MDS- How would you define your style?
MR- I try not to have a particular or recognizable style but rather to adapt to my different clients’ tastes and the architectural or geographic specifics of each job.
That said, I think that comfort and practicality play as important a part of how I want a room or house to feel and function as how attractive I want it to be.No one wants to go into a room full of stiff, uncomfortable furniture and not have ample light or a place to set down a drink.
Adaptable and practical sounds completely boring, but it’s the underlying theme or strategy in my approach to decorating. On top of that I try to finish rooms in a sophisticated and layered way that reflects the clients and suits their needs.
MDS- Where did you grow up and how do you think that influences your work?
MR- I grew up in Indianapolis but spent summers up on Lake Michigan and would go down to the Gulf coast of Florida in the winters, so I had a broad exposure to different types of seasonal houses, which I’m sure gave me an understanding not only of how houses fit into their surroundings, but also how they reflect the lifestyles of their inhabitants.
We traveled as a family, and I’ve spent time all over America and Europe, with a few trips to more exotic places. I am happy and proud to be American, and looking inward at our wide-ranging country and outward to the world, it is this diverse spectrum of cultural references and different influences that interests me as a decorator.
MDS- If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
MR- Maybe a shrink or a mediator as I have practical experience in those fields from years of decorating.
Seriously, I’d like to write or I’d probably try to be an artist. I did take ballet at boarding school and really loved it. I would have liked to have been a dancer, but at 46 I probably won’t get that chance should I get sick of decorating.
MDS- Who or what is inspiring you right now?
MR- I can be inspired by the most random thing as much as the totally obvious. There is something beautiful everywhere you look. It can be the pattern of moss on a stick I pull out of my dog’s mouth or it can be the colors of a Tahitian period Gaughin hanging in the MET.
I try to look around everywhere and at everything – art and architecture, nature and the work of others.
And I really get inspired by things I see others do that I wish I could do better or regret I can’t do at all. My friend David Netto is a great decorator, which everyone always knew, but I am blown away at what a brilliant, funny and knowledgeable writer he is.
MDS- What is the favorite room in your home?
MR- I love the study I did for the Kips Bay Show House this year. Since my inspiration (in truly self-absorbed fashion) was to do a room for myself and to use all of my favorite things, this is definitely my perfect room.
MDS- Is there anything you obsessively collect?
MR- Since I was small I have collected shells and things found in nature, which I store in two handsome collectors cabinets.
As an adult I collect naturalistic watercolors and drawings, photographs, Indian miniatures of temples and Neapolitan gouaches.
MDS- “I could never own too many __________”
MR- Socks, pencils, gloves, umbrellas, or canvas bags as they seem to constantly go missing.
Seriously I suppose acres of land to preserve. Or if the question were “could never have too much”, the answer would be long term friends to count on. I was going to say loved pets, but that might be too close to a crazy cat lady answer.
MDS- If you could decorate anyone’s house, whose would it be and why?
MR- My immediate reaction is Dolly Parton – she seems like she would be a lot of fun to work with, and I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously.
So if she or another dream client were allowed to buy the Crane house in Ipswich or got Clarendon Court in Newport with a direction for me to “have at it” and not to worry about timing or budget, that would be awfully nice.
MDS- What do you want to be known for?
MR- I want to be known as a good decorator and a gentleman professional. It’s important to me to be considerate of others and to work hard to create something nice for my clients.
MDS- What do you think is chic, stylish and glamorous?
MR- People who are comfortable with themselves and not trying to be something they aren’t. That ease and confidence can really make someone stylish. Yes Grace Kelly’s character in To Catch a Thief is undeniably chic and beautiful, but there is something so much more appealing about her mother who saunters up to the bar at the masked ball and asks the waiter in her terrible French accent “Avez-vous bourbon?”