Design Musings


The design team at Marjorie Johnston & Co. designed the room pictured above for a fall show at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Here are their tips for getting this young and modern look.
1. Look for new adaptations of classic designs. “Notice the quatrefoil on the Suzanne Kasler floorlamp, ” Marjorie Johnston points out. This time-honored motif also appears in the orange side table.
2. Make color sense. “When you work with a multitude of colors, you can’t just pick any color, ” Marjorie says. “These are all strong colors with the same depth and vibrancy.”
3. Find some control in the chaos. “To tame color and pattern, stick to one intensity and choose a similar pattern, ” Marjorie says. Here, geometric shapes offer a consistent look. (Rug sampler from Paige Albright Orientals.)
4. Pick a neutral to rest your eyes. The designers chose an off-white sofa and a navy wall for a quiet backdrop to anchor all the color and pattern.
—Marjorie Johnston, Wendy Barze / Marjorie Johnston & Co. / / 205.414.7860

Colorful wallpaper in bold patterns is in and my clients are asking for it more and more. Acrylic furniture has been around forever but I am seeing it used in more creative ways. I purchased two acrylic cubes with rope handles on either side recently for side tables and they are knock out!! As for the Pantone colors (see below), I am crazy over the Grayed Jade. It would be fabulous on the wall, ceiling, upholstery, or as an accent!!! —Mark Kennamer Design • 205.413.6976 • [email protected]

I’m loving the push in texture! Grasscloth wallpaper, paneling on walls, reclaimed materials on floors and ceilings, nubby linen, sweet lace, and velvety textiles are all so good and a visually interesting way to make a statement.” —Katie Gaston, Full Circle • 3908 Clairmont Avenue S (located in Forest Park) • Birmingham, AL 35222 • 205.202.5907 •

Favorite Find Lately? “I recently got the most amazing throw at Suite Dreams! The Matouk Dream Modal Blanket is to die for… I bought it for a master bedroom for a client’s home in Vestavia and it pulls the whole room together! We paired it with custom embroidered sheets, and it looks so yummy!” —Cameron Caradine • Christopher Interiors • [email protected] | Suite Dreams • 205.414.1922 •

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Brass really is back, or any gold tone for that matter. We like the unlacquered matte finishes. There’s a really nice warmth to the material. After seeing so much cool nickel and dirty oil-rubbed bronze everywhere for so long the elegance of brass is refreshing, and it’s a finish that we have found marries very well in renovation projects where existing brass hardware and fixtures are present. We really like the way that brass will patina and age over time in a way that other finishes don’t seem to as easily. —Hannon Kirk Doody & Doug Davis • Hannon Douglas Interiors •

I am personally very excited about the art of combining many decorating styles. Homes are not just about one period or style anymore. It’s the powerful combination of many different looks and styles that make a home more personal, more valuable, more classic, but still modern. The emerging style is based on the art of finding the perfect blend of informal and formal, industrial and glamorous, modern and antique,   solid and patterned, neutral and color. I am thrilled to see formal coming back on strong!  The trick with formal decorating is in the combination and balance with other styles to keep it modern and livable.  —Beth McMillan • McMillan Interiors Inc. • [email protected] • 205.326.1548

Beth's Trends To Watch For

• Dark stained wood in combination with light wood or washed wood.
• Antique crystal chandeliers hanging next to industrial fixtures.
• Tight upholstery mixed in with a few slipcovered pieces.
• Fabulous textiles and fabrics of all kinds.
• Antiques and the art of collecting mixed with reproductions and newer pieces.
• Collectible artwork with fun fashionable/trendier items.
• Floorplans that offer separation of the kitchen and den.
• The resurgence of an actual dining room and/or living room.
• Combining neutral/white walls with wallpapered rooms and dramatic paint color combinations.
• Antique rugs next to hides and rugs made from natural  fibers.

I am all about a great new store that has recently opened at the Summit. Sur La Table is design Mecca for the cooking enthusiast. They have everything you could ever want in a well-stocked kitchen and cooking classes that would allow your inner Julia Child to shine. From the tiniest spoon to the most fabulous expresso machine, they have it all. • As for Pantone’s color predictions, Liz says, pair Pantone’s Grayed Jade with a soft white and a charcoal gray for a subtle, serene bedroom. For a bright pop, add a bit of pink. —Liz Hand Woods / DETAILS • 2337 20th Avenue South / Birmingham, AL 35223 • [email protected] • 205 870.8005

I love muted rugs and I love mixing a piece of acrylic furniture with antiques. —Aimee Belden • Belden Designs, LLC •

“I am always looking for ways to use old things in a more current or unexpected way.  Using personal items brings a sense of familiarity into your home and reinventing how you use them makes old things new again.  I am seeing the resurgence of chintz-inspired textile patterns and wall papers in documented patterns with updated colors. —Tammy Connor • Tammy Connor Interior Design • 205.871.9797 •

Gold is Back Baby! I can’t get enough of it…in sconces, lamps, pillows, hardware, and accessories. Right now, my favorite jewelry combination is gold and silver together…I am piling pieces on top of each other and loving it. And, I’m doing the same thing in interiors! • My favorite “sit around” at the moment is the new huge Jonathan Adler brass horn. I just ordered myself one today. • As for color, I am normally a turquoise and lime girl, but lately I can’t get enough of the cobalt blue and Kelly greens. I like things a little more primary these days. —Lisa Flake, Caldwell Flake Interiors •  • 205.222.9139

We love blue-and-white porcelain, and Pantone’s color of Spring, Monaco Blue, is making this classic Asian accessory brand new again. Blue-and-white fits in any room with any style, and the blue in the design is right on target with this color. It is timeless; it is classic; and it is here to stay. 

—Dianne Clark / Clark Antiques Gallery • 2717 Second Avenue South • Birmingham, AL 35233 • 205.325.1919 •

Looking to Modernize Your Interiors?
Decorator Rebecca Hawkins Shares Some Easy Ideas:

Treat a dark color such as Monaco Blue as a neutral. Pretty much every color plays off and/or blends with a dark blue. Painting a smaller room’s walls and ceiling in a color like Monaco Blue can actually make the room appear larger.
Crown moulding is becoming obsolete, but baseboards are getting bolder (6-8” high).
If you do have crown moulding, paint it the same color as the walls so it fades away. Similarly, paint brick or wood-trimmed fireplaces the same color as your walls.
While cabinets are getting sleeker, hardware is the place to make a statement. Brass, pewter, and bronze are the new oil-rubbed bronze.
Look for a mix of materials in a single piece of furniture.  I love seeing a great table, sideboard,
or desk in something other than wood or glass.  Watch for combinations such as lucite and wood, lacquered wood and glass, metal and wood, or metal and glass. Shagreen coffee tables or leather tables and chests are super cool too.
Create a mood with lighting. Instead of can lights and typical ceiling fixtures, create ambient light with floor lamps, table lamps, sconces, and chandeliers. Lighting designs have become more sleek and unusual, becoming pieces of art. Oversized lamps with a metal or colorful lampshade add drama.
Photography is making a comeback. Blown up to a large scale, photography is super hip and modern.
Try using black and white photographs in a grouping with a colored frame or mat for a touch of glam.
—Rebecca Hawkins Designs • 205.919.8842 • [email protected]

When it comes to hardware, simple clean lines are still in. Clients want a look that is edgy—but not too contemporary. We still love manipulating new materials to look old. We’ve also seen the emergence of custom bronze tones. —Eric Brandino, Brandino Brass • • 205.978.8900

I always recommend investing in quality pieces that will last while watching the price point on trendy ones. This way, when the trend has past, you won’t feel badly moving it out of your home. Lavender (African Violet) has become one of my favorite go-to colors this year. It is beautiful and soothing paired with slate gray and creamy white. The key to using any trendy color is to use it as an accent or in ways you won’t tire. While I like a little edge in every room I design, I do want each space to stand the test of time. To acheive that, I use neutral colors on my big ticket items and pull in color through my pillows, art, and accessories. —Dana Wolter • • 205.907.7758

Take a neutral room and add silk velvet pillows in Monaco Blue, trimmed in tiny Tender Shoots cord, the perfect pop of color.  If you like to change your accent color frequently, pillows are the perfect way to add it. And, it’s easy to change if the color grows tired.  —Iris Thorpe • Iris&Co. • 3934 Crosshaven Drive • Birmingham, AL  35243 • 205.969.5727  •

Just to list a few things I’m drawn to right now: A good white (I love Benjamin Moore Cloud White), as well as deep chocolate browns and charcoal. I am really into metallics in soft muted shades and cotton velvet is my fabric of choice at the moment.   What I am most excited about are all the fabulous grasscloth wallpapers. I recently had a client’s master bedroom ceiling covered in a grey blue grasscloth. It is beautiful!  —Decorative artist and designer Kitty White •

I see people using more and more color—but I still like to play the colors off of neutrals!  —Jane Hoke / Hawkins Israel • 205.879.3406

I’m noticing a huge wave of super-pow-wow eclectic mixtures in color, fabric, and texture. Loads of blue are coming into the scene—all shades, but especially blues with green and black undertones. These blues look great layered with other saturated colors like reds, oranges, corals, purples, and jewel tones galore. Ethnic fabrics are an important piece of this color trend—they used to be so hard to find! Pairing them with aged, more traditional things is just like adding curry and raisins to your grandmother’s chicken salad recipe! Other strong trends includes a mixture of rustic with super elegant pieces for a young, fresh feeling. And, Belgian design still carries lots of clout because it is such a beautiful mixture of refined and rustic living. No matter what your design, think durable and easy clean fabrics to make every room in your house lovely AND liveable! No room should be “off limits.” —Fran Keenan • Fran Keenan Interiors • 205.821.8183

Design blogger Mandi Smith T (
shares her 3 favorite trends:

1. Metallic linen is very hot. It comes in an array of different colors with both gold and silver metallic accents. I love using this fabric for upholstery on accent chairs. This trend is already spinning off into wall coverings (Look for metallic grasscloth.)
2. 1980’s floral is back—but with a twist. The Laura Ashley dress days are gone, but florals paired with fretwork patterns, small scale prints, and moorish designs, make the prints fresh again.
3. My pick for the hottest design trend of 2013 is Agates (which is a spin off of the gemstone trend from last year). Agates are influencing artwork, fabrics, and accessories.  I love turning unusual items into artwork, and the agates are my latest find!   I love them so much I’m having a set framed as we speak for my master bedroom. (Look for the reveal on Mandi’s blog soon!)
—Mandi Smith T • Mandi Smith T Interiors •[email protected] • 205.602.6286

This modern bedroom is a mix of geometric and traditional prints. White really stands out with bursts of strong pink and  lime green. Mixing in lacquered furniture such as the night stand is a bonus to the look.  —Jenny Edwards / J. Edwards Interiors • • 205.870.5100 (photo by Brian Francis)

I  love the bold trellis and geometric patterns I see in accents and wall coverings—especially those inspired by David Hicks. I am using them in bathrooms and powder rooms and painting the ceiling a deep shade that contrasts or complements the pattern.

—Dian Diamond • 205.967.7616

You might say that marble, a staple for use in the Renaissance period, is enjoying a renaissance of its own.  What’s popular now are stone details that require the craftsmanship that we take pride in providing.  It’s the use of thicker slabs, stone legs, full height stone splashes that cover the entire wall, unexpected edging, and custom cuts for hidden vents, speakers and lighting to merge modern technology seamlessly into a timeless design. —Dan Weingarten • Birmingham MarbleWorks, LLC • 205.988.5585

Green is a natural with blue in solids or paired with white and plenty of texture. (think trees and sky.) charcoal drawings and a bit of chinoiserie is very snappy. —Mary Evelyn McKee • 2815A Eighteenth St. South • Homewood, AL 35209 • 205.879.7544 •

“We like to use pattern in small doses because people’s taste tends to change over time. It’s much more cost effective to recover a chair than an entire sofa, change the patterned trim on a drapery panel than an entire patterned panel, so pattern used in smaller amounts can still be as effective but much easier to change out in the future. Slipcovers have become even more popular now with their ability to change the color and lines of a piece of furniture without have to purchase a new piece. It’s also a great option for you if your piece is covered in an expensive fabric and you want a new look but aren’t quite ready to commit to having the piece recovered.” —Bill Ingram Architect • • 205.324.5599

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