Sidestepping trends and rules, interior designer Markham Roberts prefers mastering the art of the mix. It’s a design fundamental rooted in every client project and has earned Roberts the reputation of skillfully and seamlessly connecting classic with current style. He acknowledges his process becomes more about looking at his clients’ existing furnishings collectively, balancing recent acquisitions, heirloom, fine and familiar décor. “Contemporary things can give antiques a new life,” says Roberts, “And, when put together, older things can give newer pieces depth and character.”
Rather than skipping on a passed down antique that at first glance seems out dated, Roberts recommends taking fresh eyes to vintage finds by pairing them with contrasting period pieces and recovering them in unexpected fabrics. “A client will often have something that belonged to their family and has real meaning, and if it’s an older piece of furniture that doesn’t work in their new environment,” says Roberts, “We can use it in a new way so it will take on a different character and feel new. I might put an old fashioned table with a modern mirror above it or a new chair next to it.”
Interested in Roberts’ signature style for your own home? Take time in developing the look by not only seeking out a range of furnishing and accessories from the style spectrum, but include items that you enjoy living with and looking at within your surroundings. “Mixing high and low elements in a room makes it more relaxed and less stuffy,” says Roberts, “People shouldn’t take themselves too seriously–or their furniture.”
Check out these extraordinary examples from interior designer Markham Roberts’ portfolio.
The furnishings in a New York apartment are heirloom pieces, passed down from the client’s grandmother’s home in Paris, including the period chests that Roberts painted in a blue accent color. The pair of chests are contrasted in style by the more modern designed glass lamps, placed on top. The antique furnishings, upholstered in fresh print fabrics, are set against a contemporary geometric print rug.
Roberts applies his technique layering old and new in this Nashville living room. In the corner, a Chinese deco mirror is hung above a Biedermeier chest. Custom designed slipper chairs are covered in an unexpected Anglo-Indian–inspired paisley. Roberts designed the teal blue ceramic lamps for Christopher Spitzmiller.
A large formal entry gallery instantly becomes causally chic with the addition of stenciled diagonal stripes on grass cloth, layered with a range of period furnishings and variety of finishes.
In a bright and sunny kitchen, Roberts infuses classic charm with the addition of French Bistro style stools and chairs. Vintage prints are hung above a custom tufted bench seat and accented with period lighting. Roberts has finished the floor in a marbleized checkerboard pattern.
A large living room reflects a refined elegant appeal. Roberts skillfully layers both prints and solids throughout the décor – a custom designed tufted chaise lounge in a solid fabric is matched with pair of custom armchairs in a decorative print. The antique Althorp chairs are given a fresh life with a contemporary Ikat linen print on the front and a solid fabric on the back. With the addition of period pieces, a 19th century Chinese scroll table and important Georgian armchair, all these elements work collectively in creating a classic yet current look to the room.
Through layering select pieces, Roberts creates a modern appeal with antique accents. The formal style of a Japanese low table is contrasted by the contemporary mirrored-glass box set on top. A pair of custom loveseats sit opposite one another. Important antiques include the Victorian crystal-and-glass girandoles which are hung above a pair of Louis XVI-style commodes.
The living room of a New York pied-a-terre is absolutely representative of Roberts’ signature style. He masterfully mixes a range of periods – important antiques, European pieces, vintage finds, contemporary art & accessories–weaved together through a similar color palette.
In a serene bedroom, Roberts skillfully selected decorative elements that reflect a refined elegance to the space. The soft curves of a custom upholstered sleigh bed are contrasted by a Parsons-style table, lantern light fixture and contemporary table lamp.
An unexpected Moroccan rug instantly adds a contemporary feel to a living room accented with a variety of important period furnishings. Fine art, including a set of Neapolitan gouaches, are placed over a pair of antique bookcases.
Roberts creates the ultimate mix of modern luxe and classic elegance in this dining room. The dark lacquered walls are contrasted by both the nineteenth-century landscape by Pierre Thuillier and layering of period accessories, including the classic Chinese blue-and-white temple jars. The fine Italian neoclassical parcel-gilt chairs are upholstered with inexpensive silk burlap on the backs and leather on the fronts.
All images Markham Roberts, unless otherwise noted.