If you’re a fan of design, chances are you’re already familiar with interior designer (and most recently author of Modern Americana!), Max Humphrey. Known for crafting laid-back interiors that are anything but boring, we’ve always admired his knack for mixing patterns and eras with ease. From building a café in an Airstream trailer to this Raleigh Hills remodel, it’s clear to see why he has been receiving some much-deserved recognition these days. Curious to see how he styled his own home, we caught up with Max for a quick Q&A. Below, we discuss everything from his favorite pattern to tips on putting up an art wall on the fly.
What was the design inspiration behind your home?
I wanted to live in a cabin, but I’m not in a position to do that right now. I thought, “How do I make a suburban ranch house into a cabin without going full log cabin?”
Is there a difference in designing for yourself versus a client?
Clients often hire me to plan everything out before they move in, so there’s a big install reveal. When you’re designing for yourself, you can’t just do everything at once.
Is it true you DIY’d pretty much your entire home using YouTube videos for reference?
Yes, and I would go to Home Depot every other day and ask for help figuring stuff out.
You find a lot of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. How do you know something works?
Some people see something when they’re shopping and need to walk around the store while they decide. I don’t.
I instantly know if I like it or not. I don’t have that filter of maybe.
When designing a space, how do you balance function and form?
It’s less about form and function and more about how the room is going to be used. I have clients ask for expensive extension dining tables all the time because they think they’re going to be hosting dinner parties every night, which is never true. Nobody has dinner parties.
Do you have a favorite pattern?
Gingham, plaid, and buffalo check.
Is it true you’re not a fan of symmetry?
Symmetry freaks me out. Too much perfection gives me anxiety. The secret to a well-designed room is having something slightly off about it.
What is your approach to buying art?
Art is something I like to buy online, but you can’t search for what you’re looking for specifically, you have to go down the Etsy wormhole.
Could you share your top tip for putting up a gallery wall?
Don’t tape it out. Don’t measure. Don’t overthink it. Just start. And if you get it wrong, take the nail out and put it somewhere else. It’s just a nail hole. Get over it.
Okay, actual tip – you need things that are different in scale and shape. You need a variety. Also, keep the distance between things semi-consistent.
What would your alternate universe career be?
I’m unemployable. I’d probably be on an episode of Hoarders refusing to give up any of my vintage junk.
I heard you're coming out with a book this Spring. Could you give us a quick synopsis?
I have a book coming out in April called "Modern Americana," which is an overview of my interiors and styling work organized by design element. It includes personal anecdotes and DIY tips, so there are pages on bandanas, camp cots, gingham, old maps, Pendleton, vintage signs, and everything in between.
Finally, do you have a design philosophy you live by?
Mary Randolph Carter’s book title sums it up, "Never Stop to Think... Do I Have a Place for This."
Basically, if you like it, make room for it.
And maybe keep a 30-foot storage unit on the lawn for all the things that you keep.
Photography by Christopher Dibble