The way New York designer Markham Roberts sees the world is large, bold, colorful and highly personalized.
His designs reflect his belief that clients' needs and possessions provide vital cues, while it's his fine lens and editing that make the vision clear.
We talked to Roberts about his decorating views and recently published book, "Decorating The Way I See It" (Vendome Press, 2015).
Q: You organized the book in the same way you work --after the floor plan, you move on to wall and floor treatments, colors, pattern, then furnishings and accessories. Why does this work?
A: "The background -- walls and flooring -- come first to set the framework, and then you layer in everything else until the rooms reflect the inhabitants. I never like houses I see in magazines where they don't look like anyone lives there."
Q: People speak about picking pieces and arranging rooms for a timeless effect since decorating can be expensive and time consuming. Your rooms don't look dated, yet you use lots of fabric and wallpapers that could date them.
A: "I think design trends can date rooms, so I try not to follow them. If a client really wants something that I think will be datable or trendy, I will try to think of a less obvious way of using it. For example, a client will often have something that belonged to their family and has real meaning, and if it's an older piece of furniture that doesn't work in their new environment, we can use it in a new way so it will take on a different character and feel new. I might put an old fashioned table with a modern mirror above it or a new chair next to it."
Q: Most of the homes and apartments in the book are large, even grand in size and scale. So many want to go smaller these days; any tips?
A: "Though I have a big house in the country our apartment in the city is a one bedroom. New Yorkers are much attuned to maximizing space, and even in big homes there may be small rooms where you just want to cozily take a nap or watch TV. I often think about a boat mentality when trying to fit a lot into a smaller space."
Q: What are your tips for young homeowners who want to find an original style of their own?
A: "I encourage them to go and look at everything they can with their eyes really open. Go to junk shops, flea markets, antique malls and stores, and bring home things from a trip that remind them of happy times and what they like to look at. Pedigree doesn't matter. I have a Pez dispenser in my living room next to an 18th-century Chinese gilt bronze mounted vase. I took chests a friend inherited, and we painted them blue in a '30s technique.”
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