Warm & Cool

In recent design projects, we have been finding ways to warm up the cool palettes of the last few seasons. Traditionally, either warm or cool neutrals predominate a space. Cool grays, silver, and washed wood tones still find favor with many homeowners due to their modern and understated sensibilities.  Even so warm neutral tones are making a comeback from their several year hiatus.

 We remember looking through resources during this peak in cool tones and wondering if everything warmer than taupe had  become extinct. Embracing warm tones comes naturally to us as they add a wonderful comfort and richness to a space. We love encouraging a mix of neutrals as we have found that it creates a sophisticated and unexpected palette that our clients love.

Cool Warm Mood Shot

One of our favorite examples of a piece that bridges warm and cool wood tones harmoniously is our beautiful Tusk table.  Don’t underestimate the power of accessorizing to reenforce the striking balance of warm and cool as well. (above). From rugs and gimp tapes to wallpaper, we find that this trend is really taking off within the design community. We had fun arranging a group of our favorites below.

Warm & Cool Collage

Warm & Cool Collage

Here at MakeNest, we love a confident mix. Just like wood tones and accent peices, try mixing neutrals in other materials too! We are looking at you, gold and silver.


Small Closets & White Walls

Recent endeavors in self-improvement have taken me to New York over the course of eight consecutive weekends.  On each visit, I’ve stayed with city friends in their city apartments.  In each place, one prevailing element strikes me: life explodes dynamically in every corner of the spaces. Put another way, New York apartments don’t have a lot of closets.  And while it must be the greatest nuisance to the dweller, I find an unexpected charm in the outcome.

At first, I thought it was just the white walls that made me feel so comfortable, so poised for a satisfying adventure.

As a designer, my fifteen year relationship with color has taken me through valleys and forests of dense, saturated tones and brought me up on shores of glinting white sand.  A dash of red, the occasional umbrella;  a swath of green and orange as a towel is unfurled.  Said more prosaically, I used to love high-drama hues in every room.  Now I’m happier with pops of color in larger plains of clean, comfortable white.

It’s not surprising that I gravitated to rich color when I began this journey.  The year I started my internship, jewel tones had just peaked and what was left in their wake was a highly specific and uniformly popular palette: butter yellow, tomato red, and sage green.  It was a color scheme that sounds like a terrific garden sandwich in retrospect.

Having lived in a house of white rooms as a child, my first Benjamin Moore color deck was the display case of a proverbial candy shop in which I soon gorged myself.   I ran headlong at the color wheel and shortly thereafter my home bore the results.   Room by room, I’ve dialed it back over the years as our collection of art and just stuff has diversified, demanding a more subtle setting to be fully appreciated.

There is something about white walls, about living in shells you are forbidden or discouraged to personalize, that permeates the residence with a vacation-house feel.  Yet more likely, I’ve decided, it is that – limited on storage – most New Yorkers must leave the evidences of every personal interest out in plain sight.  Although not the custom of my largely suburban clientele, who have basement and garage space aplenty, I find something inspiring and refreshing about seeing a bicycle parked in the kitchen;  unfinished canvases cocked in gentle disarray against the living room wall; or a tumbler of brushes with paint-speckled handles posing as a bouquet of flowers in the well of a window casing.  Rather than being relegated to forgettable outposts of the home, here hobbies are forced into plain sight, reminding the dweller to go for a ride around the city or to finish the art project that inspires their soul.

I’m sure to a one, each New York dweller would stare at me in miscomprehension before saying flat out, “You’re crazy. We’d love a place to store all this stuff. You think I like hanging my kayak over my sofa?”

All the same, as a designer who more and more places sincerity over all else in good homes, I cannot feel there is a takeaway from these cramped quarters.  If nothing else, it’s a clarion call, a reminder to keep your loves out where they can speak to you.


Pretty in Pink

I read it in Elle Decor, so it must be true.  Pastels are in vogue again.

In fact, I’ve been noticing the trend and dabbling in it a bit this year.  At least, I’ve been drawn to the slightly more saturated versions of what we think of as pastels.  Namely, a particular shade of fuchsia I ordered for our shop last January.  They are not exactly pastel, but they have the sweetness of tone one associates with those hues.  


What really intrigues me, though, is whether the trend will keep our swooning chairs from the upholsterer.  I picked these up in 2007 at a shop in Vermont and have debated the exact nature of the ‘re-do’ ever sense.  The trendsetters may have helped me put off a decision a little longer…


Graphic Design @ Home

The layers of paint on my living room walls show  my personal evolution: grass, sapphire, gold and now beige. Designers love color but with expertise comes knowing when and how to use it.  I’ve edited my aesthetic a lot over the years.

But I’m not alone.

Today’s design stresses texture and form over intense layers of color.  It’s everywhere: flexible neutrals playing it cool while rustic finishes and boldly graphic prints carry the lion’s share of interest.  Interior design is taking its cues from graphic design.  Function trumps affectation. Details are thoughtfully edited – sometimes witty – and white space is golden.  Although richly detailed, the photo I captured and edited below reflects the aesthetic of now.


The weight of the barn to the right is balanced with the white space or empty mass of the sky. I stripped away the color to better focus on the textures of wood and weed. What comes forward is the composition and the organic atmosphere. It helps that the wild grass yearns toward the open sky and carries our gaze outward with it.

So how does this idea of graphic composition come into play in the home?  Every house is different and everyone has their own threshold for ‘stuff’.  (I’ve heard a lot of husbands muttering darkly about toss pillows.)  Yet there are some general principles to keep in mind:

  • Bare walls and empty corners are the white space of the home landscape.  They provide a rest for the eye between focal points.  The mind digests the information in the space better when emptiness is allowed to punctuate the statements.
  • When it comes to accessories, think tree and not forest.  In other words, if the accent is dynamic enough, it may lose impact if other, lesser objects are clustered around it.  We may feel comfortable in a group, but something like this Stoney Lamar sculpture needs no companions.
  • Clean the shell of your room by painting the walls and trims the same color.  This is particularly effective in older homes where the moldings are traditional but the desired aesthetic is modern and subtle.
  •  When I cut my design teeth, most designs included the magic three: a big gutsy floral, mid-scale plaid and what we called a ‘ditsy’, a sweet little pattern that kept the peace.  Today we see things differently.  Dynamic fabric and wallpaper prints are nicely supported by textures alone.
  • In color, don’t connect all the dots.  Against a pleasing neutral backdrop, one or two vibrant shades become your color pops.  The design doesn’t get better marks because you used all the tones in the rug; the art of color is knowing when to let a hue exist in the room without highlighting it.

This is my first entry on this blog and I’m feeling my way through it.  The goal is to match ideas to photo content whenever possible, to offer how-to tips and to bring a little down-to-earth perspective to design.  Please share your thoughts to help me do good work!