Emily Kiker Morrow: Perfect English ~ English design, that is…why we love it!

What is it that we all love about “English” design? Is it their “English way” of making “clutter” look elegant? Layered rugs, stacked books, plump down pillows and decadently rich leathers…all of these details are what I associate with “classic” english interiors. Not to say that we aren’t fascinated with the arrival of Prince George Alexander Louis or what The Duchess of Cambridge will be wearing…we are…but who doesn’t appreciate the look and feel of “English” homes. They feel curated…in the best sense of the word. Mark Gillette Interior Design: Press coverage - English Home August 2012

English interiors, in my mind, are typically full of natural light and soothing woolish neutrals, not the dark and dreary interiors that one associates with Harry Potter movies. Comfort is key…where bespoke materials are lavishly used. Wood floors and furniture are lovingly cared and have “perfectly patinaed” surfaces. “Reclaimed” wood is a given…although the materials are not dredged out of a tobacco mill or from the bottom of a river, but rather exist exactly as the craftsman intended, in its original location. “Aging in place” has an entirely different meaning when it comes to wood millwork…it’s cared for and respected for generations upon generations.

home of English designer Rose Uniacke

Do we “romaticize” about what we imagine “English” families have in their homes, yes of course. That’s for certain ~ but I do love the “idea” of what we all think and feel “english design” represents. 

(by Plain English Designs - Chelsea Studio)

Stay tuned for more thoughts on English Design as my family and I report back from our trek to England. We plan to squeeze as much beauty and history as we possibly can and bring the memories back to cherish for a lifetime. 

Union Jack

Emily Kiker Morrow on designing with wood…wood is good!


If you have a chance to go to the link for Michael Green’s talk about building skyscrapers of wood at TED 2013, you’ll be rewarded. It’s a brief and inspiring talk that will leave you with a renewed love and appreciation for the beauty of wood as a building material. 

We’ve talked a lot about the warmth, character and quality that wood brings to interiors, but what we haven’t considered enough is the fact that its’s truly good to use wood..good, as in good for us. In his TED talk, Michael Green says “Wood gives Mother Nature fingerprints in our buildings…and makes our buildings connect with us through nature”…”that it’s the only building material that is grown by the sun…and has an amazing capacity to store carbon.”

Last year I was invited to judge the senior interior design students’ final projects, many of whom were directed to use materials that were “sustainable”. One student in particular was reprimanded by her professor for specifying “new” not “reclaimed” North American hardwood floors. Once it was the jury’s turn to provide feedback, I congratulated the student for choosing wood floors since they were domestically grown, and made in the USA. The professor actually deducted points off of the student’s grade for the final project because she argued that wood is not in plentiful supply…not true here in USA. I hope many will find gratification in knowing that our North American forests are responsibly forested, are providing jobs and building materials that are not only beautiful but are “good” in infinite ways. It’s no wonder we see consumers and designers drawn to all things wood or wood-inspired. Wood, it does us all good!

Emily Morrow: Black & White Take The Stage

 Black & White Take Center Stage Black is the new black.  #zincdoor #colorcrave #black



Black and white is taking over interiors and the fashion world with bold stripes, dots, classic houndstooths, ikats and even in the returning “Chinoiserie” designs. It’s no surprise that we’re experiencing a renewed interest in this high contrast combination, since we’ve been living in a “gray, gray world”. When combined, black and white are the origins of gray, color-wise but they also are the most visually impactful. We are in the midst of an “Op Art” explosion where art is applied to what we wear and what we bring into our homes.

Black & White Interiors


Classic Chic Home: Simply Stunning Black & White Interiors


What makes black and white work is that it transcends being pidgeon-holed into any one specific “design style”. In other words, one can find B&W in traditional interiors on classic chair designs, in modern interiors as glossy lacquered chests, in Palm Beach style interiors accented with preppy pinks and greens.

B&W with blue pop..bathroom color combo?!?


Today, consumers and designers alike are living with a wide range of styles. Getting the “mix” right is what separates the rookies from the seasoned professionals, taking the expected and making it unexpected. Strictly formal and traditional interiors tend to feel too rigid for most busy people and there’s this inner need to feather our nests with what’s comforting and colorful.

Looking at textiles for pillows, windows, bedding and upholstery, one can find a plethora of black and white globally-inspired patterns that are infused with classic or natural elements. An example of this blending of patterns is the classic zebra motif which has become “herringboned”, or a houndstooth whose check has become blurred into a near-ikat.  We see that interiors as a whole are lightening and brightening as we are experiencing a more optimistic attitude about our economy. With this lightening and brightening, the color combinations are critical. Striking the right balance between “just right” and “just wrong” depends on the number of bright colors and where they are placed.

belle maison: Classic Black & White Interiors


Seeing your floors or walls as the perfect canvasses onto which we can design, is the right approach. Personally, I begin with the “foundation”, carpet or hardwood floors, in order to build a design scheme that works best. If you plan to bring in vivid colors in your pillows and artwork, then keeping your floors subdued is key. This approach doesn’t require “beige” but can include, grays, pale aqua, or even pistachio green. Keeping your walls quiet gives you greater license to bring in more vibrant color to the floor, be it classic “bokhara red” or “emerald green”.

Positively Inspired (2010). Truro chair, Velvet Gate fabric, Cap Deluca wallpaper.


Attention to detail is the finishing touch on any interior. It’s the same process as adding a few key pieces of jewelry to a nearly stunning outfit. Exposed nail heads on upholstery, luxurious tassels and fringe on panel draperies, chiseled edges on hardwood flooring, or subtly contrasted patterns in a beautiful faux bois carpet design. Details make all the difference.The kitchen island. Design: Mick De Giulio. Photo: Chris Eckert. housebeautiful.com #kitchen #bar_stools #kitchen_island #koty


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