The interior decorator’s secret to mixing pattern, color, old and new

FORMAL BUT but whimsical, the dining room at Chris Barnes and Maisha Closson’s home in Los Angeles’ West Adams neighborhood is full of hugely disparate design references. How did local designer Dee Murphy, founder of Murphy Deedesign, convince a wavy-fronted mahogany sideboard to coexist with chairs as rigidly linear as Pierre Jeanneret’s 1950s designs? a dining table lined with an antique Turkish oushak rug? Shouldn’t the mix be as shocking as it sounds? Expert layering, Ms. Murphy said, is all about combining hues, materials and shapes, not periods. “Anything that has a history and has stood the test of time, those parts that you can always use no matter what,” she said.


How do you balance design elements from different decades and styles? Join the conversation below.

The aesthetic glue that unifies the seemingly random components of the dining room begins with the choice of Strawberry Thief wallpaper by William Morris. The Arts and Crafts motif, from 1883, features rhythmic flowers of flora and fauna in enthusiastic colors. Her rich blues and pops of luscious berry red led Ms. Murphy to choose pieces in pleasing hues and shapes. “When I look at this room, what really connects it and calms it down are the paint, the wallpaper, the window treatments and the carpet. These were the basic pieces, the starting points.

Here, the other decisions that helped this rowdy collection of items come together.


Zeke Ruelas

Botanical engineering

Ms Murphy admits that she would normally have placed the finely detailed Indian chests against a less choppy, larger-scale wallpaper pattern. “But there was something about those chests and the black and white nature that looked pretty neutral with equally loaded paper,” she said. The camel bone inlay, which depicts flat petal flowers and spirals of climbing plants, also helps small dressers take hold of the wall covering. Just as you can use a cohesive palette to make a motley assortment of items feel family-friendly, she said, “you can use cohesive themes to tie pieces together.” Nickey Kehoe’s scalloped-edged sconces hint at the red berries in the print, and the lyrical arches and color palette of the paint similarly reinforce the patterns on the paper.


Zeke Ruelas

Dissonance and harmony

The brass base of the walnut wood dining table has been shaped into a butterfly or triangle shape. “It’s a contrast, isn’t it?” And a tension ”, explained the creator. “The slab of the table has a more masculine side because it is large, it is heavy, it is wood. Then you have the curves of the legs supporting it, and it’s more feminine. An industrial or heavy base would have been much more predictable and would have created a group of tilted feet. Modernist chairs and bohemian mirrors, respectively masculine and feminine, resolve their tension thanks to matching organic materials: rattan and wicker. “It’s very subtle, but it’s something a discerning eye can see,” Ms. Murphy said. “There’s a reason he feels fluid.”


Zeke Ruelas

Curve balls and linear drives

Interior designer Dee Murphy carefully weighed the formal qualities of the furnishings she included in the dining room at this home in Los Angeles’ West Adams neighborhood. “Most rooms are square or rectangular, so you want to compensate for that and put a nice, sinuous movement in the room,” she said. The rippling wallpaper pattern, the federal style sideboard in the arched front, the loop wicker mirror frames, all contribute to the roundness. At the same time, angles and lines are needed to create dissonance. The clean-edged chairs were an inspired addition to the heart of the dining room, as was the slim, horizontal contemporary chandelier. From her decision to hang a series of three small mirrors from France, she explained that repeating a single object allows you to make a statement but is not garish. “If I had tried adding a vintage, French and gold mirror, it would have taken this moment a bit too over the top.”


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