Last night New Orleans-based decorator Melissa Rufty generously took time to share with me a bit of her design philosophy. She felt that much of what she had to say is tried-and-true advice that you've heard from others before, but I think, nonetheless, you'll enjoy a short recap of her perspective.
First and foremost, as Melissa's mom says, a room should never look as though all its contents arrived on the same day.
Melissa brings verve to her projects but she does not impose a signature look on her clients.
She says, "I think it is so important that people stay true to who they are amid all of the trends. With so many great design mantras and styles available to us, it's hard to not get swept away....and confused! Your house should be a collection of who you are, not the designer of the moment. Again, some of my favorite houses tell the client's story not mine."
In general, she makes a big splash with upholstery -- sometimes curtains -- but she thinks color and pattern become less trendy when surrounded by timeless pieces. So, her wood floors are usually natural, the patina of old furniture is left alone, and she uses beautiful oriental rugs.
"Nothing excites me more than taking the Sheraton sofa inherited from grandmom and 'giving it a new set of wheels,' like bold ikat upholstery, or taking a mundane Queen Anne chair and covering it in cream patent leather. My advice is for people to become comfortable with the things that they have and try to look at them in a new way. The end result will be a personal and confident sense of style -- layered of course."
She continues, "I really don't have a set rule for art -- a collection should be just that, acquired over time and personal. Therefore the layering is inherent. I personally love mixing contemporary artists' work with old portraits and rich oils. In the same way, I love putting a vibrant pattern on a directoire chair."
Melissa also feels that color can get a bit cutesy and saccharine if it's not complex and layered. "For me the key to using color is to really commit -- if you're going to be a bear, why not be a grizzly!"