Q&A: Marika Meyer on summer decorating

Jun 07, 2018

Washington designer Marika Meyer, who has had her own firm since 2007, is known for modern, colorful interiors. She likes mixing old and new and coming up with comfortable yet stylish solutions for family living. She was a frequent participant in the DC Design House. Meyer also creates her own line of fabrics that reflect her love of design and fine art.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 15 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Hi everyone. I'm happy to have Washington designer Marika Meyer on the chat today. Marika has done so many beautiful rooms, including some stunners at the late great DC Design House. Marika  has had her own firm since 2007 and many of her interiors have a modern edge. She's known for her colorful thoughtful spaces, but also polished neutral rooms.  She likes mixing old and new and coming up with comfortable yet stylish solutions for family living. Marika creates her own line of fabrics that reflect her love of design and fine art. She has wonderful ideas for summer decorating and is ready to tackle your other style questions. Let's chat.

Hi Jura and Washington Post design fans. I am looking forward to getting your questions about summer decorating!

Practical question and overall question: I have a wheeled desk chair at home. I'd like to avoid having it chew up the hardwood floors. Can I use a rug instead of a standard plastic office chair mat and what type of rug material should I look for? Any other suggestions for protecting a floor from a wheeled desk chair? Is mid-century modern starting to loosen its grip and more drama is creeping back into rooms? I feel that I'm starting to see more ornate light fixtures and richly patterned wallpaper and textiles.

For a rug under a rolling chair I recommend as flat a weave as possible so the pile does not show signs of wear. As for pattern-YES--it is back in a big way! We have been having lots of fun on recent projects where clients are not afraid to mix patterns and bright colors. In this office we used a flat weave rug with fun patterns on windows and bookcase: http://meyerinteriors.com/portfolio-elizabeth-drive.php

Q: I have noticed a lot more color in kitchens. I would like to bright ours up, but I don't want to make any big structural changes. What else can we do?

You are right, color is in for kitchens, especially cabinets and tile.  But, without making those big changes, there is still a lot you can do. Painting your walls is an easy option, and wallpaper is becoming even more popular in kitchens.  Or, why not swap out your counter stools for a more colorful option? For a smaller change, look for vibrant accessories - a beautiful fruit bowl, or salad plates in an attention getting pattern.

Q: My oldest child is ten and is in desperate need of a bedroom rehab. It's time to lose the safari animals and grow up a little bit! But, I'm struggling with what to choose so that we don't have to update it again in 3 years when he is a teenager. Help!

This is a challenge faced by so many of our clients with growing families.  Kids grow up so quickly, but who wants to (or can afford to) redecorate their rooms all of the time? The key here is balance.  Make sure the larger, more expensive furniture pieces are something they can grow up with. Drop the kid's furniture store and look for simply styled adult pieces.  Room & Board has great transitional items like this. Anthropologie is another place for unique finds. Changing out their bedding and accessories over time will allow the room to grow with them and won't cost you a fortune. Check out this boy’s room we designed: http://meyerinteriors.com/portfolio-decarlia-parkway.php  

Hi. We live in a modestly renovated 1883 farm house. In our open kitchen/dining area which is approx 21x 20 feet we use an old wood pew that is 10ft long to act as a banquette on the wall side of the dining table which is an old french walnut extendable table. Both the pew and table are online finds which didn’t cost much. We love the pew as the back is built with vertical tongue in groove red pine boards shellacked in the old brilliant way. However, we find the 13.5 inch seat depth is not comfortable over an extended meal time. The pew has a removable cushioned board which is all in one piece and we currently have it covered with a durable neutral fabric. The seat underneath is the original red pine. Do we let the pew go, repurpose or remake it somehow? Thanks for your help.

We love working with antique and vintage pieces, they add so much charm and character to a home. I would definitely keep the pew but try to use it in a space that you do not need to sit as long. What about in a long hall or a mud room? You could even have it cut down for a smaller space. 

Hi Marika, I've been following your fabrics and really love the colors. I love color, too, but am hesitant to add too much of one color to my decor, thinking I may get tired of it but need to keep it because of the investment. What advice can you provide for introducing color a little at a time - where to start?

Hi! When we work with clients who are concerned about using too much color we generally keep larger pieces neutral and then add pops of color in pillows, lamps, throws and accessories. One of the reason I started my Marika Meyer Textiles  http://marikameyertextiles.com/ is to help clients gradually introduce color into their home with pillows and drapes. 

Hi! We recently renovated our beach house and I would love to update the decor, but I always resort to buying seashells and coral! Do you have suggestions for other ways I can make my house feel like the beach without using the typical items?

Spending time at the beach is all about relaxing with family and friends, and shedding all of that stress from the week! Your decor should be just as relaxed and casual.  Look for durable materials, casual upholstery and relaxed furniture. It's all about natural materials and textures mixed with soft shades that reflect the outdoors. But, I'll never shy away from a beautiful piece of sculptural coral and neither should you! Check out my blog post tomorrow on Cobalt & Cloth   http://meyerinteriors.com/cobalt-and-cloth/ for more on creative and practical beach decor!

We are perhaps a rare family in that we often eat dinner in our dining room (not only on special occasions). We are looking to update the room and I am struggling with wall colors. I have it in my mind that the wall color needs to coordinate well with both our everyday dishes and our formal china. Am I overthinking it or is smart to consider? Both share shades of green. Would you do green in a dining room and any colors you suggest I consider? Thanks!

I love that you use your dining room. My mother in law has a wonderful saying "Life is not a dress rehearsal" and I always think about that in our own home. For the dining room lots of shades of greens can work. I would do something mid tone range like Farrow & Ball Pigeon or Lichen. They can be dressed up or down based on your plates. I would also not be afraid to create some contrast to your plates. Contrasting colors can add a whole new dimension to the room!

Hello! I have a question for Marika. I love the look of wallpaper, but I’m afraid of making such a permanent commitment. Any thoughts on other ways to add pattern to a room?

I have a lot of clients who express this concern, but once they take the plunge, they never look back! I am such a fan that wallpaper is currently in the works as an addition to my textiles collection.  Wallpaper not only adds pattern to a room, but papering the walls also adds texture and warmth (especially a grass cloth!). Sometimes you can achieve some of that same feeling by using art. Or, why not frame and hang a tapestry you love or vintage textiles? I filled a wall with a collection of framed Hermes scarves at last year's Design House http://meyerinteriors.com/portfolio-dc-design-home-2017.php .

Do you use a professional organizer to help your clients who are messy? What's the best way to find one?

As a matter of fact we do! Finding a way to have an organized home is key for busy families. We love working with Rachel Rosenthal at https://rachel-company.com/

What's your favorite white paint and trim color combo?

For client's who like warmer tones we use Ben Moore White Dove on trim and walls. On projects where we want a very clean crisp white my favorite is Chantily Lace. I just painted my older son's room Chantily Lace paired with a blue and white chevron paper. Very fun and will last him years as he gets older. 

We love entertaining outdoors in the summer - what do you recommend for easy summer decorating tips? Anything fun, new we can add to our usual outdoor decor?

It's all about casual, approachable materials and lots of texture.  Linen is always a great choice for a tablecloth, napkins, or place mats. Layer on some texture with rattan, or bamboo napkin rings, or place mats.  If you want to add some color, I love a colored water glass. It adds both color and sparkle. Why not try incorporating some metallic elements? I love that gold and brass are back - there are some fabulous options available in glassware and even silverware.

I don't like faux candles but lighting my outdoor table with real candles is frustrating on a windy day. Got any ideas?

I know exactly what you mean! I use hurricane candle holders on our outdoor dining table and side tables. They prevent the wind from blowing them out and you can use a large candle for events that go long into the night. I also layer in color with fruit or flowers on the bottom for a colorful touch to the table. 

To freshen up our carport for summer, I'm thinking of a chilewich rug. I think I've seen their products mentioned here. Chatter reviews? It would be used in a covered space, but heavy (foot) traffic. We don't plan to drive on it, obviously ;-), it would be in an area near the car, but that serves as more of a porch function (also hoping to delineate that space better). How are they cleaned?

We love working with indoor/outdoor materials. We often use Dash & Albert rugs which can take heave foot traffic and are easily cleaned with soap and water. I even have one in my family room and so far my two boys (ages 5 & 8) have not been able to destroy it! 

Did you read my story on keeping mosquitoes at bay this summer? I talked to party pros about what they do. Here it is.

What do you think of having a chaise in a living room? We don’t do a huge amount of formal entertaining, but it is the only formal (non-dining) space. Do you think it is too casual? Thanks

I would avoid a chaise in a formal living room where it may feel too casual but they could work well in a family room or library. We used two chaises in a VT ski house family room that we recently designed. After long days outside family members can come in and curl up by the fire. 

Do you have any other sources for inexpensive outdoor pillows besides TJ Maxx and Marshalls?

I find great options on Etsy. There are so many creative options in lots of color ranges and patterns. 


We love our open plan living space, especially for entertaining! But, we are struggling with how to arrange the space and make it feel cozy at the same time? How do you deal with this kind of floor plan?

When I sit down to create a floor plan, I always ask, "How will this space be used?"  Ultimately, a room will feel like a space you want to live in, if it is designed with a purpose in mind.  Also, the scale of the plan is key in an open space. Some new homes with open floor plans have large common living spaces.  Make sure your furniture is sized appropriately so it's doesn't get lost in the space! If everything is too small, the room will feel cavernous and cold.

I'm painting a tiny, windowless, half bath BM Hale Navy and am tempted to paint the ceiling navy, too. Is that a bad idea?

Hello! Hale Navy is one of my favorite blues. I would paint the ceiling at 50% of the wall color so that it does not contrast too much but keeps the intimate feeling that you are creating. 

We love our weekend summer home - I want to gradually update it but want to start small. What are your suggestions about where to start?

The easiest way to update a home without spending a lot of money is with paint. You can really transform the feel by repainting walls, trims and do not forget the ceilings! 

We live in an older home some of the rooms are especially dark in the summertime. Any suggestions for brightening the spaces? Should we add more lights? What about fabrics and wall colors? Thanks!

Think about wall color first, painting in a bright neutral will help lighten the room. Window treatments in light sheer fabrics also helps dress the space without making it feel too heavy. I would keep the larger case goods light so they do not darken the room. 

What are some of your favorite places to find vintage accessories?

I love using vintage and antique accessories on projects. I pick up items whenever I travel and keep a closet full of treasures to use on installations. Locally I always search flea markets, Miss Pixies, Pursing Vintage and Christ Child Opportunity Shop in Georgetown. Online Etsy is a great resource but watch out, you can spend a lot of time looking! 

I loved the Hermes scarves you had framed in one of your DC Design House rooms. Where did you find the vintage scarves and were they expensive? Any tips for framing scarves without breaking the bank?

Thanks! I actually found the scarves on Ebay and they were very affordable. We had them framed in a simple white wood frame that was budget friendly. Because of the size and weight concerns the framer used a plexi glass which also helped our budget. It is a great way to creatively and inexpensively fill a large wall.

Online - I like Chairish as well for smaller things and for larger ... you can search by city!


My townhouse is a 150 yo Second Empire, with 10-11' ceilings. At some point in the 60s or 70s, someone wallpapered the DR walls in 'natural' grasscloth. It's now old, faded in spots, and has darkened in others to a beige. I'm not a fan of brown as a decorating color, anyway, but this is all accentuated by putty trim (and a lot of it as there is a large built-in bookcase in the room and the stairwell to the second floor). When I first moved in, the ceiling was a celery green, too. I had the ceiling repainted - it's white w/a hint of pink - and the crown moulding white. That made a difference but not enough. I'm considering doing a fun Lilly or similar wallpaper print behind the bookshelves and am definitely planning to paint all the trim white. Should I be afraid to remove the grasscloth? I am concerned that it may cover layers of other wallpaper (it definitely predates the bookshelf). My favorite colors are fuchsia, aqua, and blues and I love texture and patterns. The room gets a lot of sun but with all the brown it feels dark. Please help me.

Do not be afraid to take down the grasscloth. It sounds like you have something much more bright in mind. Removing the grasscloth now opens up many options for the whole room. I say go for it! 

Marika you were fab. Thanks for doing the chat. Next week: JoJo Fletcher who is known for DIY, flipping homes and her stint on The Bachelorette. Onwards.

Hi. I have an old wooden bureau that I would like to put outside on my patio by my front door. Is there some way I can make it more weatherproof? (The area has only a little coverage from the roof.) Or is this just a bad idea? Thanks much.

Given our humid summers in DC I would avoid putting the bureau outside as it will likely swell a great deal and you may see splitting of the wood. I found an old wicker piece at Miss Pixie and painted it for our porch. We sprayed a protective coat on top and it has lasted years! 

Thank you for your great questions and time today. It has been a lot of fun and I hope you enjoy the summer! 

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius or follow her on Instagram @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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Marika Meyer
A native of the District, Marika Meyer established Marika Meyer Interiors in 2007, where she creates beautiful environments that are both sophisticated and livable.
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