From the Desk of … Madcap Cottage
If you google prints + patterns + full of adventure you will immediately land on the image of the work and life of the Madcap Cottage design team, John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon. There’s nothing about these gents or their brand that doesn’t ooze color, incredible pattern and a life well lived. They have a true gift in the marriage of sophistication and relaxation, which is nothing short of magic.
I first found the Madcap Cottage gents during High Point Market in October of 2014 at the launch party for their brand after they first moved to the charming town. I was immediately impressed with every single thing I saw. It was a sea of fun, whimsical, happy prints and patterns, and incredibly put together and well thought out. I was hooked from the moment I walked in, then completely in love as someone handed me a Cheerwine Soda. I wanted to know so much more and immediately started my homework.
Fast forward a year later when their home was featured in Traditional Home magazine; I could not stop staring at the details of each and every room. Once again, I was enamored with their approach to design and life. Their home, lovingly named the House of Bedlam, was a perfect mix of traditional-meets-relaxed with every single detail thought about and managed. I was even more in love than when I visited the Madcap Cottage office. I would learn more as it was an item sharpied on the top of my daily to-do list. When their first fabric line launched with Robert Allen in early 2016, I jumped at the chance to use their fabric in our master bedroom design for the One Room Challenge. We fall asleep and awake to a room filled with palm leaves and visions of the islands. What more can you ask for?
Once again, fast forward to early 2017 when the opportunity fell into my lap to not only meet the gents but work with them on a project in my own home. I don’t think I read an email faster or more times. The thought of adding their prints + patterns + approach to life into my own world was something I could hardly process and jumped at the chance to make happen.
It has been eight months since we first chatted on the phone and not only have we firmed up those plans to work together but we have also become precious friends. I can tell you this with complete certainty … they approach their everyday life with the same level of detail that they do their design work. I have enjoyed every single moment together soaking it all up, laughing and learning so much along the way. It is my privilege to introduce you to Madcap Cottage and share their newest project with you, their first book Prints Charming: Create Absolute Beautiful Interiors With Prints & Patterns.
First of all, tell me about Madcap Cottage and each of you. Where did you grow up, what are your backgrounds, how did you meet, and how did Madcap Cottage start?
John: I grew up in Davenport, Iowa and had a mom from Chicago who was passionate about art and was always having us take classes at the local art museum. That’s where I learned to paint and sketch. I also grew up in a family where we were constantly rearranging the furniture and my construction-minded dad was adding on to our home, so I got the design bug early on.
Fast forward, and I was a graphic design and journalism major at Iowa State before moving to Manhattan to work for magazines such as House Beautiful, Ladies’ Home Journal, American Homestyle & Gardening, and Parents. I was producing, styling writing, and editing stories, and I finally reached a point where I said, I want to create my own design business and craft my own interiors. As I was phasing out of magazines, Jason and I designed a small home for a friend in Southampton, New York, and it ran as 8 pages in the magazine O at Home, the Oprah offshoot. And the business was born. And what an amazing adventure it has been!
Jason Oliver: Like John, I grew up in a family that was constantly rearranging the furniture and looking to shelter magazines for inspiration. And this in Tampa, Florida, circa-1975. We were lucky enough to travel the world, so my parents would bring home Marimekko fabrics from Finland and artwork from Spain and furnishings from Mexico.
My parents have always been passionate about entertaining, too, and would host glittering dinner parties with arugula salads paired with beef Bourguignon and wonderful wines long, long before America became obsessed with cooking. It was really an amazing environment where my sister, brother, and I leaned about the art of conversation, fine dining, and lifestyle. My parents have a wonderful sense of style and grace and are absolutely fun. My dad is a lawyer and Mom teaches medical ethics, and they would have folks from their disparate worlds come over for conversation-fueled dinners at our Mediterranean-styled home that dated from the 1920s. Over the years, we hosted everyone from artist Robert Rauschenberg to writer Joyce Carol Oates to the creative director of House & Garden magazine, Charles Gandee. What an amazing environment!
I went to Colby College in Maine and studied Spanish literature and art history before moving to Manhattan to work at Conde Nast Traveler. I jumped to books as an editor at Random House before moving on to becoming a producer at E! and the Food Network. I eventually headed up Niche Media as the Editorial Director of publications such as Gotham, Hamptons, Los Angeles Confidential, Aspen Peak, Boston Common, and Michigan Avenue before jumping over to help John at Madcap Cottage.
John: Jason and I met at a wedding for an editor friend from Vogue at the Wave Hill estate in the Bronx almost twenty years ago. And it’s been a great ride… Our goal is to be the new Laura Ashley, a lifestyle destination with global reach that is affordable yet aspirational. Good design should be sophisticated but fun, and that’s our M.O. We want to make folks’ lives better through design. We also don’t want to create any products that are boring and beige: How dull!
How has Madcap Cottage grown in your years in business?
John: When we launched Madcap Cottage, we were based in Brooklyn and ran the firm out of our basement at a 1910-era brownstone in the borough’s up-and-coming Lefferts Gardens neighborhood. But after 25 years in NYC, it was time for a change, and we started looking for a new locale that would really allow us to spread our wings and move from interior design to also having product development as part of our business strategy. We finally settled on High Point, North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world, as our next chapter, and relocating really did allow us to follow new paths and adventures.
We have launched our fabric collection for Robert Allen @Home, not to mention pillows for Howard Elliott, bedding for Home Shopping Network, wallpaper and wall art for York Wallcoverings, and upholstered furniture for Chapter 3. You will soon see Madcap Cottage upholstered furniture and lighting. All of our products are retail available yet have surprise-and-delight details that really make them exceptional. And yet, always affordable.
Jason Oliver: We want to expand into fashion and fashion accessories and would like to have a pop-up shop in London and Tokyo in the next two years that brings the Madcap Cottage lifestyle to life. And we want to take a few days off, so we have mapped out a week in Maine for next fall where we can relax with our three pound-rescue pups and some lobster rolls paired with crisp rose wine.
So, would you do anything differently?
John: Nothing. We want to enjoy the ride and always remain humble and thankful and driven. At the end of the day, we are still kids from Iowa and Florida who are thrilled to have been invited into the candy store.
Jason Oliver: I concur.
Share two people who have influenced your journey and why?
Jason Oliver: My parents, Jary and Lois, are definitely my biggest mentors. What incredible, rich lives they have both lived, especially my mom—from University of Miami cheerleader to the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa to Fulbright scholar in Jordan to receiving her masters at Lincoln College in Oxford, England to her doctorate and thirty-year tenure at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. And she wears Marni and Jil Sander and Ted Muehling while discussing the latest Broadway play and resort on St. Barths.
And my dad was always zipping off to cooking (Hello, popovers, radicchio, gazpacho, Gorgonzola, and kale!, in 1976) when not rebuilding a deck or helping me with my math homework or teaching me how to sail. Talk about well rounded!
And Auntie Mame, from the movie!
John: Andy Warhol. And Sister Parish. Warhol wow-ed me as a child with his bold use of color and look-at-me graphics. I loved how he took everyday objects and turned them into works of art. Take the mundane and make it marvelous. And Sister Parish represents classic American design, but she also took traditional motifs and reinterpreted them with contemporary colors and graphic treatments. She was also passionate about quilting, needlepoint, and decoupage.
Plus, Auntie Mame!
What inspires you to create?
Jason Oliver: We want to create magical home products that are anything but beige and boring. Life is short, why not live it in Technicolor. And if you can deliver product at retail that is affordable AND makes you dream, that’s pure magic. Nothing that we do feels mechanical but rather hand painted and special.
John: Designing products that help people live happier lives.
Name three things that you think every good design needs.
Jason Oliver: Pattern. Wallpaper. Vintage and antique furnishings and accessories.
John: I agree.
One item that absolutely should be left out of good design?
John: Vinyl siding. And recliners. Ottomans are so much more chic.
Jason Oliver: Vinyl siding. And sofas with built-in drinks caddies.
John: Fowler Pink and Fortnum & Mason green. And daffodil yellow from our Robert Allen @Home fabric collection.
Jason Oliver: Fowler Pink and Fortnum & Mason green.
Favorite pattern in your fabric collection?
Jason Oliver: Mirador Morn in Lagoon. Here’s the storyline we crafted for the geranium-rich pattern with its inky backdrop: Think the sunrise resplendent over an Anglo-American Virginia garden, dewy and delicious. Shimmering in the morning light, the geraniums glisten in full summertime glory in resplendent hues. The lawn stretches from here to eternity, an emerald lozenge. Endless summer, a perennial classic that will carry you to the landscape of your dreams. Bring the outdoors within.
John: Isleboro Eve in Daffodil. And the storyline? Floral fever brings endless summer to life. Channel a perfect morning off the coast of Maine where the flowers rustle in the cool breeze and a tang of sea spray colors the air. A boxwood hedge. The delightful notes of a tinkling fountain. The crisp crunch of gravel. A timeless welcome, an invitation to the escape of your dreams.
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Jason Oliver: A great movie in our den paired with a tall glass of wine. Perhaps a marathon of Pedro Almodovar films with a white Burgundy surrounded by our pups, Jasper, Weenie, and Amy Petunia and wrapped in a cozy blanket.
John: I love a good, hot bath loaded up with bubble bath from Library of Flowers.
Five must haves.
1. Paul Smith cufflinks.
2. Vaara fragrance from Penhaligon’s.
3. Pugs and Boston Terriers.
4. Tea from Fortnum & Mason.
5. Travel-scented candles from Niven Morgan.
1. Dogs. We are so lucky to have three pound-rescue pups that bring so much joy and fun into our lives.
2. My Smythson of Bond Street Cosmic Travel Diary. I have used these fabulous blue-paper diaries for 25 years.
3. L.L. Bean Boat & Tote bags. I have more than 60 and carry them everywhere.
4. Composition books. My staples for an ever-expanding daily to-do list. I buy them at Target and file them when used up.
5. Thank-you note cards. We love sending handwritten notes.
Finally, tell me about the book … Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Pattern. How did this journey to write a book begin?
John: It took exactly one year to craft our brand-new book from Abrams, Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns. We began this amazing project in the spring of 2016 and wrapped up the writing, endless photo shoots, and editing in the spring of 2017. And that was after months of writing and reworking a proposal with our book agent and shopping the book to prospective publishing houses in New York.
Jason Oliver: Each of the chapters in our book is a space—a home or apartment—that we designed, so the book’s photo shoots had us hopping between interiors that we had crafted in New York City, Iowa, Florida, upstate New York, and our hometown of High Point, North Carolina. And then it was back to NYC. We live in North Carolina, but are lucky enough to work all over the world, from New Orleans to London, the Hamptons to our own backyard.
John: We were inspired to pen this colorful tome not because we harbored illusions of crafting a bestseller, but rather because our clients have always found pattern a tad perplexing and we wanted to give permission to embrace prints and patterns.
I do not fib, they are truly the perfect match of sophisticated + laid back in all areas of their life. I’m thoroughly impressed with the level of detail they use to tackle each day. More than that, they’re charming, kind and the perfect gentlemen. After leaving their home after Market this year, I received a handwritten thank-you note for staying with them. Even the answers to my questions came back with a lovely thank you.
I encourage you to follow along with the journey of Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke as you will be inspired, energized and ready to embark on adventure. Also, pick up a copy of their newly released book because you will love every single page!
As the gents say … Bring the adventure home!