Who you NEED to Meet: Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke of Madcap Cottage

We’re looking forward to a fabulous fall working with the equally fabulous duo behind the magic that is Madcap Cottage – Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke! Keep an eye out for some exciting happenings between steve mckenzie’s and Madcap Cottage, taking place soon. In the meantime, enjoy getting to know one of the madcaps, Jason Oliver Nixon in our latest “Who you NEED to Meet” installment…

John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon are the dynamic duo behind North Carolina- and New York-based interior design firm, Madcap Cottage. Known for their whimsical use of color and pattern, the Madcap gents—along with their pound-rescue posse, Jasper, Weenie, and Amy Petunia—scour the world for eclectic finds that capture their unique and gimlet-eyed viewpoint. Imagine a British country house that pairs Granny’s antiques and a spirited dash of Chinoiserie chic with a dash of Morocco-meets-India élan. Shake, stir, then pour.

steve mckenzie’s: Will you please share a bit about your background/how you and John started Madcap Cottage and how you gained the courage to break out on your own?

Jason Nixon: John and I both come from backgrounds as magazine editors and television producers, we really see ourselves as storytellers. In our previous lives, we produced, styled, and wrote stories, and at a certain point we asked, Why are we writing about everyone else? We started the design business and the first project we crafted was snapped up by a magazine, and the phone started ringing and we were off and running. We kept the day job as long as we could, and then took the plunge. We are thrilled to have 4-5 interior design projects each year and to have moved into the realm of product development–from fabric and bedding to window treatments, wallpaper, and wall art.

sm’s: What inspires you and John/your work? 

JN: Travel is a huge part of our world, and we carry sketch books and diaries when we travel and document our adventures. We find inspiration everywhere we go–from Iowa to India. We also lap up great homes and gardens as well as vintage movies and design books. The legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once said, “The eye has to travel,” and we couldn’t agree more.

sm’s: What is your vision, not only for the Madcap Cottage brand, but also the individual designs/products you create??

JN: We want to create designs that make you dream–but that are also attainable and affordable. We believe that good design should be available to all. Everything that we do is hand touched, sketched, and painted, whether that is a 40,000-square-foot home or a bedding collection for Home Shopping Network. Our goal is to be a lifestyle destination such as Laura Ashley back in the day.

sm’s: Do you have any “mainstays” in your work – is there something you’re always drawn to? 

JN: Of course, we are smitten with prints and patterns and offer opportunities for consumers to bring florals, graphics, stripes, and more into their lives–from baby steps to all-in. Think a classic, relaxed American sensibility paired with an English vibe, and that’s our vibe. Timeless. Sophisticated. And fun. We always have vintage and antique pieces in our design projects and offer surprise-and-delight details such as contrast welting and buttons, unexpected matting and frame treatments, and more.

sm’s: What are the differences in your collections – i.e. how do you create such unique pieces that remain a part of the Madcap Cottage family?

JN: John and I craft colors and patterns that run between our various fabric collections to give tools that allow designers and consumers to connect the dots easily. We layer-in new colors in each collection that adds a further storyline and moves the adventure forward. Each collection takes you on a new journey: We think of each collection as a chapter in a book that moves the story along.

sm’s: What do people need to consider when looking to purchase a Madcap Cottage design?

JN: Nothing! Dive in. We give you the tools to bring the adventure home.

sm’s: What’s on the horizon for you and John/Madcap Cottage?

JN: Lighting! Rugs! Fashion accessories! Paper products! And maybe a TV presence. And we would love to start another book project.

sm’s: As artists/business people how do you recharge?

JN: We love hanging out with our three pound-rescue pups and lounge about with them and read books on the weekend. We also love having friends over for long, boozy dinner parties. And gardening is our favorite hobby

sm’s: Anything else you can think our readers would enjoy learning about you and John/your business/designs? 

JN: We believe that design should be fun and put a smile upon your face.

Smiles and fun are absolutely what design should be about. Cheers to the men of Madcap and all the fun and smiles we have planned in the upcoming months! And a big thank you to Jason Oliver Nixon for participating in our “Who you NEED to meet” feature!

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Who you NEED to Meet: Erin Weston of Weston Farms

It’s that time of year… The time magnolia leaves find their way indoors and sprinkled throughout our holiday decor. Perhaps you procure yours from a nearby tree in your community in the dead of night (not that we’d know anything about this or condone this illicit behavior!) or from a magnificent magnolia right in your own backyard. But, one thing’s for sure – they aren’t as beautifully curated as Weston Farms‘ magnolia creations.

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Today, we’re sharing a little Q&A with Weston Farms’ Creative Director, Erin Weston. Her work has graced the pages of many-a-shelter publication, and is truly stunning. We’ve had the good fortune to work with Erin and have her in the showroom hosting magnolia arranging classes. She’s an absolute delight to be around and her work is truly inspirational! We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know her and her amazing arrangements as much as we have…

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Named “The New Face of Gardening,” by Carolina Gardener in 2010, Erin Weston is the creative director at Weston Farms. Art, Nature, and Horticulture inform her work at Weston Farms.

In 2002, Erin Weston moved from New York City to North Carolina to help with her family farm. She wanted to create a luxury farm product grown and cultivated at Weston Farms that utilized her art background and incorporated her father’s horticultural knowledge.  The Southern Magnolia wreaths, garlands and natural accessories from Weston Farms best express this desire and put a new spin on a familiar southern tradition.

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Weston’s art direction of the “Horticultural Holidays at Weston Farms,” utilizes the best cultivated varieties of trees and plants chosen for color, texture, and rarity. Weston Farms grows highest quality Southern Magnolia  exclusively for their wreaths, garlands and cut arrangements. Weston studied Art History at UNC-Chapel Hill and garnered her horticultural education by surrounding herself with the best and the brightest in the field.

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sm’s: Can you please share a bit about your background/where Weston Farms began and how you gained the courage to break out on your own?

I studied art history at UNC, moved to Philadelphia, then NYC to work in publishing. Believe it or not, I was actually interviewed by MSO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) on the day she was accused of inside trading! While working there, I was able to work closely with my dad (former horticulturist for the city of Raleigh) to create a production schedule with garden themes. I became really excited about all the content there and saw possibilities to be inspired by garden. Around the time Martha Stewart went to jail, my uncle left me 30 acres and my grandparent’s house in the middle of North Carolina suburbia. I worked to get it re-zoned as a farm and started the business with only one magnolia tree (my grandmother’s). From it, I created foliage arrangements to make money for that November/December. People kept coming back. Now, we’ve planted over 10,000 trees to supply foliage for year-round magnolia wreaths, Garland and natural accessories.

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sm’s: What inspires you/your work?

The fine arts, museums, travel, nature, history

sm’s: What is your vision, not only for Weston Farms, but also your individual creations?

To create a luxury product defined by quality of craftsmanship, materials and rare ingredients/difficult to produce.

sm’s: Do you have any “mainstays” in your work – is there something you’re always drawn to in terms of arrangements? 

Symmetry and asymmetry

Classical motifs

Creating arrangements that would look good in a barn or in a castle setting.

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sm’s: What do people need to consider when looking to purchase a Weston Farms creation? 

To be prepared for an abundance of exquisitely designed and cultivated ingredients, and to appreciate the time of craftsmanship it took to create.

sm’s: What’s on the horizon for you/Weston Farms? 

Marry me Magnolia! (TM)

A foliage, bouquet, wreath and Garland line available year round based on our signature magnolia.

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sm’s: As an artist/business person how do you recharge?

Travel, nature, art museums

sm’s: Anything else you our readers would enjoy learning from you?

If something seems too hard for too long, step back and modify your course.

After reading our Q&A session with Erin and looking at those supremely gorgeous designs, are you ready to introduce magnolia into your home – perhaps year round?! We are! It’s amazing what even a small Weston Farms arrangement can do to elevate a space. It’s magnificent!!

Take a look at the Weston Farms’ Instagram feed and tell us what you think next time you’re in the steve mckenzie’s showroom

Who you NEED to Meet: Alisa Barry of Bella Cucina

We’re here to whet your appetites this morning with a fun Q&A with Bella Cucina creator, Alisa Barry! And this just so happens to be a timely post, as Alisa’s fabulous creations serve as idea hostess and holiday gifts.

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If you’ve visited the showroom lately, chances are you’ve seen some Bella Cucina products. And we’re here to share these gorgeous pantry staples are just as delicious as they are beautiful. With an appreciation for beauty and a sensibility for classic, yet innovative flavors, Bella Cucina makes products by hand, in small batches in the traditional European hand-crafted way. We’re thrilled to offer them to all of our friends and fans in the steve mckenzie’s showroom.

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Alisa Barry Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

About Alisa:

Alisa is an artist, author & entrepreneur. 

Honing her culinary skills in San Francisco, Berkeley and the California wine country, she formed a food philosophy that continues to inform her simple, yet sophisticated cooking style. She believes it’s not only about what you eat, but also how you eat. When we take time to slow down and savor, we can enjoy food as a simple luxury in our daily life. 

After opening a small, European-style lunchtime café in Atlanta, Alisa expanded her offerings from locally sourced seasonal and organic menu items to a line of beautifully packaged pantry provisions.  

Winning numerous prestigious industry awards, Bella Cucina has garnered the attention of the media over the years. A highlight has been a feature on Oprah’s most popular “Favorite Things” show {twice!}, O magazine, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Garden, and Cooking Light. 

Alisa and her designer husband, Smith Hanes, enjoy returning to her culinary roots in the quiet food mecca of Yountville, California and visiting her favorite places in Tuscany, Italy. 

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sm’s: Can you please share a bit about your background/how you started Bella Cucina and how you gained the courage to break out on your own?

AB: I first fell in love with the art of eating when I lived in Europe many years ago. Every time I returned, I was reminded that taking time to savor is one of the simplest luxuries we can afford ourselves, everyday.  Bella Cucina first started as a small lunchtime café.  Inspired by Alice Water’s philosophy of using what’s in season, I would buy whatever the organic farmer’s harvested for the week and create my menu around the ingredients.  I was the cook, the caterer and the clean-up crew.  Soon after we opened, customers were asking how they could enjoy the flavors of the food in their own kitchen.  Within a short year, I was bottling up freshly picked basil pesto, baking Death by Chocolate cookies and  and preserving a Mediterranean condiment called preserved lemons.  Within a short time, I had a complete line of Italian-inspired pantry provisions. Fast forward a decade and some years later;  Bella Cucina has become an award-winning artisan-made product line sold around the world.

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sm’s: What inspires you/your work?

AB: Bella Cucina is one vehicle for my creative and artistic expression. It is my offering, my art. It’s also been an unexpected vehicle for personal transformation.  Over the last 2o plus years I’ve been in business, I’ve had many accomplishments and accolades. I’ve also experienced overwhelming obstacles and adversity.  I have found that it is in the challenges and change that I have learned the most, which has shaped the artist & entrepreneur I am today. Alchemy isn’t easy, but it always leaves beauty behind.

I am inspired by everything.  Aesthetic arrest is what awakens me. I like to think of my life as a perpetual pilgrimage of astonishment & awe. Several days a week, I make time to be in my studio at home. It’s a sacred space where I can make something simply for the sake of creation.

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sm’s: What makes Bella Cucina products different from other pantry products found on market shelves?

AB: Bella Cucina makes over fifty different products:  from antipasti appetizers to our famous pestos, pasta sauces and dolci desserts.  Everything we produce is made by hand in small batches.  All our recipes start as experiments in my kitchen which I call  il laboratorio. It’s where all of the creations begin.

sm’s: What do people love about using Bella Cucina products?

AB: Simplicity is the new luxury. People want to eat and entertain and we try to  make it so easy.   With just a few simple ingredients and well-chosen serving plates, you can put out an impressive spread that will delight your guests with a feast for the senses.   There’s nothing to more do but linger around the table with good food and friends.

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sm’s: Do you ever experience kitchen disasters like the rest of us?

AB: I’ve had too many recipe disasters to mention – everything from soggy granola to exploding oranges. But I’ve learned to just toss these failures in the trash and start over. Creativity is about risk-taking and experimentation.  Dare to falter every once in a while.

What do you love about what you do?

AB: I love shopping in farmer’s markets for inspiration and creating new products.  It is an artistic expression of my creativity.  When I create a recipe that really works and people are delighted with it and use it in their own way, and e-mail me HOW the used it in their kitchens, feeding their family, that carries a big reward, I just Love that part of my work. Hearing their stories and seeing the photos of their own creations.

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Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

sm’s: How would you sum up your aesthetic & design philosophy?

AB: Simplicity. Restraint. Beauty.

sm’s: What’s on the horizon for you/Bella Cucina?

AB: Another cookbook.  Its about how the act and art of cooking and eating can nourish us body, mind and spirit. How rituals make a mundane activity more meaningful. A habit made holy.

Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee
Photo: Andrew Thomas Lee

We so love these Bella Cucina goods, but what we appreciate even more is Alisa’s sentiments on lifestyle and savoring your surroundings and great company while dining. She definitely embodies that European way of living and we are fans! Thank you to Alisa for sharing so much about herself and Bella Cucina with our readers.

Be sure to check out her wonderful line of pantry items, and pick a few up for you and all those hostesses you’ll be visiting over the holidays next time you find yourself in the store… Our team will be happy to guide you toward one fantastic product or we can put together a delicious gift basket – either way, it’ll be ready to present when you leave the steve mckenzie’s showroom!

 

Who you NEED to Meet: Kimberly Lewis

We believe you need to meet the fabulous pattern visionary, Kimberly Lewis, whose eponymous company – featuring some amazing wallpaper – we’re thrilled to be representing here in the southeast!

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Steve and Jill origionally met Kimberly Lewis while on a trip to Masion Objet with Grange last year. Her company is a Brooklyn based design studio that specializes in playful, preppy and patterned home boutique wallpaper and home decor products. They believe in joyful, coy color that can sometimes get a bit out of hand (but not too out of hand!), flirty patterns that add whimsy, and socially, environmentally conscious design and product development. Their products are designed in Kimberly’s Brooklyn, NY studio and are made close by in the Northeast by highly skilled craftsman and manufacturers.

Learn more about Kimberly and the wonderful products she designs…

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Kimberly Lewis

Kimberly founded her company in 2011 and shortly after was dubbed by Apartment Therapy as one of the “8 Brooklyn Wallpaper Designers To Watch.” Her interest in design started at a young age; growing up Kimberly’s mother predicted that one day she would design wallpaper for Laura Ashley. Kimberly likes to think that she is even happier with this outcome.  She grew up in New England and has been living in New York City for the past decade; Kimberly likes to think the Northeast is in her DNA and finds inspiration in both the bustle of the city and the calm of the country and seaside.

Kimberly holds a Bachelors of Industrial Design from Pratt Institute and studied Textile Design at the Danish Design School. Outside of her own company Kimberly has designed and developed patterns and products for companies such as Clinique, Macy’s, Dwellstudio, SkipHop, WolfGordon, The Jewish Museum of NYC and JMcLaughlin. In 2013, Kimberly was honored to have four of her wallpapers acquired by the Brooklyn Museum for their decorative arts permanent collection. 

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sm’s: Can you please share a bit about your background/how you started Kimberly Lewis and how you gained the courage to break out on your own?

KL: I studied industrial design at Pratt Institute. While I was a student I was constantly applying patterns to my 3 dimensional designs and that’s when it clicked that perhaps that is something I wanted to pursue. I was able to study textile design for a summer in Copenhagen through Pratt and after that it was clear to me what that I wanted to make print and pattern a focus for my career.

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial itch ever since I was a child. My first business was launched my senior year of college. I designed and sewed pillows and tried my hand selling them on Etsy and at craft fairs. My first line of pillows didn’t pan out too well. You have to inventory your mistakes and use them as stepping stones and moments for learning. Looking back on launching my wallpaper line, I really had no clue what I was doing, but I didn’t really care because I was creating something that was all my own and learning every step of the way. I spent a year researching wallpaper, manufacturers, reading business books and getting my hands on whatever I could learn before launching. It was exhilarating and honestly, in my mind at that time, I didn’t have room to think about failure; I just wanted to get my product out into the world and take it from there.

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sm’s: What inspires you/your art?

KL: Living and working in NYC is a constant source of inspiration for me. I love the energy, the pace and the fact that I can walk down a street and pop into amazing stores, or see someone with fantastic style on the street or catch an awe-inducing exhibit at a museum. Inspiration is literally all around me here; I always have something to look at or a place to visit to stir up some inspiration if I’m feeling flat.

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sm’s: What is your vision, not only for Kimberly Lewis, but also the individual pieces you create?

KL: I want to create patterns that elicit joy in people. I want my products to spark an emotion, hopefully a happy one!

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sm’s: What are the differences in your collections – i.e. how do you create such unique designs that remain a part of one, cohesive line?

KL: I personally design every pattern so you can definitely see my hand and style in all of my patterns. I am thinking about the end use of the pattern while designing; how it will look in a room, what type of furnishings a designer may style it with, etc. My work has definitely evolved a bit, but I try to keep it in line with my brand and what my customers want.

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sm’s: What’s on the horizon for Kimberly Lewis?

KL: I am hoping to start licensing my prints and patterns in the new year and focusing on connecting more with interior designers.

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sm’s: As an artist/business person how do you recharge?

KL: I am an introvert, so I recharge by carving out me-time. I love doing things that make me feel good, like taking a pilates or barre class, or curling up with a good book.

Aren’t Kimberly’s designs an amazing breath of fresh air?!? They’re even better in person, and we encourage you to come take a look at them in our showroom, next time you’re in the neighborhood. Or, if you’re interested in learning how you could incorporate Kimberly’s wallpapers into your space, please contact the steve mckenzie’s team today!