Diane Vallere lives in a world where popcorn is a breakfast food and Doris Day movies are revered for their cultural significance. After over twenty years in the fashion industry, she now writes full time from her home in Los Angeles, California. She launched her own detective agency at ten years old and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.
My name is Madison Night. I own my own mid-century modern interior decorating business in Lakewood, Texas. I didn’t arrive at my decorating education through college, but instead from a lifelong love of watching Doris Day movies. The sets of movies like Pillow Talk, That Touch of Mink, Lover Come Back, and The Thrill of it All provide ample inspiration and act as a kind of documentary for me when it comes to designing a room from that era.
But first: Here’s how I approach a new room design, which I think is a concept that would be successful across various decorating styles. I ask the owners to show me their absolute favorite item in the room. Sometimes it’s a lamp they bought at a yard sale. Sometimes it’s a painting. Sometimes it’s a cookie jar they inherited from a favorite family member. Most of the time it’s an oddball piece that seems not to fit. My job is to design a room around that piece, to look at what is already there and determine what fits and what doesn’t. (Side note: once, when a homicide detective mocked my job, I pointed out that what I do when designing a room is very similar to what he does when assessing clues--look at what is there, figure out what fits and what doesn’t. But that’s a story for another day.)
Using pictures from a room I designed for a client who write mysteries, I’ll show how her dining room came together.
We started with a lamp that she bought for $10 at a flea market.
Next, I suggested yellow walls, a classic color from the midcentury era, and a nice complement to the turquoise and white of the lamp.
I installed floating shelves from IKEA next to the lamp and added more mid-century knickknacks from the client’s collection, along with a whimsical painting by Los Angeles artist Josh Hickman.
Since this is a dining room, we knew the table and chairs would constitute the major focus of the room. One wall was dissected with windows, so my focus became the remaining wall. I anchored the wall with a silly framed work of yarn art found at a flea market, and mirrored the floating shelf/knickknack display on the opposite side to create balance. The client invested in a Saarinen-style tulip table and chairs (in yellow to coordinate with the walls) and the room was complete.
Mid-century design relies on concepts of minimalism and right angles, but also embraces color and whimsy. And even though this style is my specialty, I think there are a few takeaways here for you, regardless of your style:
1. Identify your favorite item in a room and rebuild the room around that item.
2. Don’t be afraid of paint.
3. Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but it should show personality.
4. Don’t ignore DIY and chain stores when it comes to things like storage or shelving. Home Depot, Lowes, Target, IKEA, and The Container Store are a few of my favorites.
5. Flea markets are your friend.
6. Fresh flowers are just good sense!
If you love mid-century design and Doris Day like I do, you’ll enjoy these resources: Atomic Ranch Magazine [http://www.atomic-ranch.com/], retro renovation [http://retrorenovation.com/], Discovering Doris [http://www.dorisdaytribute.com/blog/].
Next time you redecorate, remember to have fun!
That Touch of Ink
When mid-century modern interior decorator Madison Night receives a five thousand dollar bill in the mail, she knows it’s a message from her past. Doris Day movies help with inspiration for her business, but her favorite actress can’t help when Madison’s lover comes back. After finding a corpse at a local numismatist, she follows a circuit of rare dollars and common sense to expose a kidnapping plot, a counterfeit operation, and the true price of her independence.