Rooted in her formal design training from the New York School of Interior Design, followed by her boots-on-the-ground experience as a project manager for renowned designer Miles Redd, Elizabeth Malmo of Elizabeth Malmo Interior Design approaches each project with a complex vision rooted in each client’s personal style. She works with boldly colored patterns and statement pieces as effortlessly as she does with hushed tones and subtle lines. Using her nuanced understanding of color, scale and style, she creates interiors that feature visually arresting vignettes in inviting, livable spaces. Trust us — when you see her stunning portfolio, you’ll want to jump into each picture too. We asked Elizabeth to describe her design approach, let us in on some tricks of the trade and give us a glimpse of her work. We hope you enjoy!
What is your design aesthetic, and how do you translate that to a client’s home?
For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to colors and fascinated with the different ways you can combine and layer them. I majored in painting from Washington and Lee University, and after graduating, moved to New York to study at the New York School of Interior Design. I walked away from school with a keen sense of the way colors relate to one another and how to apply color appropriately to a room. When working with clients, I often start with a color palette — whether this is inspired by a painting or a beautiful oriental rug or even from nature — and once that is determined, start to layer fabrics, art, furniture, wall coverings, etc. Whether a project has a range of soft neutrals or a wild abundance of color, I love exploring new ways of using it.
Where are your favorite local spots to source decor for a client’s home?
We are very fortunate to have some great places in Memphis to source items for projects. Some of my favorites places are Palladio Interiors and Palladio Antiques. There are a number of interior designers and antique dealers who have spaces in their shops — including me! — so you are sure to find a wide range of edited and beautiful furniture, lighting, art and accessories.
More recently I have had the opportunity to shop out of the warehouse I share with Gracey Smythe and Biggs Powell. They have just opened an appointment-only showroom in the back of our warehouse with a wide range of antique and vintage furniture. I have loved having such a great resource right down the hall!
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment, and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
I absolutely love wallpaper. It immediately transforms a space and sets the tone for the room. Whether it’s a textured grasscloth or a large-scale print, wallpaper adds something special to a space. While different styles may come and go, I think a great wallpaper is timeless.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
Throughout this past year, I have had the privilege of working on a lake house project with my parents. They are currently building a house in Horseshoe, Arkansas. This has been one of my favorite projects to date, but also a challenging one. I think many designers will tell you it’s hard to decorate for yourself. Being exposed to so many wonderful fabrics, wall coverings and furniture day in and day out makes it hard to decide which direction to go. Luckily, I have been fortunate enough to work with a fabulous team, including John Harrison Jones, Tom Archer and my mother, who has amazing taste of her own! It has taken us a few extra trips to Atlanta and more site visits than I can count, but I think we have nailed down just about everything and I am very excited to see the final product!
What brings you the most professional joy?
Installation days are some of the most rewarding days in this profession. I love being able to transform a client’s space into something special and finally see a bunch of hard work come to life.
How does Memphis’ design scene differ from the rest of the country?
There are many towns I can think of, especially in the South, that have very specific design aesthetics. I think the beauty of the design culture in Memphis is the diversity and uniqueness of design you find throughout our town. If you want to see firsthand the wide range of talent our city has to offer, please come to the third annual Art By Design event coming up this April. It is sure to be a showstopper!
Where do you get your inspiration?
From travel to art to fashion, it is easy in this day and age to be inspired. But more often than not, I am inspired by things when I least expect it. Just the other day, I walked into an old building on Broad and fell so in love with an old painted hardwood floor, that I have decided to use it in one of our projects!
Who have been your industry mentors and role models and why?
I had the great opportunity to work with interior designer Miles Redd for several years after college. In addition to constantly being inspired by his amazing sense of style and taste, I learned how to do practical things like always decorate from the ground up and how best to draw up a floor plan. Most importantly, I learned how to run a design business. I spent my entire time in New York trying to soak in as much design knowledge as I could, and I owe much of my design education to Miles.
Share one designer secret with us regular folk.
Always pay attention to repeats in fabrics and wall coverings. The bigger the repeat, typically the more material you will need. You can get in trouble with yardage if you do not take a repeat into account.
What are your predictions for interior design in the next 10 to 15 years?
Clients are often concerned about making decisions that they will not regret in 10 to 15 years. And I get it! It can be hard to make that investment and not worry about the ever-changing design styles. I do think, though, there is something timeless in a beautiful antique, well-made drapery, classic hardware, tasteful fabrics and, of course, quality lamps and art. As Miles Redd often says, “Buy the best and you only cry once.”
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
I can do it in three: Quality over quantity!
Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your insights, inspirations and images from your impressively diverse design portfolio. To contact Elizabeth Malmo Interior Design, visit elizabethmalmointeriordesign.com.
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