The husband-and-wife team of Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller founded Carrier and Company Interiors in 2005. Their design ranges from bohemian glamour to modern luxury, landing them on the Architectural Digest AD 100 and the Elle Decor A-list, with clients that include Anna Wintour and Jason Wu. Their new book is “Positively Chic Interiors.” They joined staff writer Jura Koncius for The Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: How will the pandemic change interior design?
A: We suspect the biggest trend that will come out of the pandemic will be really functional home office and schooling spaces. It may change bedroom counts and floor plans; spaces will be carved out to protect work and privacy more.
Q: I would like to reorganize my bookshelves. Any advice?
A: Negative space is the key — to make space between and around books. Vary the shelves by laying large books horizontally. Put an object or framed picture on top of it, or balance a stack with an object. Repetition is a good trick if you have a lot of space to fill; filling one row of shelves with a single series is striking.
Q: How can I refresh my home without shopping during stay-at-home orders?
A: The first step is a deep cleaning. It’s always helpful to remove all the accessories from a room and start over. If you’re really ambitious, gather items from all over the house and switch it up. You can accomplish a lot of change just with art and accessories. Negative space makes everything look stylish and modern.
Q: After 35 years with a wooden bed frame, I’m changing it up with an upholstered bed. Any tips?
A: We use a lot of upholstered beds in our work because they add so much softness and comfort to a bedroom. Think about the base: Do you like the tradition of a soft dust skirt rather than a frame? Do you like the look of a large side rail that is closer to the ground, which looks more modern, or narrower rails on decorative legs? Once you decide what headboard style you like, check out the other details to find your best bed.
Q: How do you use flowers in your indoor space to cheer it up?
A: We tend to use a single flower rather than arrangements. A single flower lets you bring in something pretty, but it feels modern and takes less skill to put together. We like how they look in tiny vases and bottles.
Q: I need new pillows in my den and living room. What are some good online resources that have nicer products than the chain stores?
A: Try Artemisia, which makes custom pillows using designer fabrics. Studio Four NYC has an online shop with pillows from its represented fabrics. We also like Mecox Gardens, John Robshaw, Hable Construction and Hollywood at Home.
Q: What pieces would you recommend a client invest in, and what items can be more budget-friendly?
A: That depends on the person. People generally have to balance their spending with what they need from the investment. An antique carpet could be a great investment piece, because the look and color set the tone for an entire room. Beds are nice to invest in, because they don’t get the same kind of wear and tear that a sofa may take. Sometimes we spend more money to put a quality frame and fabrics on the sofa in the family room, which will take a daily beating, and use a lesser piece in a formal living room that gets less and more careful use. Make sure your seating is comfortable. A great light fixture can complete a room’s style and raise everything else in the room. You can find lots of great coffee tables, side tables, lamps and dressers at all kinds of price points more easily than the other items mentioned above if you’re willing to shop a lot.
Q: What do you consider chic?
A: Chic is about personal expression that is edited just enough to be stylish and welcoming. There’s a daring quality, because you’re exposing yourself with a personalized home by expressing yourself through your interior. It isn’t cookie-cutter or hotel-like if it’s a reflection of you.
Q: What are some small things we can do with our rooms to work toward the balance of modern and timeless that you deploy in your designs?
A: It’s all about the mix. We tend to incorporate simple things that act as visual neutrals, such as a Parsons or waterfall coffee table, and add pieces with more personality. The relative proportion of traditional to modern also matters. A little bit of contrast goes a long way.
Q: Are neutrals still a strong trend?
A: Neutrals will always be the backbone of design, because they’re safe and soothing color choices. We love all colors, but clients still love all shades of blue. We also like lavender when it’s used in a grown-up way; it’s almost like a gray, but with more red in it.
Q: I’m getting ready to move out West. I want to have a log-cabin vibe in my place, but I don’t want it to look like an actual cabin. How can I decorate in that style?
A: Don’t overdo it with wood. Stick to natural woods and fabrics in checks, plaids and solids. Skip the antler chandelier; think more industrial with fewer exposed bolts to keep it rustic and clean.