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Decorating Tips From Designer Michelle Holland

04/20/2015 12:37PM ● By Ryan Frisch
What's hot for 2015?

Without exception, my clients have stressed a need for livable spaces. People no longer want an off-limit living room or dining room. The focus is on comfortable furniture and forgivable soft goods. Antiques are perfect for this kind of space. Interesting, sophisticated furniture that you can put your feet on!

What's essential for 2015?

Hidden speakers—they mount inside walls and ceilings with no grills. I also love the T’s that retract into the ceiling. Genius.

If you are not into audio-video systems, then I would suggest an accessory overhaul. I have done several such projects this past year. We pulled all of the art and accessories from a house and then put them back in new ways. The results are pretty stunning. It is so fun for a client to see their favorite old things in a new way. It is also an important exercise in editing and decluttering. 

Any exciting new products or materials?

Wall coverings are back in all kinds of exciting forms. In recent months, I have worked with clients on everything from wallpaper and grass-cloth to custom murals and stenciled muslins. I have used vinyl grass-cloth in a couple of homes with great success. It achieves the look of grass-cloth without concern of fading or wear. I am also having a lot of fun with stencils on walls, as well as floors. We can take any artwork and adjust the scale and color to come up with a custom look. 

New styles or colors?

After years of greys and beiges, clients are asking for color punctuated by crisp, clean white. The color itself doesn’t seem to matter, except to say that it is whatever makes the client happy. I’ve done rooms with green, red, navy, chocolate, pink, mustard, you name it. What is consistent is that the color is predominant in the space and packs a punch.

What are clients asking for?

Lamps. Large ceramic or murano glass lamps can really impart color and personality into a space. I am also having fun making lamps out of objects—sap buckets, ceramic urns, glass bottles, rail balustrades, boat hardware, and vases all make interesting lamp bases. 

I have a client whose grandfather was a tugboat captain. She has an antique tugboat compass that was lit by oil lamp. We are giving it new life as a lamp in her family room. It will be a fun conversation starter for her grandchildren. 

Tell us about the services you offer and why our readers need you.

I eat, sleep and breathe design. I know what is out there, who offers good quality at a fair price, and I can pull a room together with ease. I will save client hours of research and costly mistakes because I know what works and what doesn’t.

I pay attention to details that can otherwise be overlooked—grout colors, handrails, trim profiles, rug bindings, furniture sizing. These are all important elements of a space that is pulled-together and functional.

Give an example of how your expertise and/or services solved a problem for a client.

I have a client whose home has large windows and an enviable view. Yet it was also important that the windows also have shading. We wanted to assure privacy and light filtering in bedrooms and we needed to protect the contents of the house from damaging UV, especially when the house is not in use in the winter months. I worked closely with the architect from the beginning stages of the project. We designed the window trim in each room of the house to accommodate the treatment. Some of the windows have blackout roller shades stacked behind grass shades and curtain panels and the various treatments work together seamlessly.

I am right now designing a unique ping-pong table for a client. The typical green-top with metal legs just doesn’t hold up to the finish of the rest of room. The client would like to be able to use the table overflow dining. We are doing an inlay to mark the tabletop lines and hidden drawers to store paddles and balls. 

If appropriate, give a step-by-step summary of how you work on a project with a homeowner and guide them through the process.

I encourage all of my clients to start with a plan. You can phase out the implementation, but creating a roadmap helps prioritize expenses and assures a cohesive look. The irony is that a well-planned design looks effortless. 


  1. Scope: List of items with priorities
  2. Understand builders’ needs and schedule
  3. Room layouts
  4. Budget
  5. Rugs: Most expensive element, not as many choices
  6. Fabrics and paints
  7. Accessories and lighting
  8. Wall hangings


Notes about Michelle Holland Interiors/Nantucket House:

I started my business in a home office. As my family and business grew, I starting looking for outside space. Patina became available and my husband and I snapped it up. We are now operating two shops, one in Shelburne and one in Nantucket. I now split my time between the two locations. My mother and father-in-law started Nantucket House in 1973. The business is often referred to an island institution. I feel so fortunate to be able to usher Nantucket House into the next generation. There are a lot of commonalities between the design work—beautiful locations and views, a variety of weather conditions, an appreciation for antiques and historic architecture, livable spaces for families to congregate. What’s different—logistics. There is a big seasonal influx of homeowners in Nantucket, and everything needs to come over by ferry. There is an enormous amount of planning required to successfully accomplish the Memorial Day reveals. Next, I have some big surprises in store, but you’ll have to wait until Trend Watch 2016 for those reveals.


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