A pair of woven leather chairs warm up the soothing blue walls of the living room.
FABRIC (sofa) Wood Bark, search.brunschwig.com FABRIC (chaise)Versailles Velvet in E27515, search.kravet.com FABRIC (sofa pillows)Macclesfield in orange by Rose Cumming, dessinfournir.com FABRIC (sofa pillows) Iona in brown/terracotta $160/meter, marvictextiles.com CHAIRPunta Maroma, casamidy.com FLOOR LAMP Hektar $49.99 ikea.com WALL COLOR Sea Star (2123-30) $6.99/pint sample, store.benjaminmoore.com
photographs by LAURE JOLIET
text by CAROLINE BIGGS
interior design by FRANCES MERRILL
With her signature use of fierce color and layers of pattern, designer Frances Merrill brings a California dwelling into full bloom.
Merrill kicks back.
“I grew up in Greenwich Village in New York and moved to Los Angeles 15 years ago,” Frances Merrill says of her West Coast home. “I love working here because there’s a little bit of everything—you can have six different styles of architecture on one street.” Despite studying English throughout college, Merrill has always had an affinity for all things design related. Her career began at Commune Design, where she honed her craft working on residential and commercial projects like the Ace Hotel Palm Springs. In 2009—shortly after the birth of her daughter—Merrill launched her Atwater Village–based interiors firm, reath design with a flair for decorating with vivid colors and lively patterns. For one of her latest projects, she took on the task of transforming a turn-of-the-20th-century, Craftsman-style house into a home fit for a young family of five. To counter some of the house’s darker corners, Merrill opened up its low-lying and slanted ceilings by using a glowing palette of rich pigments—a violet-toned entryway, a peachy pink powder room, and a sea-glass-blue living room—to lighten and brighten the dimmer places. Now, with the exception of the light-flooded sunroom and kitchen, every room in the house has its own illuminating shade. “It was both freeing and terrifying to push the limits of color,” Merrill says. “So whatever the house lacked in natural light, we made up for in spirit.”
Pale-plum grass cloth adds a textural element to the entryway.
Find a framer you trust and create a gallery wall with objects of meaning.
A gallery-style grid allows colorful photography to coexist with kids’ art.
WALLPAPER Astek grasscloth in AJ115, lowes.com ART citiscape photograph, dupouyphoto.com
Merrill’s clients convinced her to convert the formal dining room into a proper playroom for the kids, complete with a child-sized set of table and chairs.
WALLPAPER Chiavi Segrete $2.20/sample, cole-and-son.com RUG custom,armadillo-co.com
Painting your piano a vibrant hue transforms it from a design dud into a chic statement-maker.
Use ledges and picture moldings to casually display art you love.
WALL COLOR Wild Flower (2090-40) $6.99/pint sample, store.benjaminmoore.com ART small desert diorama works,earlycaliforniaantiques.com
Powder-coated orange and leather kitchen stools by Garza Marfa provide prim pops of pigment in an all-white kitchen.
BAR STOOLS saddle leather$980–$1,030 each, garzamarfa.com RUGS vintage,lawrenceofabrea.com
SOFA Sorrento $2,495 williams-sonoma.com UPHOLSTERY (sofa)custom, sunbrella.com WALL COLORPeale Green (HC-121) $6.99/pint sample, store.benjaminmoore.com RUG vintage,lawrenceofabrea.com
Pillows are an easy way to experiment with brazen botanicals!
Merrill’s advice for decorating with bright colors and floral prints at home.
- Use a vintage granny chintz fabric on a modern piece of furniture for a contemporary look.
- Mix florals with stripes for a graphic counterpoint.
- Use a floral pattern on the boxing of a cushion to add a whimsical detail.
- Never paint or wallpaper without testing; look at samples in different lighting.
- If you’re afraid of a particular print or color, start by covering the inside of a closet.
A slick of vibrant green paint on the dining room chairs echoes the lush garden just beyond the kitchen’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
TABLE salvaged wood beam rectangular extension $2,795–$4,195 restorationhardware.com CHAIR Tucker in turquoise by Serena & Lily LAMP HEKTAR pendant $24.99 ikea.com
One of the most striking elements of Merrill’s design is her daring use of distinct patterns—specifically, her keen eye for pairing unexpected textiles. Along with the Fornasetti floral wallpaper she used in the playroom, Merrill covered the master bedroom in a fresh flora-and-fauna print. Perhaps most impressive is her ability to layer even bolder pieces of art and textiles—including faux bois upholstery, motion photography, and lots and lots of deep-hued fabrics—without ever seeming to overwhelm a room. “When it come to patterns, you have to strike a balance,” Merrill explains. “Take a little floral, mix in something graphic, add an unexpected texture, and always have a stripe thrown in. Plus, it always looks better once the dogs and kids have been lying on it for a few months anyway.”
“SEEING COLOR AND PATTERN MIXED IN A SURPRISING YET ELEGANT WAY ALWAYS MAKES MY HEART BEAT A LITTLE FASTER.”— Frances Merrill