Adding color and pattern with John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon - Home Front

John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon
Jan 11, 2018

John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon and their design firm Madcap Cottage are known for their sophisticated yet whimsical use of color and pattern. The North Carolina-based firm's owners shop the world for vintage and antique finds and furnish their clients' homes with unexpected combinations. Their latest book "Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns" shows how to successfully layer different fabrics and hues to create memorable interiors. John and Jason will be appearing at the Home + Remodeling Show at Dulles Expo Center that is being held January 19-21.

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Good morning all and welcome to John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon of Madcap Cottage in High Point, N.C. John  and Jason are known for their sophisticated yet whimsical use of color and pattern. The firm's owners shop the world for vintage and antique finds and furnish their clients' homes with unexpected combinations. Their latest book "Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns" shows how to successfully layer different fabrics and hues to create memorable interiors. John and Jason will be appearing at the Home + Remodeling Show at Dulles Expo Center that is being held January 19-21. Meanwhile, they are here today to explain how to bring some decorating excitement to your home, something we especially need in this period of freezing cold and gray winter weather.

Hello, friends! Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke here of Madcap Cottage. We are interior designers and product developers based in High Point, North Carolina and are known for our passion for prints and patterns. Our new book from Abrams, “Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns,” hit shelves in late October. Throw us your questions, we are very excited to be here today! And be sure to follow us on Instagram at @madcapcottage.

I love my historically inspired living room but want to spice it up a bit. Walls are similar to Farrow and Ball Hague Blue, and drapes and furniture are cream/ivory. I have a creamware collection in cabinets and antique books that lend some visual interest, but I feel the need for more patterned fabric accents. I'm thinking maybe window pelmets, but am stuck on color and pattern type (toile or indienne or something else)? I prefer a classic look rather than injecting something too modern. What do you recommend?

The room sounds wonderful! Go with a  toile that has multiple shades of blue to add some further interest and spice it up. Do pelmets, but come up with an interesting shape for them that has some theater. Edge the pelmets with a blue fabric and trim them with a cream or beige tape or trim.

Hi! This is so exciting as we just love your work!! We recently got a great deal on a house and desperately need to give it some life. You look like just the right men to help this man out! I have always pushed boundaries in my life and want to bring some flamboyant touches to my home. This house is full of white paint, beige carpet, etc. so any and every suggestion is much appreciated! I am eager to do this as I am totally motivated by this world that has always tried to tell me no. Thank you!!x

Thank you for the very kind words! Be sure to pick up a copy of our book, it's really a great, fun primer to bringing prints and pattern home. "Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns."

I have trouble mixing and matching pillows on my sofa. Should you use solid pillows with print pillows or can you mix several prints? Should you use the color of your sofa as a starting point?

Mix solids and prints. Use the color of your sofa as a starting point: If your sofa is blue, look for pillows in other shades of blue. Or if you want to shake it up, pull a hue that complements blue such as red or green and look for patterns that have a bit of blue in them. Think red or green pillows that have a little blue in them.

My father recently died and I will be selling his collection of mid-century modern Danish rosewood furniture. It was all purchased at in the 1970s at SCAN, if anyone remembers that store. (Dining room set, two china cabinets, coffee table, side table) I know this market was hot a few years ago; is it still desirable? Thanks much.

Absolutely! Mid-century is being used in new ways, pairing with more traditional pieces, for instance. And with more traditional fabrics, such as those from the Madcap Cottage line. And we remember SCAN!

My small kitchen has a traditional-style wallpaper border (fruits, grape vines) that was installed about 20 years ago. It's time for it to go, but I'm undecided whether to replace it, or just remove it and repaint the area. Are wallpaper borders out of fashion now? If not, what are some current styles?

We love wallpaper borders! They are not necessarily the HOT thing these days and are difficult to find. Why not wallpaper your kitchen? Wallpaper borders may not be in fashion, but wallpaper is back in a big way. We just launched a line of Madcap Cottage wallpaper with York, America's oldest wallpaper company. The fashion used to be using things like fruits and veggies in a kitchen, but those rules don't apply now. Have fun with trellis or lattice...

You do really interesting and fun things in your designs. In the same vein as prints and patterns, do you have any suggestions for hanging art from different eras/schools together? It could look weird or pulled together, so what should I pay attention to so that's it the latter, including placement?

We love a good salon-style grouping of artwork. You don't want all of the pieces to have the same frame style but you want the frames to all feel like they play together. So don't do one gold and all the rest brown wood. Have a few that are gilt. Balance it all out. Pull matting colors the individual pieces. Map out your arrangement on a floor and use Ook nails when hanging. Send us photos of your handiwork!

Hi there, I can't find any apartment-sized living room chairs with cute prints. Where are they?

Most furniture today is easy TOO big. Buy vintage pieces and recover them at your local Calico Corners. They can recover anything and are located from coast to coast.

Where did you get those amazing jackets you are wearing in this photo?

We had them made with our Madcap Cottage fabrics, all available at Calico. We have a great tailor. Bermuda Bay in Palm and Mirador Morn (floral) are the patterns.

I know chintz comes in and out of favor in the design world but I still love it. Where can you find beautiful chintz fabrics that are not to-the-trade?

We adore chintz! Go to Calico stores from coast to coast, they have amazing retail-ready collections from top designers. We have new chintz patterns coming out in our collections--Isleboro Eve, Jungle Bloom, Georgica Pond are our chintz patterns. Chintz is coming back, it's not the highly polished chintz from the 1980s. 


So many of my friends have homes that look so boring - sort of like hotel suites. I'd love to help them have more fun in their decorating - do you think it's okay to offer them your assistance?

Hmm, tricky. Give them a copy of our book as a gift...

My house is a World War I era bungalow and I plan to renovate the kitchen this year. I would like to replace the plain wooden cabinets installed by the previous owner in 1992 with the types of cabinets popular in the 1930s through 1950s, art deco if possible. I occasionally see them on ebay. Other than seeking them there, any other suggestions? I would consider new if there is any manufacturing producing them now? I live in Texas, if that matters.

Look to a local salvage outpost, or find photos of what you want and speak to a local carpenter to recreate them. It might be about the same price...

How much wallpaper is too much? I think it looks quite dated to have wallpaper in every room. But I do like it in the powder room. What are your favorite rooms to wallpaper?

You can never have enough wallpaper! Why use it only in the powder room so that only your guests enjoy it? If you are timid about bringing wallpaper out of a powder room, try it in a hallway, laundry room, dressing area... Wallpaper is really being embraced by millennials, it's anything but dated and tired.

They say bedrooms should be soothing and spa like. What are some of your favorite paint colors for bedrooms?

If that's your look, go for it. If a spa-like bedroom its what YOU want, great. Think pale blues, grays... Maybe a grasscloth wallpaper... Stick to colors from the cool spectrum.

Do you think the trim of your house should be white or off white? What are good paint colors for that?

We love colorful trim but if you want a white hue... In new homes, the trim is often not contained and connects everywhere so go for a crisp white. This will make the trim stand out and create architectural definition. If you trim is more contained room by room, consider going for a punchy color--it's a good way to bring color into a room without having to paint a whole wall.

For the poster looking for apartment sized chairs, I believe Macy's has a line of furniture called "Apartment Furniture" (or something like that). My dad bought a couch and recliner there for his 1950s house and the pieces work really well.

Thanks for this tip.

You guys live in High Point? Yikes - what is that place like when it's not one of the market weeks...

We LOVE it, the perfect home base. The talent is off the charts.

You are just the people to get me over the hump. I have a 600 square foot apartment, so a small living room. I have a muted paisley loveseat in tans, rusts, and blues, with a blue lounge chair. My problem is finding a rug. Right now I have a striped sisal rug that, coincidentally, has the same colors as my couch. But it is probably too small for the space - it floats, contrary to design commandments. The thing is, I can't find anything to replace it. I am tempted to go bold but really don't know how to take the plunge. Thoughts?

You don't want your rug to match your sofa--they should contrast. If your sofa is beige and tan, go for a colorful rug. Pull the color from the chair or walls. The rug should really anchor the space so it needs to be bigger than your seating area.

There seems to be a lot of angst around "stuff" these days, and I'm wondering how you characterize your things. I don't think anyone would call you minimalists. So many people refer to their stuff as "crap" and I'm not sure why since it seems counterproductive to work and spend money on stuff people ultimately end up hating and feel is a burden. I guess I'm asking for shopping tips and how you manage the things you collect.

We love creating and curating collections, whether that be blue-and-white china or photography or china objects. If you love it, cherish it and create a place for the items in your home.

I know from your book that that is your mantra... but how does one do this without going overboard?

There are no rules, do what you feel looks right. But don't just go big and bold in one room, carry the storyline throughout your whole home.

We have a fairly large furnace/laundry room in the basement with mostly cynderblock walls and some pipes sticking about. Any thoughts on how to give the area a bit of a facelift without any construction or other major overhauls?

Paint everything white, and hang some interesting lighting, perhaps garden pendants from a big box store. An indoor-outdoor rug, too...

So glad to hear there is still interest in wallpaper! I love it myself, and it lasts far longer than paint. That said, I'm feeling it is time to update the wallpaper I had installed nearly 30 years ago in our entrance hall, stairway, and upstairs hall. That one has a fairly subtle tone-on-tone damask kind of effect, but with big leaves, not the typical damask print. Is "subtle" still a good way to go? I've loved this for 30 years, so obviously don't replace often, and I'd like to enjoy the new stuff for at least 10 more years before we move.

Why not make a big, bold statement, and your foyer is the perfect place for some theater and wow. Life is short, why be subtle.

Because my house is 85 years old and therefore has tiny closets, my guest room is also my dressing room. There's a full-size daybed for overnight guests, but I also clothing racks, a rolling shoe rack, etc. I've done a bit with the decor to make it feel luxurious, such as a velvet bedspread and metallic accents, but I'd like some more ideas. I'm also on a tight budget, most of what I already have is secondhand or from Ross.

Wallpaper the room, add a fun chandelier and a statement mirror, a fun rug, drape the windows...

I really, really want an upholstered bed. Not just the headboard, but rails, too, since I don't like dust ruffles. Can I get away with one long term, even after styles change?

Upholstered beds are timeless. Have it upholstered in a solid fabric, and dress up the bed with patterned pillows that are easy to switch out.

My house is from the 1930s, so I've been having fun trying to come up with period-appropriate decor for the kitchen (the rest of the house is more eclectic in style/period). So far my favorite item has been some colorful fruit-print cafe curtains. Any other ideas?

Find period-appropriate lighting from sources as Hit vintage stores for vintage kitchen accessories such as canisters.

I just bought this sofa: I love it but have no idea how to purchase chairs or another sofa that won't clash with it, since it is a colorful tweed. Now I'm thinking I should have just bought a gray or beige sofa. Can you help? Thanks!

There are three choices: Do leather chairs in a color that you pull from the tweed. You can find a textured fabric that is a solid that pulls a hue from the tweed, perhaps blue that comes from the tweed. Or you can go completely different with a pattern, maybe a patterned woven that ties back to the tweed.

It's a great sofa, good choice!

My closet is really boring and I can't afford to have it fitted out. How can I jazz it up?

Visit Ikea or the Container Store for fun storage solutions. Paint the walls or wallpaper them--there are new papers that are easy to install on your own, look to York's SureStrip, for instance. Switch out the lighting if there is space for something with more drama. If it's a walk-in, add a rug and ottoman.

Hi! I understand that you have a project that you are working on in Oakton, VA . Since you are working locally - can you give some hints to your favorite places to find great design items - where are you sourcing from locally?

We love the Sweetwood Collection for vintage finds! They have amazing taste.

I am considering adding a bedroom to my home and am considering an old-style Hollywood glamorous look with a round bed. Some consider those to be tacky. Since that's not my intention, what do you suggest? Do you know of any sites online I can peruse for glamour and not tacky?

A round bed, intrigued! I am always curious how to find sheets for such a bed.

We love glamour and look to Baker Furniture and Century Furniture for glam furnishings. Look to vintage sources and auction houses, too. Think about a great wallpaper such as the paper at the Beverly Hills Hotel that is so iconic. White-on-white with silver can be so glam, think iconic interior designer Syrie Maugham who created interiors for Jean Harlow and such.

FWIW, around here (Midwest) it is now called "condo size." Sometimes "small-scale" but mostly "condo size."

Good to know! Now in our lexicon...

Glad to hear that wallpaper borders are hot again. Guess it's a good thing I was too lazy to pull all ours down; lethargy wins again. ;)


Evertything eventually comes back in style. I remember in the 1980s we had Laura Ashley wallpapers in several an English architectural border in the dining room. The borders were easy to put yourself so they became very popular. We'll see if they swing back to popular use.

My husband and I are building a traditional farmhouse style home Any prints and patterns you recommend for walls and furniture fabrics? Thank you!

Exciting project! We love a good plaid paired with stripes as grounding tools for walls that won't feel dated. The more graphic the plaid or wide the stripe the more modern the look. (It's a nice way to give a traditional style home a contemporary spin.) Layer smaller prints and florals onto furniture. Of course, if you really want to go all out traditional do a statement floral on the walls in your foyer and carry that color story throughout the house.

I was lucky enough to win two pillows made from Madcap Cottage fabrics. I chose two fun patterns and then used another print in the same colour for the trim. They are fabulous! Everyone who sees them just raves about them. John and Jason are so talented!

Love to hear this!!! Thank you for the very kind words... :)

We have two relatively shallow bay windows that are composed of four casement windows. The two center windows are solid. The windows on the far sides crank open. The "bay" shelf is about 12 inches at the deepest point. We are stumped for window treatments that would lay relatively flat against the window glass (so that we can use the "shelf." Ideally, these would be top-down/bottom up. All I can think of is cafe curtains but they seem really passe. Am I wrong? Is there any style hope here? The goal would be some privacy but maintaining (the option for) a view, and some insulation.

Cafe curtains are not passe. That said, they work best in casual dining or kitchen spaces. If the bay windows in question are in one of those spaces then go for it. If not, perhaps consider simple shades from top down. Bottom up shades will have cords running from the shade to the top of the frame and we find those distracting. Also, the bulk of the shade will sit on the "shelf" area so that might take away from that area. 

What are some of your favorite unexpected color combinations for a living room?

Fuchsia and red. Yellow and green. Blue and pink.

Thank you all for the GREAT questions. What fun! Live life in color, and be sure to follow Madcap Cottage on Instagram and Facebook. Thank you, dear Jura!

Thanks so much John and Jason. It's been great having you on the chat! Hope some of our chatters can come see you at the Home + Remodeling show at the Dulles Expo Center Jan 19-21. Next week, I'll have Carla McDonald of The Salonniere on the chat to talk about entertaining and all the ins and outs. Until then, have fun.

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Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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