Welcome to a new Schoolhouse Designer Spotlight series. Each month we will feature an interview with a designer whose aesthetic and style we admire. To kick it off, we'd like to introduce you to Max Humphrey, a former punk rock bass player turner interior designer who recently relocated to Portland from sunny L.A. to launch his own design firm. Often times we'll see Max roaming the Schoolhouse flagship store with clients or for himself and we've always loved working together on his varied projects. A master of pattern and era-mixing, Max's interiors are always laid-back, totally cool and infused with vintage Americana charm. We chatted with Max about his design influences, tricks for bringing a room together and of course, his all-time Schoolhouse favorites.
Describe your aesthetic when it comes to decorating. What styles draw are you drawn to personally?
"My aesthetic is a lived-in, layered look and I think every room should show signs of life. My design philosophy can be summed up with the following quote: 'Style is about knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn'."
Where do you find most of your inspiration and who are your influences?
"I’m inspired by flora, fauna, rock n’ roll, and Americana. My design influences are: Albert Hadley, Ralph Lauren, Thomas O’Brien, Wes Anderson, and The Ramones."
What are some of your go-to basics when it comes to decorating a space?
"I like clean lines so I always use things like Parsons style tables and tuxedo sofas. The first trick in decorating I ever learned was to stop pushing all of your furniture up against the wall and ‘float’ your stuff in the middle of the room. It makes even a small room look bigger and gives you that ‘designer’ look you see in magazines. Grounding everything with a big area rug is key and helps define the space. I tend to stick with solid fabrics on upholstery and then bring in lots of color and pattern with smaller stuff like throw pillows, window treatments, art and accessories. And maybe, most importantly I always, always, always mix in vintage items in all my designs."
Tell us a little about your process when it comes to designing a space for clients.
"I try not to overthink my design process and just go with my first instincts when it comes to things like color palette and furniture arrangement and overall vibe. I do always listen to what my clients have to say about how they live and make sure to give them functional rooms. One client told me they never use their formal dining room - only once a year on Thanksgiving - so we got rid of all the furniture and put in a pool table and now they hang out there all the time."
Favorite design trends or timeless looks that you love?
"We’ve been seeing a huge trend in bringing the outdoors in and I’m not going to get sick of that any time soon. Whether it’s actual house plants overtaking a room and spilling over every surface and shelf or just floral inspired textiles - I’m all for it."
Least favorite design trends?
"Industrial-inspired design gets a bad rap due to an over abundance of reclaimed looking materials being used in bars and restaurants but I still like picking through salvage yards and re-using materials in my projects. For me it’s about not sticking to one trend in particular but taking elements from each and smashing them all together."
Preferred color palette or materials to work with?
"I tend to stick with mostly cool colors in my rooms and then bringing in just a pop of a warm color - like red or yellow - as an accent. Army green is my favorite color and I love using it as upholstery, metal finishes, or even cabinetry paint. I’m all about utilitarian materials being used in interesting ways. I just had a room-length built-in bookshelf commissioned made out of plywood."
What’s your top design trick to share?
"When mixing patterns a good trick is that large scales mix well with small scales. Think of an oversized gingham upholstered chair with a small-patterned pillow in it. The exception to this rule is that you can mix medium prints with other medium prints and it somehow works."
Finally, tell us your dream design project?
"I think good design should be available to everyone so I’m always interested in helping people and companies with more modest budgets. I got an email recently from a guy opening a youth hostel who needed some help - which would be a fun project and a way to bring some of my aesthetic to a space that gets seen and lived in by people from all over the world."
Top images via Max Humphrey