Whether it's his signature blue-and-white color palette or love of blending American and European aesthetics, designer Mark Sikes is known for his timeless style. We sat down with Sikes to learn more about his approach to decorating, using social media for marketing purposes, and what we can expect from his upcoming product collections.
Q: You're known for bringing a youthful energy to traditional decorating. In a world so overrun with mid-century design, how do you convince young families that classic styles are the way to go?
A: Traditional design that is done well is timeless. Decorating a home and acquiring beautiful things is an investment, and people want to know that what they are investing in is going to continue to look great years from now. I also believe in mixing things—every room should have a touch of modern, and vice versa. Any room that is just one note is boring and expected.
Q: You have become something of a phenomenon on Instagram. How have you used this outlet, and other forms of social media, to further your career?
A: Social media is a very powerful thing. You can literally build a business and brand from your kitchen counter. I’ve used Instagram as a way to share the things that inspire me and celebrate others who also inspire me. I try to focus on things I think are beautiful and to reinforce what I love, like blue and white, big white houses, gardens, and style icons like Jackie Kennedy. I use Instagram stories to share my travels, to market products I have designed and to share new press coverage.
Q: What is the one bit of advice you would give any designer looking to increase their social media profile?
A: For Instagram or any type of social media platform, be consistent with your message, have a story to tell, and most importantly, be authentic. Supporting others and always being positive is also important.
Q: What is the technological tool you use most in your day-to-day work?
A: My iPhone.
Q: You have acknowledged fashion, especially Oscar de la Renta, as an inspiration. What do you learn from fashion that applies to design?
A: Fashion and interiors are very intertwined. I think of them as being mostly the same. Decorating a room, creating that perfect mix of old and new, solid and pattern, hard and soft, is not that different from putting together an outfit. I count Oscar de la Renta, along with Hubert de Givenchy and Bill Blass, as style icons and role models. They were all fashion designers with unique and classic aesthetics, and their homes were as beautiful as their clothing designs. In fact, I still look to each of their homes over and over for inspiration.
Q: You are based in California, but work all across the country. How important are regional influences in your design?
A: I have been fortunate to live in a lot of places. I was born in Texas, but spent my early years in the Midwest. The Midwest helped inform me of the simple things that make a home a home. When I lived in the South, I learned a lot about traditions, collecting, layers, color, entertaining, and gardens. I have been in California for almost 20 years now, and my design work is a combination of all of these places.
Q: Do you think working in California is different that designing in New York or in the South?
A: In California, we get to enjoy the indoor-outdoor lifestyle year round. This is a large part of my work, connecting the interiors of the home with the outside. Then, of course, I like to mix traditional things, informed by my years in the South, with casual and textural things more common on the West Coast. I call it California elegant—that perfect mix of traditional and casual that feels easy and inviting. We are very fortunate to work all over the country. We are working on projects right now in St. Louis, Birmingham, Nashville, Kansas City, New York City, Baton Rouge, Napa, Montecito, and Los Angeles. People are drawn to our approach because it embodies the California spirit informed by timeless, traditional, and comfortable decorating.
Q: You are an admirer of British style and the kind of relaxed opulence and layering of British country houses. Is it difficult to evoke that sensibility in the U.S.?
A: Not at all. It’s all about layers, texture and antiques. A well designed room should have layers of pattern and color (with nothing perfectly matched), and texture provided with materials, accessories, and finishes. I always say every room should have at least three antiques. The Brits get this better than anyone—and so should we.
Q: You have created lines of fabric, furniture, accessories, rugs, and even fashion. Which has been the most challenging?
A: They have all been challenging because they were all new to me. However, in many ways the process for all was similar. I have learned so much and now I see things very differently. My approach with all of these lines was to just create and design things that I find beautiful and useful, and to make items I couldn’t find in other places. When you layer all of these things I’ve designed together there is a bigger, broader story of classic American design that’s fresh, approachable, inviting, and attainable.
Q: What challenge do you plan to take on next?
A: We have a lot coming up—more fabrics, more rugs, more furniture, along with a new tabletop and lighting collection. And of course every season we will be doing new blue-and-white stripes with our MDS Stripes ready-to-wear collection for women.