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Known for her fearless use of color and pattern, Frances Merrill is a trailblazer when it comes to mixing and matching—decor eras, prints, metals, or otherwise. But the Reath Design founder, who designed the groovy ’70s-inspired home featured in Domino’s Spring 2020 issue, has had a (relatively) quiet year: Many of her projects are mid-construction. Which means—lucky us—Merrill had the time to sit down with Domino’s editor-in-chief, Jessica Romm Perez, on this week’s episode of Design Time (out today on Spotify and Apple Podcasts) to share her insights on all things design. “The question I get a lot is: How do you know if it’s going to work?” Merrill says of her process. “Ultimately there’s a leap of faith involved. It’s a combination of doing the homework and trusting your instincts.”

During their conversation, Merrill talks about the power of listening when designing for a client, her decor pet peeves, and some of the things inspiring her right now. Read on for a sneak peek. 

Design Heroes

Definitely William Morris for the patterns and the thoughtfulness. Obviously, Roman Alonso of Commune Design and Pam Shamshiri of Studio Shamshiri were great role models for me, too.

Photography by Stephen Kent Johnson; Design by Commune

Favorite Color Pairing

I love every kind of green paired with a paler blue. I also love a green with a gray and a burgundy; that’s always pretty. Honestly, we have a joke in our office, because I’ll be working and say, “I wish there was another color in the rainbow.” So we like every combination, every which way, as long as it doesn’t hurt your eyes.

Top Tip

When it comes to painting kitchen cabinets, really think about what you love and don’t just default to white. We spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s a real opportunity to lean into color . You can use a fairly inexpensive countertop or backsplash, but if you pick a beautiful color, it’s going to feel very custom.

Material of the Moment

I would say velvet. I love colors that look different in different lights or different directions. And I think velvet will always give you a certain depth—the range of colors you can get is great.

Current Craving

Primo is a restaurant in Owls Head, Maine. Last summer was the first one my family didn’t get back to Maine, where my husband and I both grew up going. It’s a wonderful restaurant in an old Victorian house with a big garden in the back that they get all the vegetables from. So I’m very excited to visit again.

Photography by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

Dream Destination   

Probably New York just because it’s my childhood home and it sucks to not be able to visit right now. I’d like to go back to Lisbon or do some shopping in a flea market in Paris. We planned a trip to Athens last summer that got canceled. Anywhere, honestly. Put me down in a random city I’ve never been to; that would be great.

Interior Inspo

Charles Dudouyt’s wood furniture is so beautiful. Always Charlotte Perriand and some Swedish lighting from Hans Bergström. And I’m constantly on the lookout for pretty little Murano lamps that we can put a shade on.

Photography by Darren McCollester/Getty Images


I think anyone interested in design should read the Joan Didion essay “Many Mansions.” It compares the old governor’s mansion in Sacramento to a large new house that [Ronald] Reagan built for himself when he was governor. It digs into so many of the interesting design questions that I think we all ponder.

Go-To Vintage Source

I really miss the Pasadena Antique Mall.

Home Sweet Home

In my home I have a little hooked rug at the foot of the stairs that I think was made by my husband’s great-great aunt. My in-laws sent it to us, and it got put there randomly. It’s such a little throwaway thing, but it always makes me happy when I pass by it.

Our Winter Renovation issue is here! Subscribe now to step inside Leanne Ford’s latest project—her own historic Pennsylvania home. Plus discover our new rules of reno.