Finding ideas for color, pattern, and your own sense of style from two of the industry’s top voices
Lynchburg Living writer Charlotte Farley sat down for an exclusive interview with Steele Marcoux (style director at Country Living and former editor-in-chief at Coastal Living) and Meg Braff (Long Island-based interior designer) when they were in town for Design on Stage, presented by the Academy of Center of the Arts. Charlotte, Steele, and Meg discussed the best ways to refresh your space. They talked everything from how to use trendy colors to imbuing your space with personality and timelessness—and according to Steele, farmhouse isn’t going anywhere yet.
Summer is a time to slow down and savor. From taking long-awaited (and much-needed) vacations to trying out new summer cocktail recipes, we look for ways to relax and refresh ourselves in the summertime. Before you settle down with a glass of lemonade and a Pinterest marathon, see what renowned designer Meg Braff and style director Steele Marcoux have to say about revitalizing your home (and yourself) this summer.
Incorporate Trends Without Going Overboard
From chintz to farmhouse, there’s a kind of design that speaks to you, and it can be tempting to go a bit, shall we say, overboard on trends. After all, you want your home to look like it belongs to you and not Mrs. Everybody Fixer Farmhouse, so how can you incorporate a trend (such as the ubiquitous but enduring) farmhouse look or millennial pink and make sure your home doesn’t look stuck in 2018?
Steele explains that she looks to trends for color inspiration. “I was just at market in New York and saw a lot of yellow, so maybe I’ll bring in a yellow pillow or accessory to freshen things up because I don’t currently own a single yellow thing. But I’m not going to go full tilt with (something like) lemon patterns everywhere,” she points out.
According to Meg, one great way to adapt to trends is to look to professional designers that you admire and take cues from them. “If you have a monochromatic living room and lavender happens to be the color du jour, you could have a pair of lavender lamps, or add some artwork with some lavender in it, or even just a cashmere throw on your sofa. It kind of takes you in a different direction.” That’s one advantage of having a very neutral, monochromatic house, she says: you can always play around with your décor and palette.
Approach trends with small changes, just as you would with your fashion. Meg says, “if there’s some great new wedge heel out, you might buy a pair and find that it updates the rest of your outfits, and that’s the same with interior style.”
Earthy is Always in Style
By adding a few small touches, you can enliven your space without taking on the task and investment of a major overhaul. The experts agree that fresh flowers and plants can add a great impact for little effort. “Bring in flowers! Anyone can go to the grocery store and pick up a seasonal bouquet,” says Steele.
Meg points out that ferns last for a long time and don’t require a lot of fuss. “I have ferns all winter in my house. I bring the outdoors in to keep it feeling fresh,” she explains. Following that train of thought, don’t be afraid of using other earthy elements throughout the year to speak to the season.
Look in Unexpected Places for Insight
Something Steele always tries to channel is the mantra of returning to the things you’ve always loved. For example, she loves china. “I love tabletop, and sometimes I feel like things need a refresh, so I’ll go back and look at china patterns that I love and pull a color from there. Because that’s something that I’ve always loved, I can find inspiration there.”
Of course, it’s ok if china isn’t your thing—but it’s a good idea to figure out what is. “If you have things you collect, or a rug that you love, or if you love art—go look towards that for a new idea,” Steele suggests.
Also, look at your wardrobe—what color do you see repeated throughout? Do you have more polka dot dresses than you have places to where them? Is there a certain pattern or fabric that you keep reaching for? You can always go and evaluate your closet for insight and ideas.
Reorganize to Achieve Elegance and Relaxation in One Space
The phrase “timeless style” refers to a style that, like a true lady, never reveals its age. “Timeless style” weds elegance and panache into one relevant space. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? So how can you breathe new life into your space for a look that’s both timeless and of-the-moment?
If you have a collection of some kind (and most of us do), consider how you have it displayed. Is everything simply stacked together on a shelf, or is it a truly eye-catching arrangement?
Try exhibiting your otherwise traditional collection in a way that’s a bit more modern.
Meg believes that—along with a blue and white palette—items made from organic materials never go out of vogue. A beautiful farm table with a rich patina, an intriguing grouping of stoneware—these are enduring elements of style, as are mainstays like paintings that portray scenes from nature (such as landscapes) or artwork sculpted from natural materials. “People look to country living or beach living as aspirational, in a sense that those are relaxed environments,” she explains. As time goes on, modern living, even with all of its amenities, has more of us yearning for something simpler, so when we see reminders of those places, we, in turn, establish a more relaxed setting in our homes.
Not everything has to be Whole Foods–organic, of course. Everything from antiques to modern sofas can look timeless—the trick is all in how you look at it, literally. Juxtaposing a piece of fine furniture against a piece of modern art or layering textures creates visual interest. Steele refers to Meg, the master of mixing textures: “Some of her greatest spaces have really beautiful antiques—with a jute rug. That just takes the edge off of everything.”
Figure Out What Makes You Happy
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is—we all want to come home and unwind at day’s end. The summer, with its bounty of daylight, begs us to linger a bit longer over cold drinks and conversation, so it’s the prime time to create a great space at home to do just that.
According to Steele, creating the right surrounding for yourself can really affect your mood, and Meg agrees that the right arrangements can help make you feel rested as well as more productive. She believes that figuring out who you are and what you need to feel fulfilled to start your day is so important.
To guide your direction, ask yourself what you want to see when you wake up in the morning: Do you like a lot of spare space or do you want to have all the things that you love around you? Do you want a room that’s completely monochromatic, or do you prefer contrasting colors?
“Start with the core of what makes you happy and build it out from there. You can start with visuals, and you can find that in a magazine,” says Meg.
Steele strongly suggests that you study a space that draws you in. “Ask yourself—what is it about this room? Study it.
Is it the color? The furniture? The level of accessorization?”
Having a space that’s well-organized and tidy is the best starting point, of course—getting rid of messes and visual clutter has an instant and calming effect. After that, Meg advises that we should be mindful about what new items we’re bringing in. “Most of us don’t live in such enormous places where you have a space for everything. You have to be selective and think about your choices.”
The next step: make sure you have warmth and personality—which Meg describes as bringing in a variety of textures and items. “Have a good balance of things you love and things that are functional, things that are upholstered and things that aren’t, and you’ll achieve balance. Finding balance is important,” Meg says. “Stay true to what you love and what feels good to you, and what you feel best represents you.
Give Yourself Plenty Of Time
It’s so tempting to want to have your house done pronto, especially if you’ve spent time poring over loads of images for inspiration. Just remember that you’re not on a deadline for having your home “done.”
Steele advises all of us to slow down. “That was advice that a really good friend of ours gave me when I bought my first house. She said, ‘Just go slow. Add a piece here or a piece there and have the confidence to go slow’.”
Meg agrees: “You don’t have to have it done! I’m still doing my house, and in theory, I moved in 18 months ago. I mean, I’m still doing my dining room. I can’t figure out my dining room!” she laughs. “It does take confidence to feel like, ‘oh, my friends are coming over, and I’m having a dinner party, and my dining room isn’t done.’ We’re all a work in progress, and the house is a work in progress, too.”
The moral of the story here: don’t forgo having people over just because things aren’t photo-ready.
Steele laughs, admitting that’s the mistake she makes. “I won’t have anyone over because I don’t have curtains in my dining room—and no one cares whether there are curtains up or there or not!” she laughs.
So, this summer, maybe you’ll get around to hanging those curtains up, or changing them out, or taking them down altogether. Take your time to enjoy freshening things up, enjoying the process, and doing what you need to do in order to make your home feel lighter, fresher, and more you.