by Mark D. Sikes
It’s no wonder that homes are filled with design books stacked next to lounge chairs or piled high on coffee tables. They offer a quick and welcome respite any time of the day and, within a few short minutes, can replace stressful thoughts with design inspiration. There are hundreds, one more intriguing than the next, and it was difficult to choose the first to launch the Home Library feature of our Blog, so I just reached for the closest at hand, a Christmas gift that I couldn't put down. It’s…..beautiful!
I’m sure, like me, when you look at a new design book, you race through the pages of stunning photos, and that alone can be enjoyable and spark new ideas. But Mark D. Sikes’ Beautiful is not just a primer on style and design theory, the text of Beautiful offers lessons through the eyes of a masterful self-taught designer. Its eight chapters are organized by color story, such as “Natural Territory” and Sikes’ signature “Blue and White Forever.” Though each one has a distinct personality, all exhibit “the harmony in mixing casual with formal, traditional with modern, masculine with feminine,” as famed film director Nancy Meyers - The Holiday and Something’s Gotta Give - points out in the foreword. Each chapter begins with a mood board: a collection of fabric samples, bits of fringe and trim, photos, paint swatches and wallpapers that Sikes used during his design process. It’s the first look at what colortextures and influences are at play.
One of Sikes' biggest influences, the inspiration for his “Timeless Neutrals” chapter, is Old Hollywood--specifically stars like Grace Kelly and his favorite movie Out of Africa. Gardens, California lifestyle, fashion, as well as the ocean, beach and nautical themes also influence Sikes’s rooms. The magic unfolds in the full-page pictures, where elements “recall” or “evoke” these themes, as Sikes explains, creating a space where life at the beach or in a garden can feel as elegant as it is relaxing.
The photographer Amy Neunsinger brilliantly captured the many ways natural light moves in each room and how the outdoors can become part of an indoor space, through window views, sun porches, skylights and glass panel doors. One could spend hours looking at these beautiful spaces, but the descriptions bring out ingeniously subtle details the untrained eye might not catch, like wallpaper with textured horizontal stripes or hand-painted designs. They also underscore the ingenuity and craftsmanship that went into the rooms. A closet door concealed with wallpaper or layered rugs, for example.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of this book is the variety of antique furniture, art, knickknacks, and accessories that adorn Sikes’ rooms. While blue and white ceramics are his most-used staple, chinoiserie, bone-inlaid wood, garden stools, pedestals, unique mirrors, and, of course, design books. always are at home somewhere.
Beautiful captures the atmosphere of the airy, sprawling California mansions that Sikes has made both lavish and inviting; cozy and chic. This collection of rooms shows how wide the range of Sikes’ design savvy is, from curating an entire living room in monochromatic ivory to tempering the most flamboyantly patterned curtains and wallpaper--with bright red. One flip through it is enough to make anyone look at their own home a bit differently, and is likely to inspire.