My 7 Favorite Scandinavian Home Brands

Source: Courtesy of Bjørn Wiinblad.

I’m a big fan on Scandinavian design. I love the sleek lines, simple beauty and functionality that is associated with decor from the Nordic region. If you’ve been over to our house or heard me talk about my heritage, you already know this.

I’m Scandinavian (a mix of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish), and have a concentration in Nordic Studies from University of Colorado at Boulder. That means I took classes where I studied everything from the social welfare system and conversational Swedish (Hejsan!) to Icelandic sagas and the Nordic sources J.R.R. Tolkien incorporated in his Lord of The Rings books.

While my knowledge of Scandinavia runs deep, so does my love for the region’s aesthetics. In college I wrote a term paper for my Nordic Societies class drawing comparisons between the visuals in the IKEA catalog and Carl Larsson’s paintings of the Swedish domestic life. The similarities were striking. (That reminds me, I need to dig up that paper!) It also was in that class that I fell in love with midcentury designers like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner.

As Graham and I have established our home, I’ve managed to incorporate Scandinavian heirlooms that have been passed down from both of our families, along with larger pieces of contemporary furniture. With all the Nordic-inspired pieces that make up our home, I figured it was due time for a little blog post on some of my favorite home brands from the motherland.

Iris Hantverk

Located in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s historic Old Town, this cute little shop sells beautiful home goods along with brushes that are handmade by visually impaired workers. While we were visiting for our honeymoon, I grabbed a few gorgeous knit hand towels to bring home for our house and as souvenirs for my mom and Nana. If you live here in Richmond, you can pick up some Iris Hantverk brushes at Accoutre in Scott’s Addition.

Bjørn Wiinblad

I love everything about Bjørn Wiinblad’s designs. They are so whimsical and happy. You can find the Danish painter’s motifs on all sorts of homewares like ceramics, linens and seasonal decor. While shopping in Copenhagen and Oslo we saw a lot of his designs in home stores. I can’t find a brick-and-mortar here in the U.S., but Skandium and Connox both sell these pretty porcelain pieces via their web shops.

Source: Courtesy of Muuto.


I’m a huge fan of Muuto’s sleek molded plywood and plastic seating. The Danish shop also has a beautiful line of light fixtures along with fun tchotchkes and textiles for the home. Here in the U.S., it looks like the best place to get your Muuto fix is via web shops like the Danish Design Store, Design Public and Lekker

Svensk Tenn

While meandering around Stockholm I discovered this amazing high-end design house. As a fan of fiber arts, I love Svensk Tenn’s textiles, particularly artist-designer Josef Frank’s whimsical patterned fabrics. If you’re looking for some of the company’s vintage wares, be sure to check out Charish’s

Source: Courtesy of Normann Copenhagen.

Normann Copenhagen

This Danish design company reminds me of a high-end IKEA with everything from furnishings to the functional items and final touches you would buy for your home. Although based in Copenhagen, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some of the wares, via modern furniture stores here in the U.S. like Design Within Reach or popular e-tailers like the Danish Design Store that focus on contemporary Scandinavian housewares.

Royal Copenhagen

Royal Copenhagen was started in 1775 under Denmark’s Queen Juliane Marie as the country’s royal porcelain factory. The timeless ceramics are adorned with simple, classic blue floral motifs that can really translate to any table. For the holidays, I bought some lovely Royal Copenhagen taper candles via Hygge Life, a brick-and-mortar in the Vail, Colorado area. The shop also sells pillars too. One day I’ll have to splurge and buy some serving dishes and platters.

Source: Courtesy of Menu.


Based out of Copenhagen, this sophisticated design shop sells everything from gorgeous upholstered sofas down to highly functional housewares. Seriously, look at Menu’s Sweeper and Funnel. Is that not the smartest, coolest dust pan you’ve ever laid your eyes on?! With one sweep your mess is in the pan and funneled out the bottom into the trash.

Interior Icon: Dorothy Draper Past + Present

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

Dorothy Draper was a woman ahead of her time. In an era when it was unheard of for women to have a career, Draper was a pioneer, paving the way for the interior design profession when she launched her own firm in 1923. Draper started a revolution not just in the interior design world, but for women by transforming and empowering the domestic space.

Draper eschewed the Victorian era’s dismal colors, period room styles, and formalities, instead embracing bright colors, bold motifs, and exaggerated details — something that was unheard of at the time. In the early 1900s after Draper married, she redecorated her home and her high-society friends took note of her fabulous style, asking her to spruce up their abodes as well. Over time, Draper’s hobby turned into an iconic and recognizable style, along with one of the most beloved interior design companies in the world.

What is now known as Dorothy Draper & Company was avant-garde at the time. Draper coined the term “modern baroque,” adding her special touch of glamour to classical designs. She was a design maximalist, applying exaggerated motifs and zippy colors, overlapping busy prints, and combining colors and patterns that weren’t ever seen before. Large prints and thick stripes were applied liberally to walls, bedspreads, and upholstered furniture. Although it was outlandish, her designs were well-received. They lifted spirits and inspired. “Lovely, clear colors have a vital effect on our mental health,” Draper once said.  

Draper’s signature style is characterized by her use of cabbage rose chintz, white-and-black checkered floors, ornate white plasterwork, rococo scrollwork, and mirrors galore. Skillfully she mixed periods, such as Victorian with Baroque and Art Deco.  “If it looks right, it’s right,” she would say simply if a room looked aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

At The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, you can’t help but smile seeing the vibrant green palm tree leaf wallpaper paired with regal red carpeting, and Draper’s cheery oversized aqua, purple and green rhododendron chintz that is used extensively throughout. Draper redecorated the resort in the 1940s, breathing new life into the historic hotel, covering all aspects of the redesign down to the details of the menus and staff uniforms.

Her dramatic design became known as “the Draper touch,” and she was admired by suburban housewives across the country. Her “Ask Dorothy Draper” column ran in more than 70 newspapers during The Great Depression, and she would dole out decorative pearls of wisdom to those who wanted to adopt her style. At a time of poverty and sadness, Draper was telling women to infuse their homes with lively colors and happy motifs. 

In 1944, Draper’s first pattern for the fabric and wallcovering company F. Schumacher & Co. was released — “Manor Rose”, an oversized vibrant chintz motif that is still available for purchase today. Her fabrics were in such demand by homemakers that Schumacher sold more than a million yards of her famous cabbage rose chintz.

Draper’s spaces are not just memorable but transformative. Entrances announce “you have arrived”  with bold plasterwork, while bedrooms are dreamy with romantic flowers, and dining rooms sparkle with eye-catching fixtures.

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.


Today Draper’s dramatic designs can be seen at properties such as the restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (dubbed “The Dorotheum”), along with The Plaza Hotel and Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Dorothy Draper & Co. also is known for its interior design of castles and manors in Ireland, the Lithuanian Royal Palace, and the White House during the Carter administration. 

“Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion,” Draper’s protégé and the company’s current president Carleton Varney said. “She brought color into a world which was sad and dreary. Today, everyone wants color around them again.” 

Varney, also known fondly as “Mr. Color,” joined the company in the 1960s, working alongside Draper, and purchased the company in 1964. He was then hired by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to be the curator of The Greenbrier when Justice purchased the resort in 2009 and saved it from bankruptcy.

Since heading up the company, Varney has expanded Dorothy Draper & Co. to include Carleton V Ltd. along with and Dorothy Draper Fabric and Wallcoverings. Varney’s design philosophy echoes Draper’s with the use of bright colors and forbidding all things dim and banal. Varney, along with his right-hand man, Brinsley Matthews, are carrying on the traditions that Draper started nearly 100 years ago. 

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

“We are as busy as ever, just as busy as Ms. Draper was in her day,” says Matthews, executive vice president and director of design and operations at Dorothy Draper & Co. “We still have all the components and ingredients, and still do original design and industrial design. And then there’s the fabrics and wallpapers. We are always creating new designs for lighting, fabric, and china.”

The design firm has decorated more than 300 hotels across the world, recently finishing Palm Beach’s Colony Hotel, The Grand Hotel’s new Coupla Suites, along with The Greenbrier’s new Wedding Salon.

“When we do hotels, we do the buttons on the uniforms and matchbooks and stationery,” says Matthews of the level of aesthetic attention paid to all aspects of their projects. “Our customers love attention to detail. Your biggest mistake is to underestimate someone. We all know details and appreciate details.”

Dorothy Draper & Co. also transforms the interior design for posh jets, the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship, railway cars — even hospitals and retirement homes.

Known for their deliberate use of unexpected color combinations, Dorothy Draper & Co. has established a paint line with Fine Paints of Europe with colors like the soft Hampton Meadow Lawn green and vibrant marigold Presidential Yellow.

And recently the company completed luxury homes in Palm Beach and New York. Previously, the privates residences they have decorated include the likes of Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and golf pro Sam Sneed.

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.


10 decorating pro-tips from Dorothy Draper & Co.’s Vice President and Director of Design Brinsley Matthews

1. Don’t forget the ceiling. According to Draper, there are five walls in a home, and the ceiling should not be neglected. Matthews advises painting ceilings in soft pastel colors.

2. Check your floors. Black-and-white patterned floors are a signature design element of Draper. She would use large-scale 22-inch square tiles to execute her checkerboard look.

3. Go bright or go home. “All our colors are fresh,” says Matthews. “Ms. Draper always used bright, clear colors.” Matthews recommends using colors that are reminiscent of springtime, when everything is alive and vibrant.

4. Just say “no” to beige. “Beige is the one color we don’t do. It isn’t an option,” says Matthews. “Ms. Draper used to say, ‘Show me nothing that looks like gravy.’” Beige can work as a minor secondary color, but Matthews warns against leaning on the color and applying it liberally. “It’s like quicksand. There’s no getting away from it then!” 

5. Add jewel-tone accents. While using vibrant colors generously, Matthews also advises on adding accents of saturated hues. “A burgundy or dark green or aubergine helps highlight fixtures or interesting art you have,” he says. 

6. Black is the new black. “Always add a touch of black to a room because it anchors the room,” says Matthews. Try a black coffee table or side table. And remember, all you need is a touch.

7. Scale is key. Matthews advices to keep scale in mind when decorating rooms. For instance, large rooms call for large prints. Common rooms at The Greenbrier and Grand Hotel are wallpapered in 15-inch and 20-inch stripes.

8. Define doorways. “Entrances to rooms are always lavish,” says Matthews of Draper’s doorways, which were embellished with lavish white plasterwork. “It creates a lovely announcement.” 

9. Create a focal point. It’s important to have large-scale focal point in a room, which can be a window, piece of art, sofa, or even a mirror. If using a mirror, Matthews says it must reflect something interesting.

10. Mix it up. Mixing and matching fabrics is one of Draper’s signature looks. Matthews recommending mixing several patterns, such as bold chintz, and then using a striped fabric or wallpaper as a common denominator. 


Further your interior design knowledge at the Dorothy Draper School of Decorating

For the Dorothy Draper fans who are interested in furthering their interior design education, the design firm has launched their own decorating school, where they generously dole out design tips.

The program is hosted at The Grand Hotel on the weekend of June 21 through 23, 2019 and through two design sessions hosted by Carlton Varney himself guests learn how to solve their home decorating dilemmas. While learning about Dorothy Draper’s style, participants also are educated on how to create beautiful, bold, and balanced spaces for their home. 

6 ‘Cool Mom’-Approved Nursery Trends

There’s a lot of unattractive nursery furniture and decor out there. At 29 weeks pregnant, let’s just say I’ve spent a good chunk of that time looking at baby gear, and I’ve seen a lot of banal stuff out there. It takes some digging (and avoiding big-box baby stores) to discover unique and whimsical items that will give your nursery a stylish, one-of-a-kind feel.

In my quest to create a nursery, I’ve taken it upon myself to find balance between cutesy baby stuff and adult-friendly decor. After much thought it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be sitting in a childish safari-themed room, and would much rather be spending my time (who am I joking … 24/7) in a room where I will be physically and emotionally comfortable. I know from mom friends how hard those first few months are on your body and mind, and I wanted to create a room that not only caters to all baby’s needs, but mine as well.

It’s important for me to create an environment that lifts my spirits and keeps me comfortable throughout the day while nursing and hanging with my girl. I know there are going to be really tough moments where I’ll be feeling anxious and frustrated, and being in a safe, comfortable space as a new mom is important. So, I’m in the process of creating a feminine room that is both child- and adult-friendly. It’s happy and whimsical — not overly girly and not too childish.

In my quest to find a mommy-baby balance in the nursery, I noticed some really cool decorative trends. Here are a few that I think are worth sharing.

  1. Llama Decor

Source: Anthropologie.

Llamas are the new unicorns, and thank god. You can’t toss a pacifier without hitting some unicorn-bedecked item in a kids’ store these days.

When quilt shopping for our little girl, I came across this kooky llama quilt (seen above, $98-$178) via Anthropologie. How fun! Anthro clearly is embracing this silly creature, as you’ll find llama decor throughout out their site — mobile ($56), pouf ($128), growth chart ($68), coin bank ($24), etc. Seriously, so much. If you troll their site, you’ll find llamas aplenty.

Etsy also has their share of llama items — llama crib sheet ($30), swaddle blanket ($37) and prints you can frame ($6).

2. Modern Cribs

Source: Pottery Barn Kids

Modern cribs with clean lines are all the rage. Pottery Barn Kids’ Modern Baby line includes beautiful cribs like the convertible Lolly crib (seen above, $399) by Babyletto, which I purchased for our nursery.  West Elm and Crate & Kids also carry some great contemporary styles by Babyletto, Stokke and DaVinci Baby.

If you are in the market for a bassinet, check out the SNOO Smart Sleeper ($1,295). We scored one on Black Friday when they were hugely discounted. The bassinets are supposed to be a total game changer with sleep training. And as someone who loves sleep, I’m willing to splurge here.

3. Handmade Mobiles

Source: Etsy.

While hunting for nursery decor, I came across so many precious handmade mobiles. This knit kitten mobile (seen above, $151) on Etsy caught my eye. I also love Serena & Lily’s felted elephants mobile ($148), along with this cloud and star mobile ($59) and minimal wood mobile ($39) on Etsy.

The Moms On Call Basic Baby Care book (which I highly recommend BTW) notes that babies learn by association, and therefore you shouldn’t hang mobiles over the crib. Babies need to associate the crib with sleep time, not playtime. So if you are going the mobile route, perhaps hang it over the changing table instead. It will make butt-wiping more enjoyable for all.

4. Boho Crib Skirts

Source: Serena & Lily.

Serena + Lily’s macrame crib skirt (seen above, $78) is so much fun! Can they please make this for grown-up beds?! Crate & Kids has a cool one decked out in navy pom-poms (on sale for $39.97 now!) and this linen skirt with fringe ($28) on Etsy would be fun for a more subdued natural-looking nursery. I’m a fan of Anthro’s dyed tassel skirt ($78), but I feel like you can create this look yourself for much cheaper.

Crib skirts obviously aren’t necessary (all you really need is a fitted crib sheet), but I think that if you find something special like the ones above, it’s totally worth gussying up baby’s bed.

5. House Beds

Source: Etsy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find such a large inventory of house beds on Etsy. I like this one (seen above, $245) for its sheer simplicity and affordability. (If you or your partner are handy, you can create one for a fraction of price though!) Resting on the ground, it’s toddler-friendly, so little ones can get in and out of bed easily.

Also, I’m a big fan of daybeds in the nursery. We got an IKEA daybed that pulls out into a queen for our baby’s room, so that my husband and I have a place to nap and relax while taking care of our girl.

6. Campy Themes

Source: Crate & Kids.

Crate & Kids has a bunch of cheeky themes that break the mold of traditional nurseries. For instance, this camper play tent (seen above, and now on sale for $169!) takes the whole forest theme to a new level. You can even complete your setup with a campfire and log set ($69), log seat ($59) and toy camping set ($59). How freakin’ adorable is that? I can’t even.

. . . 

T-minus 74 days until my due date, so I still have plenty of time to finish nesting and decorating the nursery. I’d love some decor tips and product recommendations! Thanks friends! xo, marissa

Surprising 2019 Design Predictions

Courtesy of Muuto.

January signals new beginnings, and in the design world that means publications are putting out trend forecasts that predict everything from colors to decor. For the past month my inbox has been inundated with lifestyle e-newsletters telling me what’s new and hot for 2019, so I figured I’d do a little roundup of trends that piqued my interest, both positively and negatively.

Read ahead, and if you are a design pro — or an admirer like me — I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s trends.


>> Washington Post <<

The Washington Post chatted with Houzz’s editor for this year’s design forecast. The website’s predictions are based off of activity on their site and tips from industry experts. Houzz’s list hits on some pretty obvious trends that currently are happening, like dynamic backsplashes, moody colors,  dining benches and free-standing tubs. I got excited when I saw  “tuxedo kitchens” on the list and then after reading further, realized that it’s just a fancy way of referring to kitchens with black cabinets and white decorative details. Hasn’t this been happening for a while? I think this look is more timeless than trendy. Hence referring to the style as a classic ensemble like the “tuxedo.”

I also was surprised to see “four-wall accent color” on the list. What could this possibly be, I pondered. “Instead of a bold-colored feature wall, homeowners are opting to paint all the walls,” writes the author of the story. I hate to break it to ya, Houzz, but painting all the walls in a room is not a trend. It’s a standard practice that’s been happening for eons.

>> Lonny <<

Lonny published a trend roundup based off of Pinterest’s top home trends report, which was an interesting angle to take on. After all, Pinterest gives you a good look at what all the lifestyle bloggers are interested in. The list includes bold wallpapers, cactus arrangements  and geometric paint — all decorative elements that make me think of a millennial lifestyle influencer’s Instagram feed. Things I found exciting were mustard yellow, natural swimming pools (my inner Floridian approves!) and textile art.

>> Domino <<

While Domino wrote a similar story to Lonny based off the same Pinterest report (can anyone say press release?), they also published a series of in-depth posts on specific trends for 2019. These include curvaceous coffee tables, plywood, European-inspired kitchens,  and a popular seat called the Jeanneret chair.

Ahead of the gang, Domino also published a story back in September on trends to watch for this year based off of attending big international design shows. Predictions include sustainability (dramatic eye-roll), high-end Scandinavian furnishings (think Muuto, not IKEA) and ’70s-inspired hues like orange and yellow.

>> Remodelista <<

Remodelista had the most thought-provoking roundup of trends for 2019, ranging from fringe-skirted lounge chairs to oversized pendant lamps. I appreciated how specific the editors were with decor. Some peculiar trends though made me take a double-take, namely handmade soap dishes and quirky rattan lamps. Say what?!

>> House Beautiful <<

House Beautiful broke down their design roundup by subject matter. Bathroom trends to watch for are concrete, unique mirrors and industrial-inspired hardware. In the kitchen, the forecast includes matte black (there’s that tuxedo kitchen again!), stonework and beadboard. And color-wise look out for muted pastels, terra cotta and mushroom (AKA gross beige — which is hard for me to believe).

. . .

I have some fun posts planned for the future. Since I’ve been busy nesting and preparing for the arrival of our baby, I think it would be fun to write a post about nursery decor trends. There’s some cool stuff out there!

I also have a post in the works against book styling. Quite a few people reacted via Facebook to my last blog post, specifically calling out how outrageous the backwards books trend is. I’m going to take all that energy and run with it, because you won’t believe the crazy ways in which people are styling their books.

I’d love to hear what you are interested in reading about! xo, marissa