A good percentage of my friends are interior designers or are involved in the design industry in some way or another. When the conversation turns to the fellow designers who most inspire us, a name that almost always pops up is that of Markham Roberts. Markham doesn’t work in a singular design style, so his body of work is filled with inspiring interiors in several styles that may vary from one another but maintain a chic, effortless air. While Markham does not confine himself to a single, “signature” look, his approach to scale, composition, and the masterful way in which he mixes colors, patterns, and textures is ever-present, making his work both identifiable and inspiring.
After studying the History of Art and Architecture at Brown University, Markham moved to New York where he worked for the iconic Mark Hampton for six years. After his tenure with Hampton, Markham founded his eponymous design firm and has since been featured in every important shelter publication including Architectural Digest, ELLE DECOR, Domino, House Beautiful, and House and Garden. Markham is consisted lauded as one of the top decorators of our time and as I mentioned before, he is a constant source of inspiration for designers and design aficionados alike. I recently had the opportunity to interview Markham and am so thrilled to share today’s installment of The Style Files with you. Enjoy!
Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?
Markham Roberts: It is suited to the client and the specific project.
PC: Has living in New York influenced the way you decorate?
MR: One can’t help but learn in any city like New York where there is so much going on around you – from all the apartments you get to see to the museums, restaurants, hotels and public spaces. There are so many architectural styles and so many varied designs of all sorts to draw from. I’m lucky to live in a world capital, and lucky to get to travel to other places, all of which inform how I think about decorating and design in general. You’d have to be severely oblivious not to absorb something.
PC: What does your home say about you?
MR: I think you can tell that I am interested in different styles of decoration, art and decorative objects. You can probably see I love plants and flowers and that things like dogs and comfort are the most important to me. You definitely know I don’t have small children!
PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?
MR: Anywhere and everywhere – from palaces and museums and everything in them to the barest fields of dust and dirt. Inspiration comes from movies, performances and music obviously, but also from nature, urban sprawl or more obscure things like decay and how it affects colors and surfaces. The world is full if interesting things for our senses.
PC: Who are your personal style icons?
MR: My grandmother was the most influential person in my life – an elegant lady, who lived for her family and friends. I admired and loved everything about her and learned to be a considerate person from her as well as from two ladies Roses Reynolds and Clara Hester who helped my family and looked after me when I was growing up. They all taught me the value of kindness to others, which I find very stylish. In addition my mother taught me not to care too much about convention and certainly not to take myself too seriously – two important aspects of her lovely and very cool personality.
PC: What is your guilty pleasure?
MR: If I were to feel guilty, it wouldn’t be pleasurable.
PC: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
MR: I feel very good about my relationships with my friends and family (with a few exceptions or glitches as none of us is perfect), and I am happy at my career and to be able to do what I do. Having had the opportunity to write a book about my work, really made me realize how hard I’ve worked for a long time and how much I enjoy what I do.
PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?
MR: I was lucky enough to work for Mark Hampton before going out on my own. It was an invaluable learning experience on both a personal and professional level. Mark was a gentleman and a master at what he did, who possessed incredible knowledge and an interest to impart it to others. He was kind and generous to me, and I always felt he valued me and believed in me.
PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?
MR: Weekends in the country
PC: What can we look forward to next from you?
MR: After my book, I am excited to have my focus back solely on interesting projects for clients.
Go-To Outfit: I tend to wear a sort of uniform – either a grey suit with a blue shirt or khakis and a button down shirt.
Scent: I mix Chanel for men with Jo Malone Grapefruit.
Piece of Jewelry: I have a bunch of Swatch watches, which I love and different cuff links.
Color I Never Tire Of: That’s like trying to pick a favorite song – easier just to say I am not fond of mauve or NFL orange.
Flower: peonies, cosmos, dahlias, anemones to name a few
Indispensable Design Element: My canvas bag in which I tote around everything I need – plans, schemes, samples and punch lists etc.
Era for Design: Today, as we have all the previous ones from which to draw inspiration.
Dream Project: My own house or James’ house on Puget Sound – unless someone were to ask me to do up the Crane house or Clarenden Court in Newport with Carte Blanche and no one rushing me. I’d love to work with the architect Gil Shafer too.
Fabric/Textile: I marvel at my friend Nathalie Farman-Farma’s creations for Tissus Tartares. They are perhaps the most sophisticated and chic fabrics I can think of.
Hostess Gift: flowers, food or drink
Meal: Since it is getting to be winter, I’ll say a kale salad with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, followed by rigatoni with sausage, peas and cream and a good Cabernet. For dessert I’ll have Panna Cotta.
Drink: A Manhattan
Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: Playing with our dog Harrie who seems inexhaustible and making a drink for James and me.
3 Things I Love About My City: There is no shortage of interesting people to see and interesting things to see or do, and it always feels exciting. In contrast there is no shortage of badly behaved people to remind us how not to act. I like that you can take a lesson from the good or from the bad. We’ve got it all!
Weekend Destination: My house in the Hudson River Valley
Hotel: Villa San Michele in the hills above Florence or the Costes in Paris
Museum: The Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature in the Marais or the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which has a fantastic permanent collection and also owns and operates the Miller house in Columbus, Indiana – Saarinen’s only residential project in America with interiors by Alexander Girard and a garden by Dan Kiley
Artist: Julia Condon
Prized Possession: My dog
Risk Worth Taking: Geating a puppy
Rule to Break: I am no longer in boarding school, so I don’t have too many rules to follow other than the speed limit.
Movie Set Design: Merchant Ivory and Visconti films
I can never have too many… Friends or Dogs