Thomas Pheasant, a Washington-based interior designer and author of Thomas Pheasant: Simply Serene, shared some insights recently on the Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an excerpt.
Q: What is your favorite white paint color, and what color should ceilings be to pair with it?
A: My favorite white is Benjamin Moore's Ivory White. It's bright and warm. I tend to make my ceilings slightly whiter than my trim, since they typically look darker than the walls.
Q: I recently moved into a new house, and I love the paint color (neutral, warm beige/light brown). However, I want to add a splash of color in the living room. Are accent walls still acceptable? Is there anything I should avoid or consider when doing this?
A: Pick a color accent you love and try to place it in a few areas in the room: pillows, a rug, a grouping of ceramics. It is important to incorporate the color within the space so the accent wall does not appear to be the alien in the room.
Q: I inherited my mom's antique farmhouse table and hutch, which I love and want to use, but I have a fairly modern kitchen. Do you have suggestions for integrating them so they look like they fit in?
A: When I select furniture, I look at each piece for its beauty and quality. I have found that if I hold the same standards to any piece, whether modern or antique, they always look great when I mix them together. I think there is a chic quality to collecting through a careful eye. If your antique farm table is beautiful, use it.
Q: I just bought an 800-square-foot condo. It has plenty of light and great views. However, I realized that outside of just hanging up pictures I had at my last apartment, I have no idea what to do. How many pictures are too many to hang up?
A: First rule of good decorating: Do not put anything in your home that you do not love. I have been in homes where the people or their decorators have covered the walls and tables with collectibles that do not mean anything to the owners. I really believe that your home should reflect you: your loves and your experiences. Be critical. Look at the pieces you have and carefully separate the pieces that make you smile from the pieces that you have no connection with. Give away the latter and begin to work with those pieces you like. One piece on a wall that you love is worth a museum of paintings you know nothing about.
Q: How does the average person create a more serene family room?
A: Organization. When I work on family houses, I am always aware of the multipurpose demands on family rooms. I try to find ways to incorporate as much storage as possible to take care of stuff: kids' stuff, books, newspapers, school projects. Coffee tables with drawers, a TV hung on a wall and not resting on a cabinet. Anything to control the chaos.
Q: In the high-end home design magazines, I'm now seeing many more pictures featuring furnishings in purple/lavender/aubergine colors. Is purple, and variations of the color, a trend for the future?
A: Okay, you are talking to the king of the serene interior!! Honestly, I am a big fan of color and the editors are always in need to set a new color trend . . . orange, lime, purple have all been thrown at us. I take color direction for the clients I work with. Color is a personal choice . . . pick what you like because living with a trend that is not you is never a good choice.
Q: Can you tell us anything about what you are doing in Blair House?
A: I was so honored when Blair House approached me. As a native Washingtonian, I have a special connection and love for my city. Blair House has had some legendary designers work within its doors . . . Buatta, Mark Hampton . . . no pressure!! Because Blair House is an active guest house for the White House, there is a lot of daily wear and tear on the spaces. Currently I am redesigning two guest suites and the main library along with a few bathrooms. Each year we will focus our attention on spaces needing updating. We have a small window to work when the house is closed to guests. It will be an ongoing project for as long as they want me to stay. I ran into Mario Buatta last week in New York. I told him that I loved the work he did at Blair House and that I was keeping his room as is and just replacing worn fabrics with his exact selections. I think there is beauty in maintaining beautiful efforts by others as well and making your own mark.
Q: Who served as inspiration for your career in design? And where do you see the key distinction(s) in your styles?
A: Please read my new book . . . (plug intended). I have been on my own personal evolution since I started my career in design. I have been inspired by so many people and places that it is hard to list them. I do believe that my "style" or signature is the ability to created serene interiors that are not bound by tradition or modern surroundings. I believe in the emotional power interiors can project . I also am certain that this signature had brought me an amazing diverse group of clients that have pushed me along my evolutionary road.