we go with the Madcap Cottage queries…

  1. Madcap Cottage (MC): How do you define great style?
    • Gaye Tapp (PGT): Great style is personal style. To a large degree, it’s undefinable. My niece Liz is so self-aware and free from ‘fashion rules.’ She dresses to please herself and always exudes confidence! In rooms, as Gloria Vanderbilt says, ‘Decorating is autobiography.’ That says it all! Gloria Vanderbilt is the essence of authentic personal style. The word ‘authenticity’ is bantered about so much on social media, but to have great style it’s a must.
  2. MC: What is the most magical room you have ever seen, and why?
    • PGT: As magical rooms go—any room with books would apply. The most magical rooms are the rooms I’ve seen photographed by Horst—meaning rooms past. I find seeing rooms captured when they are ‘lived in’ fascinating. Pauline de Rothschild, who I write about in my book, had a small Paris retreat where the walls of her salon and bedroom were covered with old Chinese panels. Her bedroom at Mouton was her sanctuary—it might be the most beautiful room ever as observed through Horst’s lens.
  3. MC: Who is someone today who inspires you on the design front and why?
    • PGT: It would be hard not to include two great design—and life—forces, Charlotte Moss and Nicky Haslam. Charlotte’s passion for design is contagious. Her at-home library is filled with pieces of design history and photographs of women who have inspired her. Nicky Haslam’s joie de vivre resonates in everything he does, from his country house to his London flat to his passion for fashion and song. Both continue to be inspired and therefore can’t help but inspire.
  4. MC: We have been awash in beige and gray for years, do you see design moving into a more personal realm?
    1. PGT: I do hope rooms are moving to embrace personal style. It’s the job of designers to inspire clients to participate in the process. How They Decorated is all about personal decorating, even when the women I profile called decorators in to do their rooms.
  5. MC: What’s your favorite destination, cocktail, and hotel? Well, that’s three questions in one, but why not?
    • PGT: I love London, I don’t drink, and I’m not a hotel aficionado… Once you get there, does it really matter?

How They Decorated, with Mona and Harrison Williams in their Palm beach living room

living room
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Ready, Set, Transformation: Accessorize It!

Gang:

It’s spring, so why not take a tired room and give it new life. And we don’t mean start anew. Rather, refresh, refresh, refresh! Never clean house: Layer on details and accessories that will really make a space sing. Good design should take what you have and only make it better.

Turn This…

tan sofavanilla chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into This…

living room

In this living room feature that we produced a while back for Better Homes and Gardens magazine (this is actually our House of Bedlam living room stripped to its bare bones!), we took a vanilla chair and sofa and gave them a new lease on life with the Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen @Home fabrics and some delicious details.

Here’s How, Tricks of the Trade:

  • Of course, layer-in throw pillows… But why not switch out your decorative pillows every season to keep a sofa feeling ever fresh and inviting? And don’t forget contrast welting on your pillows to add a visual punctuation mark.
  • Add tape treatment to your window treatments. Here, Cove End in Palm from our Robert Allen @Home collection took blue-hued curtain panels and gave them extra oomph. Ask your tailor or seamstress to tackle this project.
  • Switch out the seat and back cushions on a chair for some sparkle and pizzazz. Any Calico outpost from coast to coast can do this for you. And don’t forget to ask for contrast welting! Here, the Windsor Park fabric from our Robert Allen @Home collection, Into the Garden, makes a dramatic pattern-rich statement on this Toulon chair from Ballard Designs.
  • Slipcover an ottoman such as this pair from Ikea. Ikea, really? Oh, yes. Good design resides everywhere. We love how these petite ottomans tuck under the metal coffee table from Ballard.
  • Change out your art for something fresh and new such as this oversized piece from our friends at Z Gallerie.
  • Mix in vintage and antique accessories that you have picked up in flea markets and upon your travels. It’s all about a wonderful storyline and provenance when bringing your personal brand vision to life. Pier 1 is nice and all, but what can you really say about the back story of the sundry accessories that you loaded into your cart there, n’est-ce pas?

Share your accessorized spaces with us on Instagram at @madcapcottage!

madcap cottage for smith & noble
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Welcome to Madcap Cottage for Smith & Noble

Gang:

madcap cottage for smith & noble

The Madcaps make their Smith & Noble debut in the Early Spring S&N catalogue. We are thrilled to be in the mix!

The Madcap Cottage gents are so excited to announce our latest partnership, a collaboration between the MCs and Smith & Noble, the forward-thinking window treatments vendor!

“There’s no better catalogue- and online-driven source than S&N,” says John. “We have received the Smith & Noble catalogue—and used their product—for years, so the fit is absolute perfection. We are very lucky to have new partners with such vision and reach.”

Browse the S&N collection of window treatments—from drapes and shades to blinds—and layer-in the Madcap Cottage assortment of fabrics from our Robert Allen @Home collection, from tropic-luxe Bermuda Bay to garden-plucked Isleboro Eve and India-inspired Monsoon Palace.

“We believe in the democratization of good design,” notes Jason Oliver. “Fabulous interior design should be available to all, whether you have access to an interior designer and design center or not. Smith & Noble is the perfect vehicle to give élan to your windows without the need to ever leave home. And at a wonderful, accessible price point to boot! Who needs brick and mortar in this day and age.”

So get ready to take those tired windows and make them tip-top terrific!

madcap cottage for Smith & Noble

Here’s John at the Smith & Noble HQ in Corona, California.

madcap cottage for smith & noble

Our Windy Corner pattern in Oyster becomes a loose, gorgeous shade crafted by Smith & Noble in the kitchen at our cozy cottage in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains.

madcap cottage for smith & noble

Also at the Madcap Cottage cottage in upstate New York, window panels made of our Daffodil-hued Isleboro Eve fabric pattern with a rich teal-blue grosgrain trim. Thank you, Smith & Noble, for helping us craft such window treatment perfection!

A Collector's Eye

The Launch of A Collector’s Eye, Our 2nd Fabric Collection!

Gang:

A Collector's Eye

Collection 2.0, A Collector’s Eye

February 20th, the Madcap Cottage gents’ second fabric collection for Robert Allen @ Home, A Collector’s Eye, launches at showrooms from coast to coast!

Wow, what a treat to craft 60 gorgeous SKUs that offer surprise and delight, that deliver magic at a very accessible price point, and that feel hand touched and special. Think patterns and bold colors, paired with exceptional linen slub neutrals.

Each piece in the new collection layers beautifully with the patterns in our debut offering, Into the Garden, so build upon the fabulous fabric foundation to craft a home that sings with style and bespoke brilliance.

Welcome to a brave new world, the Madcaps are storytellers, so here’s the inspiration behind our vision:

Adventure takes flight upon the road to Canton. A boatman crosses the river, and it’s a Technicolor dreamcoat adventure and fretwork and fabulous and eau de Nil-hued birds chirp in the violet hour. It’s a vintage Opium ad and Rupert Everett beckons, and all is well in the world.

Vintage embroidered pillows collected upon a trip to a fabled Irish castle estate inspire a wonderful “work with” pattern, and, yes, we will have another martini, olives on the side.

Settle into a banquette at a fabled Hollywood nightclub of yore, and hear Miss Peggy Lee croon an especially spirited rendition of “Fever.” What a delicious way to burn, n’est-ce pas?

The scent of magnolia in the air, Fracas upon the wrist, a candle fluttering in the garden on a cool February night and hello, Carmen Miranda, it’s all just a bit bananas, n’est-ce pas?

Stroll the streets of Venice, and get lost between Canareggio and the Arsenale: Soak up the sights, and take a seat canal side with a glass of Prosecco, the lilting of gondoliers in the distance offering up “Volare.”

We carry you to the fabled Cloud Club high atop the Chrysler Building and, yes, it’s Alaia, we transport you to the English countryside and especially favored country estates and verdant gardens such as Hidcote and Rousham (Hello, Angela, do take us upstairs!), and we traverse the byways of Beyoglu in Istanbul.

Hello, Mrs. C.Z. Guest, would you like a Southside, and where’s Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness kicks back in Balenciaga and Millicent is rocking out to remixes in Charles James gold lame and Doris Duke will take you to Shangri-La and how.

It’s Jamaica back in the day and Harbour Island, and don’t be late, dinner is at 10pm under the stars, and has anyone seen Slim Aarons?

 

We are in Palm Springs, and there’s Dolores Hope and Sunnylands is just grand and John Lautner just fell in the pool.

But this Pan Am Flight 001 is taking off, dear friends, so let’s wrap up this postcard. Wish you were here.

It’s a magic land where the elite meet to greet. Tall, tan, and terrific. Won’t you join us?

View the entire collection, and the story behind each of the exceptional fabrics here.

We hope you enjoy the new collection as much as we do!

To purchase the fabrics, find your nearest retailer and, be sure to send us photos of how you use A Collector’s Eye in your own home…