Designers on Design: Mark D. Sikes

A few months ago, I shared Mark D. Sikes' blog, Chic People, Glamorous Places, Beautiful Things, with you. More recently, I got to talk to Mark in person. We met up at The Chateau Marmont, one of the must-see places on his Los Angeles list, to chat about his design work, his tricks for giving a room instant patina, his favorite painting trick and his five favorite places in LA! How would you define your style?
I think I'm a modern traditionalist. I like things that are old, but I think that old can sometimes feel modern.

You're walking into a home for the first time. What strikes you?
The first thing I always look at is the style of the house. Is it modern, Mediterranean, traditional? That tells you, from a design perspective, a lot about how a house should look. Then I always look at sizes of rooms and where the windows are and the flow of the house, the ceiling heights and the door heights.

What elements do you think every room should have?
Great seating! A room should be comfortable. It's about the way furniture's grouped together, whether the lighting is good for reading and makes people look good! There should be a place to set things, little tables. And windows — very important. I like light!

What's your design pet peeve?
I don't think things should look decorated. I think a home always looks better if it doesn't look perfect. I heard something the other day and it's so true: "Beautiful design is the way you mix it, not match it."

Can you do that in six months?
You can. It's about mixing. Old and new, antiques and new things. I particularly like fabrics that look a little faded. I like things with patina, that look like they've been washed. I use a lot of wicker and a lot of rattan. If it's a piece with a frame, that frame usually has a painted finish rather a wood stain. Then the way you detail the upholstery, nailheads for example, and the way you finish a room: stacking books beside a sofa and bowls of fruit. I think every room should have a flower in it or something organic, something green, something living. And I like collections of things. I think automatically, if you have a collection of something you've put together, there's some sense of that that feels old, that has some personal history.

What's your go to room color?
Blue is my go to color but if it's an off white I like New Linen. I use Kelly Moore paints from San Francisco because I'm familiar with them. Swiss Coffee is another favorite. Mostly it's either a neutral color or a pale pale pale blue with a little bit of grey, or I like a deep, deep, deep dark almost brown-black. It's very rare that I paint a room yellow. One thing I'm really liking right now is a bright room painted a high gloss Swiss Coffee. Especially in a small room, it's fabulous. I just did it in my office. It's all high gloss, except for the door, which is black. But in general, I'm doing a lot of rooms right now where the room and the trim are the same color.

What design element do you think you're most guilty of falling back on?
As designers, we all have our formulas. I love texture and I think a room is best when there's different scales of things: a high chair and a low chair. I don't like everything the same level. I love mixing in a linen sofa with a wicker chair with leather. Maybe that's a formula I'm guilty of falling back on? Right now I'm really into taking one fabric and doing everything — the drapes and the sofa and the chairs. It's very old world, like the rooms that Lee Radziwill and Jackie O grew up in. That's never going to go out of style.

Who's your favorite designer?
For fashion, I love Phoebe Philo for Celine and Stella McCartney and the designers for Valentino. Giambattista Valli. Personally I like to wear Ralph Lauren and I think Club Monaco's really great. I love white jeans and blue shirts, very classic and all American with a little bit of a French twist. Stripes of course. So that whole French sportswear thing, I love that. When it comes to interior design, there's so many people! I respect Michael Smith — like beyond — I love the way his room are so layered. I think Bunny Williams is a brilliant designer and Jeffrey Bilhuber, the way he uses color and pattern and detail. Darryl Carter has a minimalist aspect to him, an East Coast, with traditional Colonial elements that are very masculine. Vincente de Wolfe, because of the way he mixes in Tibetan stools and Chinese antiques and it's very monochromatic. There's just something very peaceful about his approach to design. With all of these designers, you can look at a room and you know immediately it's their room. I think it's very powerful when people's design style translates to every product that they do. I think that the mark of a true interior designer, at least the ones that I respect, is that their work will still be viable twenty years from now.

Let's talk a little bit about the process of designing a space.
I always get a feel for the house first and then I start with the color palette and the way the color will flow through the house. What colors does a client like? A room is a room, but it has to connect to the next room. There's a puzzle that goes into design, and I think that's one of things that I do best. I can create a plan for the whole environment of a home so that everything looks very seamless. And then in a specific room you have color and key fabrics and then you have to do a floor plan and scale everything. I always try to pinpoint things like, "We need a big armoire here but we're going to wait and find an antique and then we'll work around that." Lighting is very important. And I don't like all my finishes to match. Big pillows are really important. Every room should have lots of books and fresh flowers.

How is designing for someone else different from designing for yourself?
I've been very lucky. I've had really great clients who've hired me because they liked my sensibility and that's what they wanted. However, I really listen to my clients and I take all that to heart. I'm not one of those designers who are like, tell me what you want but I'll do my own thing anyway. So, I've found it to be really great. They want my look and I really listen to them and we figure out a way to mesh it. To answer your question, it's been very easy.

What do you think is the biggest problem with most of the homes you've seen?
I think most houses are dark. I like light and air.

Let's talk a little bit about the blog (which we profiled here).
Well, it started about a year ago, around September 5 or 6. I had had an amazing career working in retail and I'd put all this energy into helping build other brands from a creative perspective, from a marketing perspective and I just wanted to do something that was creative for me. The blog felt like it would be a way of talking about things I love and sharing that with people. It's opened doors to meeting people that I never thought I would meet, who've I've admired for years and years.

So, off the top of your head, what are 5 of your most iconic people, places and things?
Well there's the old guard: Grace Kelly and Jane Birkin and Steve McQueen and Jackie Onassis and Lee Radziwill and Paul Newman. Modern day, there's Tilda Swinton and Lauren Santa Domingo and Vanessa Traina and Jude Law. Amanda Cutter Brooks and Meredith Melling Burke. I think Jennifer Connelly's the most beautiful woman in the world. With places, well there's places that are homes, there are places that are gardens, there are places that are destinations. There are places that I've never been to that I want to go. I want to go to Barcelona, I want to go to Spain, I want to go to the Dominican Republic, I want to go on Safari. There are places that I'm drawn to: St. Bart's, I love London, I love Paris, I love all the usual suspects. Malibu is amazing, Santa Barbara is amazing. I like places that have age, patina, history.

So, quick, five places in LA!
I love Tower bar, this place (The Chateau Marmont), Hancock Park. There's a little restaurant on Robertson called Headley's. It is unassuming but the food is absolutely delicious. I think there's something about places, you go over and over, it becomes a relationship, people know you and I think when you live in a big city like Los Angeles, that becomes very comforting.

To check out Mark's blog, click here.

Thanks, Mark!

(Image: Darren Ankenman)

1 Comment