It’s a game-changer to find a piece that can be a chameleon, enhancing many different spaces without growing stale. Three designers share their tried-and-true favorites.
Walls That Talk
“Over the last several years, my collaboration with Oakland-based painter Caroline Lizarraga to create custom murals for clients has become one of my favorite parts of the design process. I first contacted her to create an abstract design for my home—a blobby black and white mural in my great room with layers of deep olive green and gold threaded through it. The resulting vision was so exciting that we ended up working together on several more projects, including a client’s bedroom with a periwinkle mural painted to look as if we dip-dyed swabs of silk and threw them against the wall. Caroline’s singular combination of artistic mastery and vision has become a jumping-off point for so much of the creativity that my team and I are able to conjure. Just knowing that whatever wild or bizarre concept we cook up—hot pink billowing fabric, rainbow geodes or abstract ceiling fresco—could actually become a real-life decorative surface allows me to think outside the box and push the bounds of what our walls and ceilings, and even the faces of our furniture, can become. Commissioning custom decorative artwork also transforms the experience of a home. With a canvas or fine art in a frame, you can consider them simultaneously a piece of art you love and an investment that you can take with you; with decorative artwork, it goes directly onto the walls, ceiling or floor of a property and you don’t take it with you. There’s something really powerful about that message for a client: ‘I’m investing in me, this time in my life and my story.’” —Noz Nozawa, Noz Design, California
“I throw a patterned pillow in almost every single project. A lot of people feel like interior design is not approachable because it’s expensive, and sometimes that can be intimidating for a prospective client. I like to do things that are more accessible, more approachable and more livable—that’s what I think patterned pillows do. In 2019, I designed a townhouse for clients in Atlanta that was very muted, but the clients wanted something that felt comfortable, not stuffy. I used geometric patterned pillows in navy and light gray to contrast the dark gray sofa and to add a fun element to the space while making it more casual and personable. I always tell people, ‘It’s not that difficult to make a space pretty; it’s much more difficult to make it functional,’ so I like to make things interchangeable. A lot of people like to change their interiors with the season, and you can do that easily with pillows by playing with patterns without changing the room’s overall design. I use Etsy a lot because I love to support small businesses, and I find pieces that are special and original there. I do lots of geometric textiles on pillows, and a Greek key on pillows is my absolute favorite. I always make sure that the pillows complement the space, whether that’s through color or repetition.” —Justin Q. Williams, TradeMark Design Co., Georgia
“The Saarinen Executive chair from Knoll is iconic whether it’s used at a desk or for dining. It was designed 70 years ago, yet it looks like it debuted yesterday because it’s so fresh and modern. You can put any fabric on it, whether dressed up or down, and it appeals in so many different scenarios. If we’re using it for a breakfast table, we’ll use leather to give it a sleek finish that is easy to clean, because that’s where family meals are happening. If it’s at a dining table, I go with more natural fabrics like wool, boucle or even a patterned textile to dress it up. The style of the chair is so simple and clean, but it really creates a strong presence wherever it is. It doesn’t have a big wood frame or a lot of detail. The curved legs are really simple and beautiful on their own, and the curve of the back is so comfortable whether you’re tall or short—you don’t even notice that you’re sitting in the chair after a while.” —Kristen Rivoli, Kristen Rivoli Interior Design, Massachusetts
Homepage image: Nozawa collaborates with Lizgarra to create custom interior murals that make a highly personalized statement | Courtesy of Christopher Stark