Rules That Miles Redd Loves to Break

In the world of interior design, decorating rules often become so embedded they are second nature—but not for everyone. We’re looking to those boundary-pushing talents to find out the popular design ideas they’re ready to move on from, and what they are trying out instead. First up: Miles Redd, who defies easy labels, bringing his own special blend of glamour and wit to every project. Whether he’s decorating a tropical vacation home or a Texas mansion, the New York designer can always be counted on to defy conventions. We turned to Redd, the former creative director of Oscar de la Renta and author of The Big Book of Chic, to learn which design rules he thinks were made to be broken.

Rule to break: Use color in small doses
“Often when I flip through a catalogue, it would appear we live in a world of beige, a great big bowl of coffee ice cream,” says Redd. The designer prefers to embrace rich hues, as in this windowless entryway “where it appears glittering rather than dull like dishwater.”

Rule to break: Scale back in small rooms
“I think people see tiny rooms and they think they need tiny furniture, but often one large thing kissing the ceiling will expand the room,” he says.

Rule to break: Mind your manners in formal spaces
“Good decoration can be so correct, it can be a little boring,” says Redd. The mega metal mosquito on the ceiling of an otherwise formal living room in Houston “takes the edge off things and shows you have a sense of humor.”

Rule to break: Only accent with pattern
Whereas some decorators stop with printed pillows, Redd takes pattern from floor to ceiling. “One really strong pattern can make a statement and lift the ordinary to the unexpected.”

The Inspiration Behind John Derian‘s Fanciful Creations

“Sometimes I feel like a chef at a farmers’ market,” says decoupage artist John Derian, amid the vast collection of antique etchings, engravings, and manuscripts in his studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “What’s available is what I end up using,” he says of the prints, which he finds at estate sales and flea markets and fashions into his signature creations. For more than two decades Derian has sold his own plates, lamps, and other objets alongside a selection of artisan-made home goods at his eponymous shops in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Now his favorite images—from delicate 18th- and 19th-century botanical and animal studies to charming children’s drawings—have come out of their storage bins (Hermès boxes and vintage suitcases) and onto the pages of his first tome, John Derian Picture Book (Artisan, $75). “It’s like a self-portrait,” he says of the volume. “These images have been part of my life for so long, they’re like friends.” On the occasion of the book’s publication, we paid a visit to Derian’s studio to discover the pictures, patterns, and objects that color his imaginative world.

“The two gloxinias were a natural fit together,” says Derian of an exuberant floral spread in his new book. “The left image is from an early-20th-century French magazine, and the right from a 19th-century Belgian horticultural journal.”

Home Decor Ideas Are Literally

Finding a place to live in Brooklyn is hard enough on a crisp spring day, frenzied as hopefuls can be, but interior designer Casey Kenyon didn’t even have that luxury when he found out he’d have to vacate his current rental in the middle of a polar vortex. (Non-Northeasterners, note: These are as no-fun as they sound.) Discouraged by the less-than-charming nature of more industrial, and therefore more affordable, Brooklyn neighborhoods, and a little desperate, he posted on Facebook: “Does anyone know of a well-priced one-bedroom apartment in dreamy tree-lined Fort Greene?” Fortune showed favor. A friend’s cousin’s cousin knew a 92-year-old woman who needed a renter in the top floor of her brownstone. That the space featured twin decorative fireplaces, a picture rail, original painted wood shutters, and “good light all day” from East-West exposures—more “charm” than most people dream of in sensibly-priced Brooklyn abodes—turned out to be the only catch.
In some cases, good things come to those who don’t wait. Kenyon jumped on it and signed the lease.
Despite the mad dash to get there, the move came at a perfect time. Not six months after that first rent check, Kenyon’s boyfriend Jonathon Beck moved in with him, and they tackled the design as a team. The added income helped them be a little bit choosier about the furnishings they sprung for—an antique Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin sofa and Ib Kofod-Larsen Penguin chair, both tracked down on Etsy to anchor the living room, for example—but the couple’s industriousness, wealth of DIY home decor ideas, and attention to detail is really what’s to thank for the apartment’s elevated look and feel.
A pair of glass sconces from “a 1stDibs dealer in Germany” inspired Kenyon to teach himself wiring. (“Youtube can tell you everything as long as you have an ounce of bravery,” he says with conviction.) And that Danish chair? He picked up a yard of fabric from Mood and did the upholstering himself. (“You just unscrew them and staple!”) They made pillows and cushions from thrift-ed African textiles, even weaving together upholstery webbing to replace the ripped canvas on an old camp cot. An ornate mirror, which Beck (a production and set designer) could tell had been painted “stage gold,” required four coats of white paint to cover up. “It looks now like it has always lived there,” Kenyon says of its placement over the mantel, so the couple plans to leave it with the apartment if they ever move. Troubleshooting snafus and space constraints required the same ingenuity. A sheepskin from Modern Link got tossed across the couch, which turned out to be scratchy, and two of the four dining room chairs got a gig moonlighting as nightstands—stacked high with books to keep the lamps from Stone & Sawyer level, but easily called upon if extra dinner guests arrive.

Epoxy Flooring the New Polished Concrete

Epoxy flooring isn’t just for warehouses and hospitals anymore. Just ask designer James Saavedra, whose home boasts white epoxy floors that are as sleek and reflective as the Ralph Pucci gallery. The surface isn’t just pretty—it’s tough: “I’ve shattered mason jars on this floor filled with Bolognese, and let me tell you, the floor is victorious every time,” Saavedra says. Anyone else wondering what epoxy is? We’ll save you a google: It’s a synthetic material that’s got something to do with thermosetting polymers containing epoxide. In short, it’s a really strong plastic.
When Saavedra decided to use epoxy flooring to brighten up his 700-square-foot Austin, Texas home, numerous vendors told him it was a bad idea. He was dealing with pre-existing concrete that had been poorly maintained. The epoxy, which must be spread by hand, was sure to have small imperfections. But Saavedra had his mind set. So, he dished out a little more to have the floors prepped (epoxy costs about the same as a good quality pre-finished wood flooring), then crashed at a friend’s house for six days: three days to prep the floors, one to pour the epoxy, and two to let it cure. The result is stunning.
“The floor is one of the best decisions I made, because when you wish to live uncluttered and deliberate, it really elevates what lives in your space,” Saavedra says.
Sold on epoxy floors? A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to their upkeep. Clearly, they are quite slippery when wet. You’ll want to lose your shoes at the door and put felt pads under furniture (things you’d likely do anyway). According to Saavedra, a magic eraser works wonders for any marks. Best of all? Epoxy is great under bare feet, but it’s even better for sliding through the house in your socks. So stop lacquering your walls and take to the floor.

Show Off a Textile in Your Home

One of the best keepsakes to bring back from faraway travels is a textile. (Or, of course, you can source them from your favorite local designers; more wooly Scottish tartans and Chinese damasks for us.) Not only does a textile fold up nicely to fit inside your suitcase for the return trip home, it tells the story of another time and place. And it’s just the start of something: How you choose to show it off (or squirrel it away) in your home is entirely up to you. But in case you find the prospect overwhelming or the thought of committing terrifying—if I make it a pillow it can never again be used as a throw for the sofa!—we rounded up some designer-approved ideas to help a textile lover out. Here are six ways that textile designers and textile-loving designers like to show them off (none of which involve pillows, because you already know you can do that).
Framed
“I love the way framing really showcases the handwork of a textile,” says St. Frank designer Christina Bryant, who built an entire business around selling framed textiles. She prefers an acrylic box frame “because it shows off the three-dimensionality and texture of the piece” and “lends itself to sharing the history behind the piece—whether the craft method and motif or your personal connection to it.” I.e., you’ll be more inclined to tell your friends about it.
Turned into a headboard
Designer Frances Merrill, of Reath Design, turned this African textile into a headboard by backing and upholstering it with light padding so that it would be comfortable to lean on. The project was completed for client’s house in the Windsor Square area of L.A.

Pantry Ideas for a Seriously Stylish

The key to a spotless kitchen is a well-organized pantry. These two spaces make a perfect team, with the kitchen doing the heavy lifting in terms of prep and the pantry providing plenty of room to stash tools, ingredients, and serving pieces. While storage is the centerpiece of the pantry and should be the main consideration when it comes to design, the space can do double duty as a bar or a secondary prep area for food and floral arrangements. It can also serve as a showcase for collections of glassware and china, on open shelving, in glass-front cabinets, or even on the wall. See how Steven Gambrel, Barbara Westbrook, Ray Booth, and other designers have created highly organized and beautifully functional pantry spaces.

In the pantry of a Bridgehampton, New York, home designed by Steven Gambrel, a white-oak ladder by Putnam Rolling Ladder Co. makes the tall shelves easily accessible; polished-nickel pendant lamps by Hudson Valley Lighting illuminate the space.

Antique Wedgwood and Coalport china is stored in the pantry of architect Jim Joseph and musical theater composer Scott Frankel’s upstate New York home.

The pantry of architect Alison Spear’s Hudson Valley, New York, home is outfitted with a 1930s pendant light and heirloom china; the dishwasher is by Miele.

In the Nashville, Tennessee, home he shares with his partner, TV executive John Shea, designer Ray Booth devised a working pantry lined with open shelves for tableware. The sink and fittings are by Kohler.

Designer Barbara Westbrook fashioned a gracious, party-ready home boasting two pantries for longtime clients in South Carolina. In the butler’s pantry, diamond-pattern glass door fronts and a crystal chandelier lend a dressed-up look to the cabinetry.

Apartment on a Portrait

While it is still practice in certain circles to commission original portraits of one’s illustrious family members, and hang them in ye hallowed halls of one’s illustrious family estate, the practice is surely not as common now as in the days of yore. And yet hanging portraiture remains as popular as ever. The good news for anyone without a photogenic aunt (or without the budget to commission original art) is that it’s arguably trendier to hang a portrait of a complete stranger rather than to commission one yourself. They crop up all the time at auctions and estate sales and fleas, where they can be snatched up by any passing hipster with a shallow shelf to lean it on.
Pretty? Definitely. Weird? Yeah a little. (A.k.a. the perfect mix.) Here are some examples of portraiture from our archives—by both famous artists and artists unknown—to inspire the placement of your new stranger friend. And if you want to tell everyone it’s a distant relative, be our guest.

Put down the needle and thread; back away from your sewing machine. DIY upholstery, a simple technique that will have you re-covering chairs, benches, headboards, and even box springs with your own two hands, requires only one tool, and it’s a staple gun. The method is not unlike wrapping a present, and the results are more professional-looking than you can imagine. We spoke with Ana Verdi, the designer at Thompson Fine Home Renovation, to learn what crafty beginners should know before tackling their first DIY upholstery project.
What’s Possible?
Verdi’s rule of thumb: “Anything with straight lines” can probably be upholstered successfully by a beginner. (Side note: Here’s how to know if you’re out of your league.) “Once you get into any sort of curved arm, the process can be trickier if you’re not confident making a pleat,” she explains. The square seat of a dining room chair or a rectangular bench top are the obvious contenders for a first project, but Verdi says bigger isn’t necessarily more complex: “You can upholster a box spring and screw legs onto it so it looks like an upholstered bed.”
What Tools Will I Need?
Fabric: Upholstery-weight will work best for any high-wear situations like seating, though Verdi says that you can get around that by having a less durable fabric backed by a seamstress, or by laying down a piece of canvas or muslin underneath it.
Batting: Inexpensive, puffy sheets of cotton wadding that create the cushy puff under the fabric.
Staple Gun: A hand staple gun will get the job done, though investing in a pneumatic model (not too much pricier) will save you quite a bit of labor.
Hammer: For tapping in flourishes like nailheads or grommets. “An easy trick is to wrap your hammer with batting and secure that with a rubber band,” says Verdi, which will protect those accents you’re hammering in from scratching.
Upholstery Tack Strip: Essentially a long, skinny strip of double-stick cardboard, tack strip is used to create a clean finished seam on straight-edged upholstery. Here’s how you use it.

The fanciest tool you’ll need is a staple gun

Put down the needle and thread; back away from your sewing machine. DIY upholstery, a simple technique that will have you re-covering chairs, benches, headboards, and even box springs with your own two hands, requires only one tool, and it’s a staple gun. The method is not unlike wrapping a present, and the results are more professional-looking than you can imagine. We spoke with Ana Verdi, the designer at Thompson Fine Home Renovation, to learn what crafty beginners should know before tackling their first DIY upholstery project.
What’s Possible?
Verdi’s rule of thumb: “Anything with straight lines” can probably be upholstered successfully by a beginner. (Side note: Here’s how to know if you’re out of your league.) “Once you get into any sort of curved arm, the process can be trickier if you’re not confident making a pleat,” she explains. The square seat of a dining room chair or a rectangular bench top are the obvious contenders for a first project, but Verdi says bigger isn’t necessarily more complex: “You can upholster a box spring and screw legs onto it so it looks like an upholstered bed.”
What Tools Will I Need?
Fabric: Upholstery-weight will work best for any high-wear situations like seating, though Verdi says that you can get around that by having a less durable fabric backed by a seamstress, or by laying down a piece of canvas or muslin underneath it.
Batting: Inexpensive, puffy sheets of cotton wadding that create the cushy puff under the fabric.
Staple Gun: A hand staple gun will get the job done, though investing in a pneumatic model (not too much pricier) will save you quite a bit of labor.
Hammer: For tapping in flourishes like nailheads or grommets. “An easy trick is to wrap your hammer with batting and secure that with a rubber band,” says Verdi, which will protect those accents you’re hammering in from scratching.
Upholstery Tack Strip: Essentially a long, skinny strip of double-stick cardboard, tack strip is used to create a clean finished seam on straight-edged upholstery. Here’s how you use it.

How To Take Care of Indoor Plants

Growing tired of a lifeless interior? Or maybe your room’s a blank canvas ready for its first dash of color. The best indoor plants can add just the right amount of intrigue—they’re free-form and organic yet clean and sculptural; they delight with their unpredictability yet reassure with their steady presence. And their life span, thankfully, is much longer than that of cut flowers. But when considering plants in a room’s design, there are a few things to take into account. Architectural Digest caught up with horticulturist Dennis Schrader from Landcraft Environments in Mattituck, New York, to get the dirt.
“You have to think of the container it’s going in like a piece of furniture,” Schrader says. “It should match the interior.” As for the plant, you’ll want to coordinate that as well. Below is a guide to appealing options and their respective requirements, but first, what if you choose to incorporate more than one plant into your design scheme? Schrader advises grouping plants the way they naturally grow. “You don’t want to put a fern next to a cactus,” he says. And what’s more, plants that grow together will have similar needs, making it easier on the caretaker. As for how many to include, he says, “That all depends on how many you want to take care of.”
Finally, location should be dictated primarily by the plant’s light requirements and then by the owner’s taste. Try a plant here or there and see what looks good to you, and don’t be afraid to move it around over time. For smaller plants, Schrader says, “you can use them as a table setting, then move them to a window sill later on.”
Fiddle-Leaf Fig Tree (Ficus lyrata)
This shrub boasts a long, elegant stem and branches with broad, leathery leaves. For placement, Schrader suggests “under a skylight or next to a window.” In other words, it needs as much sun as possible. Schrader suggests pruning the top branches when it grows above the window frame.
Split-Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa)
Favored by Henri Matisse, this plant has a distinctive leaf that looks as though it’s been gently cut into by a careful hand. Schrader says you can cut off the top—as long as it has air roots attached—and replant it, meaning if you buy one of these, you could easily have more, if you’d like.

Storage Spaces Ideas

When you’ve been living in an apartment day in and day out, it’s sometimes hard to see the place with fresh eyes. Looking for extra storage space is therefore typically a fruitless task—because if it were there, you’d have noticed it, right? But the following five locations are strangely evasive despite being relatively common. Your apartment probably has one or two of them; you just might not have realized you can stow something there at all. Go forth and maximize your storage options without having to move into a bigger place.
Above the Kitchen Cabinets
Though difficult to know what to do with, that shelf of open space above the kitchen cabinets should be utilized—and not just to stash the party platters you use only once a year. Here are our favorite creative ways to optimize that shelf (think: a big beautiful basket that hides six extra paper towel rolls).
Inside a Windowsill
If you’re lucky enough to have a window with deep casements, you can prop up a floating shelf or two inside that recess. Prop them out with potted plants and ginger jars or go the more utilitarian route: A collection of glassware is a doubly appealing set to display because the light will stream right through it.

Airspace
By screwing a hook into a ceiling joist, you’re halfway to the hanging storage solution of your dreams. (For lighter loads, you can use a butterfly bolt to affix a hook to the drywall ceiling.) Hang bikes, shelves, or even seating—and free up the floor space underneath it.