by Marisa Marcantonio

Betsy Burnham Design's work is the epitome of the interiors coming out of LA right now -- casual, new traditional and fun. Her fearless and free layering of bold color and festive prints have sunny California verve. The results are livable rooms that are not for the faint of heart. Coming from a fashion background, the transition into home design was a natural one. Fourteen years ago, she had a party in her home that caught the eye of a guest. They soon hired her, and from there she was off and running.

Photo by Patrick Cline
Betsy's office mixes trad plaid, hints of black, bamboo chandeliers, and a giant Parson's table where she spreads out her samples and gets to work.

Photo by Patrick Cline
A room scheme comes together on a board in her office. It sits beside a standing lamp with a Burnham Design signature element, a Union Jack shade.

Photo by Grey Crawford
A home office Betsy did in Benedict Canyon mixes a Quadrille chocolate brown and white print on the desk chair with a ruby red De Gourney wallpaper. The unexpected zebra rug and blue and white urn take this room into the territory of beyond fabulous.

Photo by Matthew Millman for Western Interiors
Using a classic set up of a screen behind a headboard, Betsy pulled the celadon and pink colors from the Chinese screen together through the lampshade and bedding choices. Clean lines of a Parson's style nightstand keep the traditional aspects in the room fresh.

Who did you work for and where did you study to learn the trade?

I’m basically self-taught. I mean, I have a creative background: I studied fine art undergrad at Dartmouth, and after graduating, I worked in the fashion industry for about 6 years. when I moved out here, I studied for a year in the interior design program at UCLA extension, which gave me some fundamental drafting and space planning skills. but I did most of my learning (and I’m still learning) on the job, and in collaboration with contractors, architects and colleagues.

When did you know this was your calling in life?

Late-ish. As I said, I’ve always been creative and been interested in and good with color and fabric, but I honestly thought that fashion was where I’d end up. I always had fun with my own homes, and it was a guest of mine who first suggested interior design-she became my first client about 14 years ago.

Do you have a signature look and how would you define it?

Thrift and couture. A mix of patterns, layering of styles, a love of color.

Your work is full of color and fashion forward. What do you think is next regarding trends in color, material, style, influence, historical period and locale?

I definitely had a year of teal, then a summer of grassy greens. but it isn’t always bright color: on our table right now is a neutral room in the works: oatmeal, taupe, cocoa brown mixed with black wood finishes. it looks very fresh to me. also, lately I’m attracted to skirted sofas and am putting them in the same rooms as mid century painting and sculpture. I guess for me, it’s always classic with a twist.

Do you have a favorite fabric pattern or print?

I have so many, but one is “Natchez” by Kravet. It’s a cotton ikat, that comes in several really usable colors and is super reasonably priced. Regardless of trend, ethnic prints remain classic and timeless.

What other designer do you most admire?

Many designers here in LA who I consider my professional peers inspire me: Joe Nye, Peter Dunham, and Suzan Fellman to name a few.

What books do you own old and new that you constantly refer to?

Elle Décor's So Chic, Time Saving Standards for interior design and space planning, Time at Home and A Home For all Seasons.

If you could design your own product collections what would they be and in what style?

That’s easy. I’d love to do fabric and I’d love to design a few rugs. they’d be colorful, and there would have to be some offbeat plaids, some bright paisleys, some sort of variation on camouflage, and of course an animal print or two.

Who would you like most to collaborate with on a project?

The Rug Company (Chris and Suzanne, take note!)

What material do you love?

Cottons and linens. There’s nothing wrong with a soft leather or a good faux snake.

Where do you go to get inspired?

Vintage stores in other cities. My daughter and I found some great ones in Florence this past summer and spent hours poking through clothing and furniture despite some serious heat and humidity.

What stores do you shop in the most?

Weego Home, Lawson Fenning, JF Chen, Hollywood at Home, Barneys, and Ebay. Oh! And 1st dibs. What did we do before that?

What is your favorite project?

I designed a 15,000 square foot house on a private island in northern Michigan on Lake Huron. The clients (3 siblings) are probably my favorites ever: young, cool, wonderfully eccentric and lovers of all things vintage. The entire house is filled with finds from Ebay, vintage stores and auction houses and has a distinctly nautical theme. The results are below.

A nautical navy and white living room with hints of yellow.

The view is the star, so comfortable seating areas with ethnic fabrics complement the scenic aspects.

A wall of French doors in the dining room provide easy access to the outside. For relaxed dinners, comfortable upholstered royal blue high back chairs sit around a dark wood table. Nautical art is hung around the perimeter of the room.


by Marisa Marcantonio

I first met Joe Nye when I was out in Laguna Beach photographing one of his client's houses for House Beautiful. I was struck from the outset by his incredible sense of style and superb use of among many things, color and pattern. Since that time, we have developed both a friendship and a working relationship of mutual respect and admiration.

I worked with Joe some time later to help him build his brand and expand his creative vision with product development. Part of this effort was to work with him on a book with Rizzoli. It has manifested itself in an incredibly charming square format that is filled with glorious pictures of Joe's ideas for table settings and entertaining. Without question, "Flair" comes naturally to Joe -- he has it in spades. The book shows readers how to entertain with panache and discusses choosing invitations, place cards, setting the table and arranging flowers. Joe's high energy and constant creative ideas are inspiring to be around -- his love of fabrics with bold patterns, pretty china, and a vision of how it should come together are ever present. Now that summer is in full swing, entertaining is on many of our minds. How do you create a memorable experience? Well, with Joe Nye's Flair as your guide, your guests will feel especially welcome.

The cover of Flair starts it off with a bang, showing Joe's beloved hand painted Isis ceramics with Juliska's classic black bamboo flatware on a tablecloth made from a fabric that pairs unexpected colors. The book gives a true sense of Joe's ability to create young traditional settings with beautiful decorative elements and high design details. Setting the scene for ladies lunches, birthday celebrations and memorable dinners, the book shares ideas you can use, ways to work with what you already own, and how to tie a whole look together.

We visited the LA flower market, a huge warehouse space with rows and rows of bright bunches. Carnations are a favorite of Joe's so they play a starring role in the book. His pale green sweater looks great against the pale lilac of the Hydrangea.

Red, white and blue is a perennial summer favorite. With the 4th of July coming, this table looks just right. A red toile tablecloth sets the groundwork for mixing high and low. Crate and Barrel lanterns are shown next to Dahlia's in antique silver containers. Use what you have and mix high and low together. To add visual interest, use flutes and lower water glasses at different heights.

Each place setting has a guest gift of Teuscher truffles, flown in daily from Switzerland. Give your guests a sweet little something as a take home gift so the event lingers in their memory. Grab a freshly cut stem and place it at each setting-- it's all in the details.

Baby's Breath, "are much maligned flower" in Joe - speak, used here en masse to great dramatic effect. He teaches us to look singular flower arrangements, and to look at certain types of inexpensive flowers with a new eye. They can look great when done right. Luckily, Joe had great environments to work with. Many of the shoots took place in homes he designed, so he was very familiar with the surroundings!

Every book needs a signature element. In this case, each place setting is shown up close and personal. This way, you get the whole story, show how the varied elements come together. Joe mixed his Flight Barr and Barr antique china with a Home, James! Chinatown Charger. The look is unexpected and fun. For the flowers, he pulled out colors found in the china, and for napkins, a shade of aqua.

Photos by Edmund Barr
Aubergine and kelly green make a great pairing. Don't be afraid to mix and match patterns that are vastly different. The geometric border of Elsie from Charlotte Moss for Pickard works well with my favorite pattern, Chelsea Flowers by Mottahedeh. Purple William Yeoward Crystal goblets bring out the flowers in the china.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Tiny rooms ruled the day at this Kips Bay. Making a space cozy can be as much of a challenge as filling a huge room with seating arrangements. Floral motifs, special painted details and bright color stood out this year. Below are the standouts, providing beautiful ideas, fun elements and unexpected touches. The rooms are spread out over 5 floors of a massive townhouse.
Albert Hadley was the Honorary Chair this year, so many designers added a Hadley element in their rooms to pay tribute. Further uptown, Gerald Bland, antique dealer of all things understated and elegant, mounted a show of Hadley's iconic interior drawings for the occasion. They are worth seeing.

A Christopher Maya vignette greets visitors as they enter the showhouse. Chairs with colored tufting have become one of his signature elements .

He used an ikat print as the dominant pattern the large first floor entry foyer.

A round table grounds the large hall space. His clever use of screens make the space more intimate.

Blue and white Chinese vases dot the mantel and ikat shades on a huge chandelier pull the scheme together.

Small seating arrangements in plum velvet with a wide swath of ikat make for easy conversation.

The first room that guests enter into on the main floor if that of Bunny Williams Inc and Beeline Home, called Tous Dans Un: All In One. I have profiled her collection in the past, seen here, mixed with antiques and fun touches. A red Egg Chair and framed Hadley interior drawings on the mantel are a nod to his favorite color.

Two enormous paintings by British public relations gal turned painter Sarah Graham dominate the room. The bright turquoise and green tie in with the Tiffany blue walls.

Painted sisal with Hadley stars and a bold border add a graphic element to the floor.

A long table serves two purposes-- one side is set for two and the other is a makeshift desk. Mango and turquoise colors create an island feeling in a city setting. Behind the table, a Thomas Hope bookcase grounds the wall.

Amy Lau for Maya Romanoff decorated the first floor staircase with beautiful handmade paper flowers that grew out of paper tree branches. The huge blooms added instant artwork to the vast walls.

Charlotte Moss's created a master bedroom suite,complete with a Michael Devine fabric-draped entrance. In typical Charlotte style, the 2 rooms are girly, with pretty things everywhere. Sumptuous details include embroidery, walls filled with framed artwork, charming small furniture pieces and special antiques.

Matching consoles flank the fabric- filled entryway that lead to the sitting room.

Her vast list of resources were highlighted on a long, framed list that was hung off a 4 sided revolving picture easel. It's all in the details!

D. Porthault linens on a Louis XVI day bed create a relaxing space, very French in feel.

A huge urn of flowers on a pedestal create just the right amount of drama with height and mass.

In addition to the bed and desk area, a casual seating area welcomes guests.

A Jansen desk is loaded with stationery, pretty storage boxes, a small flower arrangement and everything else a busy lady needs at her fingertips. A mini telephone table puts the modern technology to the side, so the beautiful elements are the focal point.

My favorite piece is this low slipper chair, upholstered in a classic floral. It is a spot to perch or put things.

An Italian marble console breaks up the wall that leads from the sitting room to the charming bedroom space. Monochromatic burgundy flowers add a pop of color to the serene palette.

In the bedroom, grey blue De Gournay tea paper offset a solid fabric- draped canopy bed, surrounded by mismatched end tables.

Matthew Patrick Smyth worked with Gloria Vanderbilt, recreating the bedroom of her youth. This 1940s room was faithfully reincarnated from an aunt’s house near Washington Square Park. She lived there when she was 16, after living in hotels up to that point. This was her first real bedroom. A Swedish clock, Indian chair and velvet quilt make for an eclectic, feminine retreat.

Her Washington Mews view in winter is painted at the window, and adds a charming vista through silver grey silk drapery.

Frills can delight a young girl. A sumptuous daybed and linens are soft pink and blue grey. Gloria wrote a message on the Silver leaf wallpaper from Schumacher, giving her room a personal touch.

A 1920's Peacock- filled screen and inlay table sit in the corner-- reminders of her well- traveled youth. The exoticism and mix of these pieces was unexpected in the 1940's.

Joe Nye was inspired by Otto Zenke, a 1960's Palm Beach decorator. Burnt orange walls covered in Phillip Jeffries raffia grass cloth and a mustard yellow ceiling tie the color scheme of his two small rooms together. Pops of color from a Le Menache floral fabric coordinate with Grosfield House Swag back chairs and cabinets from Joe Nye New York at Claremont.

Yellow Peking glass and Orange Crush soda bottles bring humor to the small second sitting room.

Art and color converge with Leger prints. The lesson here is to have fun with decorating.

A black Muirfield bench grounds all of the sunny brightness.

McMillen's room was a barrel- vaulted space they turned into A Gothic Inspired Dining Room. You can tell they had fun with the room. It incorporated whimsical touches-- quirky dining chairs covered in a zig zag stripe added a fantastical quality. Here, a feature wall covered in Stark Brambles showcases Gregory Kuharic's white Gourd Forms from Liz O'Brien. Their unique forms add a playful element.

Color Vibe by Eileen Kathryn Boyd was yet another explosively colorful example. Lime green, orange and hot pink are coordinated through accessories, fabrics and artwork. It was refreshing and lively, perfect for a warm climate.

In contrast, Donald F. Schermerhorn's space called for serenity now. Greys, eggplant and eggshell colors in his Loft Lounge with a floating bed, glass fireplace wall and seating area were a sea of calm.

The solid chair forms are lightened by the floor length panels at the window and vase stands that hold Chinese glazed pottery jars from Florian Papp. An abstract oil painting in matching tones complete this exercise in tranquility.

Garrow Kedigian's The Artist's Retreat was a tiny area on the top floor. A seating area with a wall banquette and table had a Neoclassical and Greek motif. This masculine work space combined classic elements, including Tuscan red walls with a a cream inset border to match the Greek Key rug.


by Marisa Marcantonio

Design personality Susanna Salk moderated a discussion with trend-setters Barclay Butera, Amy Lau and Joe Nye. From the Las Vegas Market show floor, they had a fast-paced and interactive chat about what they had seen at the market. Click here to watch the informative and fun conversation via webcast. Color, chinoiserie, featuring my favorite Jardins en Fleur, woven synthetic furniture and the use of re-purposed wood are discussed.