Q&A: Carrier and Company on how to give your house a spring refresh

Apr 30, 2020

The husband-and-wife team of Jessie Carrier and Mara Miller founded Carrier and Company Interiors in New York in 2005. Their design ranges from bohemian glamour to modern luxury and their work has landed them on the Architectural Digest AD 100 and the Elle Decor A-List. Their clients include Anna Wintour and Jason Wu. Their new book is called "Positively Chic" and they design for Century Furniture, Visual Comfort Lighting and Lee Jofa among others.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, answer your decorating, design and decluttering 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 organizing. For more than 20 years, our Thursday Q&A 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 your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Welcome to Mara Miller and Jesse Carrier of Carrie & Company. Excited to chat about spring spruce ups - while quarantining in your home. On this gloomy, rainy day, we could use some fresh, bright ideas. Let's chat.

Hi!  Jesse and I are here - and excited to answer your questions today!  

Tell us where you are self-isolating and how you are doing your work from home?

We've spent 6 weeks at our home in Dutchess County NY.  We just returned to our NYC apartment yesterday so we could visit our studio today (they are only two blocks apart - so we can walk there).  It has been comforting to return to our home base - and work with physical samples - rather than digital images, links and zooms! That said - working and schooling remotely has been surprising easy.  Our  team adjusted quickly and we've been refining how we work, and I'm relieved and impressed with what we've been able to do.

I'd like to re-organize my bookshelves and make them look better. What's some advice you can give for that?

Negative space!  It is key to make space between and around options.  And vary laying large books horizontally - often with an object or framed picture on top of it, or balance a stack with an object.  If you have a lot of space to fill - repetition is a good trick - if you can pick one row of shelves to put a series it is striking.

Would love your take on a home or room refresh without having to go out and shop during quarantine.

Unfortunately, the first step is a deep cleaning :(  We did that when we relocated to our house upstate and had to re-configure spaces for homeschooling and remote work.  I think it always helpful to remove all the accessories  - which you've gotten used to your styling - and start over!  If you are really ambitious - pool items from all over the house and really switch it up.  You can accomplish a lot of change just with art and accessories.  Like the bookcases above - NEGATIVE SPACE - makes everything look stylish and modern.

After 35 years with a wooden queen sized bed frame from ABC Home ,I am deciding to change it up with an upholstered bed. Any tips or things to think about? There are so many choices.

We use a lot of upholstered beds in our work because they add so much softness and comfort to a bedroom.  You'll pick your headboard based on your personal style - but also think about the base - do you like the tradition of a soft dust skirt, rather than a frame? Do you like the look of a large side rail that is closer to the ground (looks more modern) or narrower rails on decorative legs?  Lots of companies sell similar headboard styles - but then check for the other details to find your best bed!

Do you have clients still in decorating mode or are people taking a break? Are you being contacted by people who are stuck home and realize they need help or want to redo their space?

Our clients are still decorating - for many of our clients they engage us as part of a renovation or build team - so they are in it for the long haul!  We anticipate more clients ready for refresh once business re-opens more readily.  Jesse has a list of things he wants to change/fix/toss as our kids and pets shed, spill, and worse! just in the last 6 weeks.  You do notice how worn things have gotten when you are staring at them 24/7. 

what color flowers would you add to a neutral room for a spring feel

Jesse always loves tulips to kick-off spring.  Upstate we have daffodils.  I think the fresh and thick green stems and leaves are what feel like Spring - the blossom color is up to you!

Got a lot of free time and a lot of stuff you don't need? Could you use some cash?  Consider selling online - read my story today here about how to get rid of CDs, vintage ceramics, Legos, vintage clothes and silver. 

I need new pillows in my living room and den. What are good online sources for something other than the chain stores?

You may have to google these to get to their sites: Artemesia - makes custom pillows using designer fabrics, StudioFourNYC has an online shop with pillows from their represented fabrics, mecoxgardens.com, John Robshaw, Hable Construction; hollywood at home

Do you have pieces that you would recommend a client invest in and on the other hand, those items that can be more budget friendly?

Investment pieces really depend on the person.  Generally folks have to balance their spending - so it's more about getting what you need from the investment.  An antique carpet could be a great investment piece because the look and color and set the tone for an entire room (and it survived this long because it can be forgiving and cleaned).  Beds are nice to invest in since they don't get the same kind of wear-and-tear that a sofa may take.  Sometimes we flip it for a client and spend a lot more on the quality frame and fabric in the family room (which will take a 7 day a week beating) and use a lesser piece in a formal living room that gets less use and more careful use.   Make sure your seating is comfortable.  And a great light fixture can complete a room's style and raise everything else in the room.  If you have the patience to shop a lot - you can find lots of great coffee tables, side tables, lamps, dressers at all kinds of price points more easily than the other items mentioned above.

How has COVID 19 redefined design for your interiors?

I suspect the biggest trend that will come out of Covid will be really functional home office and schooling spaces.  I think it may change bedroom counts and floorplans and spaces will be carved out to protect work and privacy more.   

Oops don’t know if I sent the last question! Basically want to grow some herbs and vegetables in a raised bed but the more I read the more confused I get! Have never made a raised bed but now have seen articles about Why you SHOULDNT! Has to do with soil. Now I’m so confused! Anyway to make it simple!

Sorry - I don't have a green thumb!  

I have a 12 X 15 music room that I would like to turn into a once or twice a year guest room. I cannot move out my harp, music cabinet, stand, and so on. Would a queen size Murphy bed be a good choice? There is no hotel closer than 20 minutes from my home. My problem is that it is literally no more than twice a year for two days max. Maybe a sofa bed in the living room instead?

Why not a sofa bed in the music room?  It's always nice to have a space in a room that is inviting - especially if there is the chance to listen to you play music! 



In your opinion, what things are positively chic? Not sure if millennial know what chic means.

For us,  chic is really about personal expression that is edited just enough to be stylish and welcoming.  There is a daring quality behind "chic" because you are exposing yourself with a personalized home, and being expressive through your interior.  It isn't cookie-cutter or "hotel-like" it's a reflection of you. 

I love your balance of modern and timeless design. What are some small things that we can do with our rooms to work towards that look?

Thank you!  It is all about the mix.  We also tend to incorporate some really simple things, like parson's or waterfall coffee table, that act as visual neutrals - and allow the pieces with personality to be more expressive - be it traditional or modern.  And the relative proportion of tradtional to modern also matters.  Somehow, a little bit of contrast goes a long way - kind of like the Victorian's seeing a glimpse of ankle. It makes it a surprise and more exciting!

How would you use flowers in your indoor space to cheer it up?

We tend to use a singular flower, rather than create interesting arrangements.  It lets you bring in something pretty but still feels more modern (and takes much less skill :)).  We also keep tiny vases and bottles to put a single stem in - it is so easy and cheerful to do!

What do you see as the "new" colors, and what styles are you finding in current demand?

We are drawn to oranges, rusts and yellows right not - but not sure if that is a developing trend, or something we are craving.  Especially in linen velvets or mohairs. 

Are you still seeing neutrals as a strong "trend" ? Any favorite colors?

Neutrals will always be the back-bone of design because they are both soothing and safer choices.  We love ALL colors - but clients still LOVE blue - all shades of blue.  We are using more lavender in grown up ways, too - almost like a grey, but with more red in it.

I am looking for a leather recliner, preferably one that has a cozy, classic look, but not a man cave leather recliner. Any recommendations on brands, stores, or where to look online?

We tend to use a club chair with an ottoman in lieu of a recliner - but we do understand the appeal!  We know Century Furniture has a nice selection of recliners that have some extra bells and whistles  (ike a usb port) too!  Full disclosure - we have a furniture line with Century - so we are pretty familiar with the breadth of their offerings!

Such a timely topic today! I'm getting ready to move out west and would like to have a log cabin vibe in my place without it being an actual cabin. Any recos for sources for ideas in decorating in that style?

We haven't forgotten this question - but need to think about some good sources - two more minutes!

Now that I’m home I’d like to create a space for meditation and just sitting and reflecting. This space could be in my bedroom. Any ideas or things to keep in mind?

It is so easy to make outdoor "rooms" now - it is important to have what you need to be really comfortable and entertain easily outdoors.  

Fun chat. Thanks for the great advice Jesse and Mara. It flew by - and it's still raining. Next Thursday join me and Laura Dowling, Alexandria flower designer and former White House Chief Florist. She has a new book and some great ideas for Mother's Day bouquets and other flower ideas for when you are stuck at home and need a lift. I could use one. Bye for now.

This was so much fun! Thank you for sending in so many great questions - I hope Jesse and I were able to answer them to your liking!  

For the log cabin question - PLS - just don't over do it with log furniture.  Keep to natural woods and natural fabrics in more naive style (check and plaids, solids). and skip the antler chandelier .  Think more like industrial with less exposed bolts and you can keep it rustic and clean.

We all will be spending a lot of time in our backyards this summer. What are some ways to make them cozier.

I thought we answered this - making sure you have a generous seating grouping (like an outdoor room).  Also always love a firepit!

Thanks so much!  Stay safe!


Jesse and Mara

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 for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering and organizing.

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Jesse Carrier
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