Podcast, Ep. 161: designer Markham Roberts

This week, we welcome legendary designer Markham Roberts to talk about his new book, Notes on Decorating. We talk about how his style has evolved, and he shares his knowledge and humor with us. We discuss why practicality is key, how to better combine traditional and modern style, and why his love of hot dogs is unparalleled.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode:

  • Markham thinks the most important thing is understanding your clients and what makes them happy.
  • Practicality is key.
  • Not all decorating is created equal.  Markham recommends considering the difference between mountain houses vs. beach houses, country vs. urban, etc., and to choose materials that reflect location, terrain and climate.
  • When combining traditional and modern styles, Markham thinks there are no rules and it’s best just to DO IT.  See what happens and how they relate to each other.
  • We talk about 3 houses Markham decorated all out West, belonging to 3 clients that were friends, that are very different.
  • The Nantucket house that Markham decorated truly indulged his creativity.  The client’s unique and blunt personality challenged him to make a mix of styles work together.
  • We love how much Markham uses humor in his approach, and in his book, to enjoy his work.  We dive into some of our favorite parts of his book.
  • Markham tells us how he got creative with a client’s antique pieces so they could be highlighted and not hidden.
  • We ask Markham about his guidelines on the contrast welt and piping.
  • Markham talks to us about his love of subtlety, details and the use of simple ticking of fabrics.
  • We ask Markham for his best nuggets about textiles; don’t always go for the most formal and expensive fabric, play around with them, look at larger samples to really study it.
  • Markham shares what he loves about one of his personal properties in a small Victorian town in Washington state and how he and his partner, James, have worked for 20 years to make this home truly their own.
  • Markham tells us why he loves antique quilts and how to be careful when purchasing them.
  • The only thing that compares to Markham’s love of his dog and tennis, is hot dogs.

Design Dilemmas

Hi Ladies!

Love your podcast so much especially during this trying time. Thank you for bringing some cheer weekly to my life.

I need your help with my second bedroom.

It is the room that is used for:
1. An escape when my husband is snoring
2. Where I put on makeup
3. Where I read at night because my husband likes to go to be at 9 and I’m more of a night owl.
4. A place to do yoga and meditation
5. It’s an extension of my laundry room- I pop open laundry racks for air drying.

Some questions about the space:
1. Help with space planning. I actually love the armoire, but it does take up more space. I think a daybed would be nice here. Where would you put it? And would there be tables flanking it?

2. I would love a reading chair where would you put it?

3. What kind of table should I get for makeup application? And where should it be?

4. Light fixture- flush mount or semi-flush mount?

5. Yes or no to a rug here?

As for a color palette I would like to do something in the Berry family- should I go dark or keep it light?

Thank you so much ladies!
🧡 Chloe

Hi Chloe! You really don’t have to change much because you’ve already done a great job laying this room out.  Where your mattress is now is exactly where I would put a daybed.  This is not only a great escape for when someone is snoring, but it would be a great guest bed if you have company over.  Just add small end tables on either side of it for lamps.  The desk by the window would also double as a great makeup table (or maybe check out the selection at Ballard)!  You can put a reading chair to the left of the desk and the armoire is fine where you have it—don’t get rid of it.  It looks like there is enough floor space then for you to be able to do yoga or meditate in this room.  I would do a hanging light fixture to punch up a bit.  In terms of the rug, I would set up everything I mentioned above and then considers whether you need it.  Generally, with wall-to-wall plush carpeting, I don’t recommend adding a rug.  I like the idea of a natural berry-colored palette.  Don’t be afraid to paint dark; especially if you have great natural light.  Enjoy it and send us the after photos!

Mentioned In This Episode:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    November 16, 2020

    What a wonderful episode! Markham was so down to earth and informative. Definitely a favorite! I’ll be checking out his book and adding it to my Christmas list.

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      November 18, 2020

      So glad you enjoyed it. He is incredibly talented, and down-to-earth just like you said. Thanks for listening and taking the time to write us a comment 🙂
      Happy decorating!