A Masterclass in Layering with Marie Flanigan

Uncategorized Sep 14, 2020


There is a genuine warmth emanating from my guest, Marie Flanigan.  She's a designer in Houston, TX and she's just come out with her first book called The Beauty of Home.  Now, I gush a little bit about the book in the very beginning so let me just say here that I found Marie's chapters to each be a foundational lesson in design that clarifies so much of the intangible elements such as composition, character, palate, depth... and my conversation with her is like sitting in on several master classes rolled into one.  I think you're going to get a lot out of this episode and even more out of her book.  

For those of you who have taken my Master The Mix course, you're going to resonate with this episode in particular!  Marie is aaaaaaall about mixing different things together such as materials, textures and light to create a home that's fully layered and alive.  



A big thank you to BeautyBio skin care for partnering with us! 

Go to www.beautybio.com to see their line of products using the most effective amounts of active ingredients to get you actual, noticable results. 
Use code STYLEMATTERS at checkout to receive 15% off your order!  



The Beauty of Home by Marie Flanigan






Hey there, welcome to another season of the Style Matters Podcast brought to you by little yellow couch. This show is for people with real lives and real homes, the kinds of lives and homes that have constraints and are sometimes messy and they are never perfect. But despite all of this, if you're still obsessed with creating a home, you love this podcast is definitely for you.

I'm Zandra, your host. And I believe that how you set up your home can actually help you live your best life and how you set it up and how you design it and decorate it. That all becomes what we call your signature style. And the first step toward this, it has nothing to do with design rules. The first step is in knowing who you are.

So to that end, I do have a question for you. What do you think is the number one mistake that you're making in your home right now, if you're curious to know, go over to little yellow couch.com and take our quiz, and then I'll send you some actionable steps that you can take to start addressing that particular issue and hint, hint.

It probably has something to do with the shift in your mindset. Cause I love a good mindset shift. All right, before we get into our meaty episode, let's hear from our sponsor beauty bio is a skincare company that doesn't fool around with its ingredients. Jamie O'Bannon founder of beauty bio worked for years in a cosmetics lab and found that most companies, even the big name,

high ticket price companies use only the minimum amount of active ingredients necessary to claim clinical results. Beauty bio uses those active ingredients at high levels that give you actual noticeable results, fulfilling their mission to put truth into beauty. I've been using two of their top sellers for a month now and my skin. Honestly, it looks more even and healthy and glowy than it has in years.

And the best part, I didn't need a ton of their products to achieve this. I'm just using one product called the reversal for a six week stint to purify and rewind the damage. And then I'll continue with a daily moisturizer called the quench. Now they do have plenty of other products that target specific issues that you might be having. That's what's so great about it.

You only need one or two of them to get the results that you're after. Check them out. A beauty byo.com and use code Style. Matters all one word for 15% off your purchase. That's beauty bio bio.com and use the code Style Matters at checkout. Now let's get into today's episode. There's a genuine warmth emanating from my guest Marie Flanagan. She's a designer in Houston,

Texas, and she's just come out with her first book called the beauty of home. Now I gush a little bit about the book and the very beginning of our conversation. So let me just say here that I found Marie's chapters to each be a foundational lesson in design that clarifies so much of those intangible elements that are hard to talk about. Things like composition and character and palette depths.

And my conversation with her today is like sitting in on several masterclasses, rolled into one. I think you're going to get a lot out of this episode and even more out of her book. Now, especial shout out for those of you who have taken my master, the mixed course, you're going to resonate with this episode in particular, Murray is all about mixing different things together,

such as materials and textures and light to create a home that's fully layered and alive. So I want to hear from you if that's what you got out of this episode as well. All right. Let's get started with Marie Marie Flanagan. Welcome to the Style Matters Podcast. It's great to have you here. Thanks So much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Oh, good. Good. Well, uh, as I said in the introduction, we're going to talk all about your beautiful new book. Here's the thing I want to just say that I really loved about it. I think you've captured the single most impactful thing I've done as an untrained interior designer. Uh, I've just been, I'm one of those people that have just been obsessed with homes for 30 something years.

And the thing that you've captured is that we just need to pay attention, to look at a photo of a gorgeously designed room or to walk through a wondrous lavish, historic home and stop and ask why, why is that room so beautiful? What are the elements that are in play here that are making me feel happy or uplifted? And when you stop and look,

you really start to understand that there are decisions being made that underlie every single considered moment and your book, it's like a masterclass in this and how to train your eye. So I'm just, I I've just really got a lot out of it. And I think at some something that any, um, amateur interior designer who just loves their home, I think you all need to get your hands on it.

Cause it, like I said, it's like a masterclass, Thank you so much. And you hit it on the head. Exactly. What I was trying to accomplish is it's really my masterclass of how I approach design and what elements I use to dissect a space and really bring it to life. Right, right. Great. Well, listen, before we dive into the book,

I want to back up a bit into your childhood. Now I'm paraphrasing here, but you talk in your introduction about how a home can be like living inside a piece of art. And I love that, but it sounds like you've got that sensibility from your parents. I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about them? Sure. You know,

I grew up in a simple, um, small town in Texas and you know, I think my parents really valued, nurturing the gifts of their kids and finding what really was special about what they wanted to pursue and what career they wanted to follow. So my dad noticed in me early on my love of art and he would take me to the local art gallery,

pop a cream soda. And, uh, we would just go around our local art gallery, which was so simple, but so impactful in my life. You know, my parents weren't that into design and they really didn't have extravagant things, but I think so much of that plays a role in how I approach design through simplicity and through meaning. Um,

and you know, so much of what I do as a designer, isn't just to create a pretty space, but to kind of be transcended into the lives of the homeowners, um, and make a room, welcome the people who live there, um, create moments for the family, how it kind of wraps around them, how they create memories and moments.

And I think so much of that came through my upbringing Because your mom, you talk about being so welcoming. You know, she has a servant's heart and she is all about generosity and taking care of people. Um, and so I think it's those memories and kind of models that shaped what home is for me. My background and education is an architecture.

So not only do I love to incorporate, you know, the structure of the home, but really kind of dive in deep to the homeowners and how they live. I want to keep going with this idea of the relationship between architecture and interiors, because like you said, you, you, you don't, you do both or have studied both. Yes.

I studied architecture at Texas a and M and then was hired from one of my professors to, uh, work for his firm that did commercial work. What I quickly found out that was different in the everyday life of a commercial architect, there's a studying. It was, there was just a lot of behind the computer at the firm that I was at.

And when I transitioned to a firm that did both interiors and architecture, I was able to interact with the clients more, um, and doing residential, you know, you are so intimately intertwined in their daily life and what their style preferences are and you know, where they like to put their socks, you know? So Yeah, it's a more intimate thing then the commercial.

Sure. Yeah. You know, and I loved the way that, to me, that brought a lot of meaning to my work and a lot of meetings in my design and going back to the architectural aspect of it, to me, like you can reach an entire higher level of interior design if both architecture and interiors are integrated and kind of thoughtfully woven together.

So, so much of what I begin with in a project is focusing on the architecture, seeing are there elements I can bring inside? Is there textures and materials found on the envelope that really could enhance the interior? And, you know, seeing ways I can open up spaces, one to the next, or, you know, finding a voice that has been woven throughout the home.

And that's usually where I start and then kind of dive into more of the interior finish. And do you, are you a purist, would you never move a wall in a, in a historic or old, I'll say old home or, or, you know, a stray from the period in which the house was built in terms of your furnishings and things?

No, I am not a purist in that regard. I believe that somebody should learn the rules of design, learn the rules of classical architecture and then thoughtfully carefully know how to break them in my opinion. Yeah. Yeah. Which I think you do quite beautifully. Um, let's, let's talk about composing a room. You say that there isn't necessarily a formula to follow,

but that there is a framework. So what do you mean by the framework and what, what is it, You know, in composing a room? I think, you know, from room to room, the individual items can change, but the essential elements remain the same, whether that's architecture, light, scale texture, all the elements I talk about in the book.

And I think understanding the proportions, understanding, um, the weight and scale of items, both visual and in size, um, is the framework of understanding how to put a room together, understanding how to layer the pieces that make it feel complete, that make it feel welcoming. Um, and you know, knowing how to introduce different materials, different textures and finishes and how to,

in my opinion, I love to layer Style, um, and make a room feel curated In your chapter on character, which I love that you have a chapter called character. You don't usually see that design. You say that entering a home should be an immersive experience saturated by a particular perspective. Again, I mean, if you guys are listening right now,

and you're probably thinking what I'm thinking, which is, I just love how this woman writes and I love how she describes the way we want our homes to act. So anyway, um, I think it's hard for people to take an abstract idea, like one's perspective on the world, right? You talk about, uh, saturating a room with a particular perspective.

How do you take that abstract idea and translate it into design elements? If you could give us some examples so we can better understand what you mean here. Definitely. And I feel like I also need to give a shout out to the woman I worked with to write the book because, Oh, you know, uh, Susan Solly did such an incredible job taking all my thoughts and taking all my,

um, the structure of the book and what I wanted to say. And she so eloquently put poetry to the words, in my opinion. And she was just such a lovely woman to work with all night, shout out to her. Yeah. Um, but as far as character, you know, the home in, I believe a home should represent who lives within its walls.

And I think it's really important that a home have a voice and let that be carried out throughout the home. I think we kind of, as designers sometimes are tempted to let each room, just have a completely different personality and splash all the color and vision that we have in, you know, in our minds to each room. And that can really create a district jointed,

unclear vision in the home. Um, and I believe that the best interiors are the ones that are perfectly edited. You know, you find the few architectural and interior details that define the home and carry them out space to space, whether it's the casing detail or the way the windows interact with the sheet rock, or, you know, the way you treat the ceiling or the,

you know, the way the baseboards go from room to room and really refining and changing a few key details to each room, you can still make each room special in its own way, but to be disciplined, to create a voice of the house, to me gives it the most beautiful. It's like all the components of a symphony coming together to create a beautiful song versus each one,

having its own melody. Um, and I think, you know, you can still through that framework and creating the framework of the house, then create elements of surprise, then create different personalities throughout the same context. Yeah. It's, I think you're saying that that the perspective of the home is you can see it in the through line of the characteristics that run through the whole house.

When you talking about, I was just imagining, you know, people want to renovate, right. And oftentimes because they don't have the money to hire an architect or a designer or something that they just talked to the builder and the builder is great at what he or she does, but they may not understand these kinds of details. Like I want to take,

especially if you live in an old home and you're putting on an addition, let's say, I want to run the same height of baseboard. I want my moldings to match. Um, you know, I want, I want the placement and the height of the windows too, to kind of be at the same level, whatever it is. I think that those,

those details then show the perspective of the home. At least I think that's what you're saying. Exactly. And you know, some of those items that you introduced don't necessarily even have to be big investments. You know, I live in a a hundred year old bungalow in the historic part of Houston, um, and just by renovating the home and bringing it's different craftsmen tasting and trim work details to life,

it really created this, uh, beautiful context room to room that felt so much more, um, finished and refined than it was before. And I don't even think you need to stick to a specific style per se of the home. You know, I just finished a home where, you know, the husband loved contemporary and, um, the wife loved kind of traditional Connecticut style.

And so we were able to kind of define their perspective and find details that carried that out throughout the home. Can you remember any specifics, like details of what you mean by that? Sure. Like for example, as you approach the home, it's a little bit more of a traditional, it has more traditional materials. Like it's a brick home that has these cast stone details,

but the actual architecture of the home suggests a little bit more of a contemporary style. And then as you enter the home, we've got these kind of rough hewn hand scraped floors, but the way we did the baseboards were flushed to the sheet rock. So again, just kind of doing things in a cleaner way, but then adding the texture and the character of the different materials brought in the warmth and brought in a little bit more of a traditional style and even layering in the different styles of furniture as we furnished the home made a really large impact because a lot of the architecture,

a lot of the architectural details felt a little bit more contemporary, a little bit more streamlined, but we would bring in an antique or turn the leg of the Island to really give it that layered feel that really respected both their styles, creating one, creating one look that was right for their family. Love that. Thank you for the, for the description.

I think that's such so helpful to hear that I want to move on to your chapter, uh, where you've dedicated an entire chapter to the element of light. You say that understanding light and how it affects a room is also about using shadow creatively. There's a lot in this chapter and, and I, I want to know how can we play around with it in our own homes to really understand the power of elimination.

Lighting is probably my favorite element to design with because it's so versatile. It is how we render materials to life. It's how we see it's actually how we see color. I mean, if you select color in halogen lights, or if you select a fabric under a halogen light and take it out to natural light, it's a completely different color. So absolutely to me is so transformative.

Um, and you referred to me talking, discussing shadow. Um, I think my suggestion to people is not to be afraid of negative space, um, you know, blank walls or a plastic, uh, plastered barrel vault, um, is what we see light reflect across. And those shadows can be dynamic. They can create movement. Um, you know,

not only does a blank wall create rest in a room, or let's say in a staircase, that light is coming from an opening at the top of the staircase, it kind of draws you up. And the light itself becomes the dance of art across the wall. In the same home I discussed earlier, um, we played with light and shadow by creating a plastered flutes all the way around the room that were all white,

but it is in the light, in the shadow of the flute. They gave it this really surprising texture as you, as you enter the room Is, and the flutes are they up like on the moldings? Where, where are they? We flooded the entire walls, which you'll see, you will see that project in the book. And we basically created this laugh with one of our photo finishers that the flutes run from ceiling to floor.

It are about four inches thick. So it's really dramatic and a big surprise when you enter, I know exactly now what you talking about because I dog-eared that page, like you're saying, I had never seen a wall treatment like that, and you're absolutely right. It, it, the, the shadow that's created the shadow and the light, and it goes back and forth,

back and forth, shadow, light, shadow light, and it, and it creates this texture on the wall that is so gorgeous and interesting and makes you want to touch it. Exactly. And I think that's also why I'm so drawn to texture in my design work is the way the light hits. It adds that richness and depth to a room. And of course,

it's important also to note that when you're designing with light, it's, it's important to layer different types of light, you know, your accent and your, your general and your task lighting and all of that for both functionality. And to experience your room in both day and night, you know, something I'd love to discuss with my design team is that,

you know, we go to these site visits and we are building these home always in the daytime. It is so important to think about it at night, because it really should be a completely different lighting scheme in our minds and the way that somebody even interacts in their home, um, interacts with a light and how that draws you through the home at night is so different than in the daytime.

So I think thinking about that and in your home, and just practically speaking, you know, lighting the way with sconces or lighting the way with step lighting at night creates a softer glow. That's not so harsh, it's just having cans throughout the entire house, Right. I, a lot of people we talk about, um, having different sources of a light in a room,

you know, just because they not, not just because of their purpose, but as how they flatter or not, they don't flatter people. Um, but I haven't really thought about light as a design element in that it's the light and the shadow is what you're looking at, that it in and of itself is part of the experience of the room. I mean,

it, it sounds kind of obvious now that I'm saying it, but I just have never thought of it that way. How do you think people in our own homes, what, what's the, how do we start? Because I just don't think we, you know, we, we, we talk about designing a room, we're going to talk about our furniture,

our floors, or the paint color on the wall, the curtains, even if we're talking about letting we're just like, well, which lamp looks good on this side table? How can we start thinking about light more as a design element? Like you're saying, Well, first and foremost, I believe windows, you know, are the true luxury of any home because having natural light in our spaces is in my opinion,

the best thing you can do for a room. So often. So many of us don't have the luxury of just having wide open windows all the time. We need privacy, we need light control. So first addressing that and how we can control the light through whether it's woven shades. I love layering white, beautiful linen sheers over a drapery, making sure not to cover the window if possible,

so that you have the full range of functionality. Can you talk a little bit about making sure a room has depth? And I'm wondering if you can describe for us again, what do you mean by that? Describe a room that might be flat versus a room with the depth that you're talking about. You know, I think we've all been in the one note room that just feels very devoid of all texture and,

you know, it might have all similar color tone, or like you kind of went to the store and bought a set, and that's really all you have going on in the room. And I think anyone at home can create an introduce depth through so many different ways. You know, texture, like I said before is my personal favorite and layering materials.

Even if you were using the same color palette, you can create depth by just layering materials, like a slummy linen with a silk velvet, and the way the light reacts to those different materials is so different through color, in the same materials, the depth of color that a silk velvet can create compared to a, you adds that depth. I think you can create depth by layering in Style,

um, by letting the room feel collected and not just sticking to one particular style or another or whatever it goes with the architecture. Another way I like to create depth is creating different vignettes around the room, you know, kind of breaking the rules of a floor plan a little bit, you know, introducing a tiny seat sitting area where somebody might, you know,

play a game of cards or have a cup of coffee. I think that can create depth. I, I love having things on my coffee table that are kind of begging to be picked up and fiddled with, by my friends who come over. Although I haven't had any friends in my house in a long time, But, you know, uh, most recently I just went to the beach and,

um, brought home like a, you know, a huge bag full of very, very thin small stones. And I want to touch them and run my hands to them. So I just put them on a bowl and it's just, it's just something to do while you're talking to somebody. And, and I don't know, there's just something very relaxing about picking something up and kind of playing with it and not,

you know, not worrying that you're going to break it or whatever. Well, and I think there's also something beautiful about that because it was an experience and it's a story that you can tell, you know, and I think it's important for us to fill our homes with items that may have meaning to us. And also, you know, people can create depth in their own home and character by just reimagining what you already have.

Sometimes it's just a matter of moving things around your home to bring them back to life in a new way to see them again. I absolutely agree. Absolutely. You end your book talking about surprise and I love an element of surprise in a home. I think it's a delightful way to end the book too. Can you give us some examples of surprise that you've incorporated into homes and also tell it,

tell us what it does for home. Why is this element of design? Why did it get a whole chapter in your book? Hmm. Surprise can be so many different things and it doesn't necessarily have to, you know, be this loud scream in your home. It can be subtle and it can be just beautiful moments of delight that surprise you, and that are unexpected,

you know, an easy way for anyone to accomplish. This is to look for a room that's more defined like a powder room that has an entry to where when you go in, you can transition the materials well, and, you know, an easy way to create surprise is through a wall covering or a wall treatment or a mural and a way to bring in pattern in a way to bring in scale or be,

you know, in the experience of being wrapped in a mural when you're in a powder room is so just delightful. It's a space usually, And it is more enveloping. Yeah. And it doesn't have to affect the, the home as a whole, you know, I love playing with scale and I love bringing in kind of oversize light fixtures, you know,

that can both play with the light across the room and also act as like a focal point or like a heavier visual weight in the room, adding drama. Um, color is an easy one in the, in the book, you'll see a powder room where I, I use this really deep red rust marble to create this floating home, temporary sink, you know,

and of course it's paired with like a very ornate Rococo style mirror. So that juxtaposition of the two is the surprise. And the delight. When you go into the room, another bathroom in the book has these three dimensional plaster flowers, which I actually used as a kind of graphic motif throughout the book. You're talking about the flowers that are in a bathroom,

right. I think they're above a tub or something. And they, they, they basically look like part of the wall, but they're, but they're flowers. That's right. So I created these three dimensional flowers that basically grow up all the walls of this beautiful woman's master bathroom. And it's, they're made out of the same color as the walls. It was meant to be three dimensional<inaudible> and the way the light plays across it is just so stunning.

And it is a wonderful surprise. When you go into the room, This is very elegant. And speaking of chinoiserie, uh, there's a home that you highlight in the book where you chose a wallpaper. I'm gonna see if I get this right for a family, for their dining room. It's a family who have adopted several children from different parts of the world.

And then in the<inaudible> wallpaper, there's, there's a bird, I think, from each of the different countries. Do I have that right? That's exactly right. It's okay. I love this because it's, it's a way of honoring the family story without screaming, you know, this is our family story. It's so subtle. Exactly. And you know,

that is such a delightful family. I've worked with for years. And, you know, to be able to introduce that personal touch again, you know, each child felt so honored and so special. And also, you know, when they're having dinner parties, they love to entertain. Again, it's like this personal moment that they can discuss and share with family and friends or not,

if they don't want to. Right. Exactly. Because it's not, it's not hitting you over the head. It's, it's kind of beautiful in its own, right? Yeah. That's, that was a beautiful story. And one of my favorite houses in the book, um, I want to wrap up with a question that I'm going to kind of put you on the spot.

I'm afraid because I didn't prep you for this question, but I know you can handle it. Um, it's actually, it's actually a question I ask almost every, uh, every guest I have in the show, which is getting at the, the substance here. Why does Style matter? I think Style, Matters because Style is your personal expression to the world.

And I think being able to be creative in our own right, is, um, it's in essence creating beauty, which is, you know, really my mission of why I do what I do is creating beauty in people's lives that has the ability to elevate our everyday life and transform how we live. And I think Style is your personal expression of that.

Well, you do call your book, the beauty of home. Uh, and I do, I do think that beauty is something that we, I don't think we think very deeply about really. I don't know why. I don't know if it's because we so many see so many photos of beautiful homes, or if it's just that we don't have time to think about beauty or we think beauty is sort of superfluous or we've,

I think we've forgotten a little bit about, like you said, the transformative power of it and how all kind of life giving it is. Well, and I think whether we know it or not, we're all drawn to beauty. I think our world can twist what beauty means, but pure beauty. We're all, you know, our souls respond to and our spirits respond to.

And I think beauty doesn't always have to be surface level. I think true beauty, we all kind of recognize and our souls. And I think everyone also has their own expression of that. And that's kind of my search as a designer is to find what beauty means to the people I work for and kind of, you know, bring that to life in the canvas that I'm working on.

Wow. That's that sounds wonderful. And it makes a lot of sense as to why people would want to work with you because they may not know all of the, the ways in which you work with different design elements to create the final feeling that one is after. But if they, if you can get them to express what is beautiful to them, what would delight them?

Um, then you have something to work with, which is great. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. It's been really wonderful to talk to you and I do love your book. Thank you so much. I am so excited, um, to share it with the world and it, you know, it's been a labor of love that I'm so proud of.

And I know my whole team is so proud of, and I know, you know, that it takes a village to bring a book to live. And I just have so many people to thank, um, who have helped me kind of bring this book to fruition. So I really appreciate you letting me come on today and discuss it with you. I hope these episodes leave you feeling energized and inspired to create a home that gives something back to you because in this crazy world we live in.

It's good to remember that things like beauty and happiness are within reach. Now don't forget to take the quiz. What's the number one mistake you're making in your home [email protected] And we really appreciate all of the reviews that you've been giving us over on iTunes, or I guess it's called Apple podcasts now, whatever. Please keep them coming in because they help other people find us,

which makes it possible to keep this show running, have a great day. And I'll be back in your earbuds.







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