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Adding color and pattern with John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon |

Adding color and pattern with John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon

John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, owners of the North Carolina design firm Madcap Cottage, are known for their sophisticated yet whimsical use of color and pattern. They shop the world for vintage and antique finds and furnish their clients’ homes with unexpected combinations. Their latest book, “Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints Patterns,” shows how to layer different fabrics and hues to create memorable interiors.

They joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week on our Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: How much wallpaper is too much? I think it looks quite dated to have wallpaper in every room, but I do like it in the powder room. What are your favorite rooms to wallpaper?

A: You can never have enough wallpaper! Why use it only in the powder room so that only your guests enjoy it? If you are timid about bringing wallpaper out of a powder room, try it in a hallway, laundry room or dressing area. Wallpaper is really being embraced by millennials; it’s anything but dated and tired.

Q: I have trouble mixing and matching pillows on my sofa. Should you use solid pillows with print pillows, or can you mix several prints? Should you use the color of your sofa as a starting point?

A: Mix solids and prints. Use the color of your sofa as a starting point: If your sofa is blue, look for pillows in other shades of blue. Or if you want to shake it up, pull a hue that complements blue, such as red or green, and look for patterns that have a bit of blue in them. Think red or green pillows that have a little blue in them.

Q: I love my historically inspired living room but want to spice it up a bit. The walls are similar to Farrow and Ball Hague Blue, and the drapes and furniture are cream/ivory. I have a creamware collection in cabinets and antique books that lend some visual interest, but I feel the need for more patterned fabric accents. I’m thinking maybe window pelmets but am stuck on color and pattern type (toile, indienne or something else)? What do you recommend?

A: The room sounds wonderful! Go with a toile that has multiple shades of blue to add some further interest and spice it up. Do pelmets [also called cornice boards] but come up with an interesting shape for them that has some theater. Edge the pelmets with a blue fabric and trim them with a cream or beige tape or trim.

Q: My father recently died, and I will be selling his collection of mid-century modern Danish rosewood furniture. I know this market was hot a few years ago, but is it still desirable?

A: Absolutely! Mid-century is being used in new ways, pairing with more traditional pieces, for instance.

Q: My small kitchen has a traditional wallpaper border (fruits, grape vines, etc.) that was installed about 20 years ago. It’s time for it to go, but I’m undecided whether to replace it or just remove it and repaint the area. Are wallpaper borders out of fashion now? If not, what are some current styles?

A: We love wallpaper borders! They are not necessarily the hot thing these days and are difficult to find. Why not wallpaper your kitchen? Wallpaper borders may not be in fashion, but wallpaper is back in a big way. We just launched a line of Madcap Cottage wallpaper with York, America’s oldest wallpaper company. The fashion used to be using things like fruits and veggies in a kitchen, but those rules don’t apply now. You can have fun with trellis or lattice.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for hanging art from different eras/schools together? It could look weird or pulled together, so what should I pay attention to so that’s it the latter, including placement?

A: We love a good salon-style grouping of artwork. You don’t want all of the pieces to have the same frame style, but you want the frames to all feel like they play together. So don’t do one gold and all the rest brown wood. Have a few that are gilt. Balance it all out. Pull matting colors from the individual pieces. Map out your arrangement on a floor and use Ook nails when hanging.

Q: I can’t find any apartment-size living room chairs with cute prints. Where are they?

A: Most furniture today is too big. Buy vintage pieces and recover them at your local Calico Corners. They can re-cover anything and are located from coast to coast.

Q: I know chintz comes in and out of favor in the design world, but I still love it. Where can you find beautiful chintz fabrics that are not to-the-trade?

A: We adore chintz! Calico Corners has amazing retail-ready collections from top designers. We have new chintz patterns coming out in our collections; Isleboro Eve, Jungle Bloom and Georgica Pond are our current chintz patterns. Chintz is coming back, it’s not the highly polished chintz from the 1980s.

Q: My house is a World War I-era bungalow, and I plan to renovate the kitchen this year. I would like to replace the plain wooden cabinets installed by the previous owner in 1992 with the types of cabinets popular in the 1930s through 1950s, art deco if possible. I occasionally see them on eBay. Other than seeking them there, any other suggestions?

A: Look to a local salvage outpost, or find photos of what you want and speak to a local carpenter to re-create them.

Q: They say bedrooms should be soothing and spa-like. What are some of your favorite paint colors for bedrooms?

A: Think pale blues and grays, and maybe a grasscloth wallpaper. Stick to colors from the cool spectrum.

Q: Do you think the trim of your house should be white or off-white? What are good paint colors for that?

A: We love colorful trim, but if you want a white hue, go for a crisp white. This will make the trim stand out and create architectural definition. If your trim is more contained room by room, consider going for a punchy color. It’s a good way to bring color into a room without having to paint a whole wall.

Q: I have a 600-square-foot apartment with a small living room. I have a muted paisley loveseat in tans, rusts and blues, with a blue lounge chair. My problem is finding a rug. I am tempted to go bold but don’t know how to take the plunge. Thoughts?

A: You don’t want your rug to match your sofa — they should contrast. If your sofa is beige and tan, go for a colorful rug. Pull the color from the chair or walls. The rug should really anchor the space, so it needs to be bigger than your seating area.

Q: There seems to be a lot of angst around “stuff” these days. How do you manage the things you collect?

A: We love creating and curating collections, whether that be blue-and-white china or photography or china objects. If you love it, cherish it and create a place for the items in your home.

Q: We have a fairly large furnace/laundry room in the basement with mostly cinder-block walls and some pipes sticking about. Any thoughts on how to give the area a bit of a facelift without any construction or other major overhauls?

A: Paint everything white, and hang some interesting lighting, perhaps garden pendants from a big-box store. Maybe add an indoor-outdoor rug, too.

Q: I feel like it is time to update the wallpaper I had installed nearly 30 years ago in our entrance hall, stairway, and upstairs hall. Is “subtle” still a good way to go? I’ve loved this for 30 years so obviously don’t replace often, and I’d like to enjoy the new stuff for at least 10 more years before we move.

A: Why not make a big, bold statement? Your foyer is the perfect place for some theater and wow. Life is short — why be subtle?

Q: Because my house is 85 years old and tiny, my guest room is also my dressing room. There’s a full-size daybed for overnight guests, but I also have clothing racks, a rolling shoe rack, etc. I’ve done a bit with the decor to make it feel luxurious, such as a velvet bedspread and metallic accents, but I’d like some more ideas.

A: Wallpaper the room; add a fun chandelier, a statement mirror and a fun rug; and drape the windows.

Q: I really, really want an upholstered bed. Not just the headboard but rails too, since I don’t like dust ruffles. Can I get away with one long-term?

A: Upholstered beds are timeless. Have it upholstered in a solid fabric, and dress up the bed with patterned pillows that are easy to switch out.

Q: My house is from the 1930s, so I’ve been having fun trying to come up with period-appropriate decor for the kitchen. So far my favorite item has been some colorful fruit-print cafe curtains. Any other ideas?

A: Find period-appropriate lighting from such sources as Rejuvenation. Hit vintage stores for kitchen accessories, such as canisters.

Q: My closet is really boring and I can’t afford to have it fitted out. How can I jazz it up?

A: Visit Ikea or the Container Store for fun storage solutions, or paint or wallpaper the walls. There are new papers that are easy to install on your own; look to York’s SureStrip. Switch out the lighting if there is space for something with more drama, and, if it’s a walk-in, add a rug and ottoman.

Q: My husband and I are building a traditional farmhouse-style home. Any prints and patterns you recommend for walls and furniture fabrics?

A: We love a good plaid paired with stripes as grounding tools for walls that won’t feel dated. The more graphic the plaid or wide the stripe the more modern the look. (It’s a nice way to give a traditional style home a contemporary spin.) Layer smaller prints and florals onto furniture. Of course, if you really want to go all-out traditional, do a statement floral on the walls in your foyer and carry that color story throughout the house.

Q: What are some of your favorite unexpected color combinations for a living room?

A: Fuchsia and red. Yellow and green. Blue and pink.

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