& Company Said
INSPIRATION | June 6, 2023 | By Saxon Henry
House Dressing by Janie Molster
We had a marvelous time during High Point Market when we hosted a book signing for House Dressing by Janie Molster so we thought we’d share the savvy she puts forth in the book with our readers who weren’t able to attend. Janie is shown above autographing House Dressing for those who couldn’t wait to get their signed copies! The Forest Light Gold Chandelier graces the cover in a luminous room below. We thought we’d pose some pointed questions to this immensely talented design professional so the philosophy behind her design prowess shines through in her own words.
House Dressing by Janie Molster
Janie explains the inspiration behind the title of her book, saying when she begins working with clients, she lets their fashion choices be her guide. “It’s a lesson I learned early on,” she wrote in the introduction. “Long before my design firm had projects featured in national publications and I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best tradespeople in the business, I was steeped in sartorial thrills thanks to my mother, Jane.” She then describes how those influences came about, and adds, “Fast-forward a few decades, and I am a mother myself, as well as a seasoned designer, and I have dressed and redressed my family’s house.” She illustrates this point beautifully by presenting her home first, calling it her design lab. Seeing her own interiors brings the book an intimate feel.
A wider view of the room above over which our Forest Light Gold Chandelier effervesces. Image credit Mali Azima
C&C: You talk about how you managed to achieve a luxurious feel even while raising a family. Can you tell us what types of early-on decisions this point-of-view requires, such as fabrics, rugs, upholstery, etc.?
JM: My own house evolved through a more organic process than some of my clients who are presented with whole house design schematics in a single meeting. I have a few treasures that I will always incorporate into my design mix. And I always aspire for a luxe environment but am also imminently practical. So, luxurious and sometimes vulnerable fabrics might not be best suited for throw pillows or upholstery in my world but I say absolutely yes for curtains or, for example, the upholstery on a not-oft-used antique settee. I have lived in three houses that have been important to me in my adult life and I always started the mental design plan by first dropping in my design “baggage”—an 18th-century Italian giltwood sofa, a red chinoiserie style secretary, several paintings and portraits of my children, and a collection of antique textiles.
Janie is known for pops of pink, as is evidenced in this room she designed. Image credit Gordon Gregory.
C&C: Given you have four sons and one daughter, did your family ever tease you about how you managed to put a feminine stamp on your own interiors?
JM: Oh yes, I have been vigorously teased. But I think the males in the house quickly forgave the color palette realizing that ultimately our house was built for a tough lifestyle. We often host large groups of friends and never panic about food and beverage use. Most all of our furnishings are covered in slipcovers or performance fabrics and are up to the challenge of a raucous family home. The boys may not have chosen the palette but they had access to all areas of the house and having a welcoming home definitely trumps any color palette.
A mix of tailored and organic shapes brings an extra dose of sophistication to this space that Janie designed. Image credit Mali Azima.
C&C: Did you have as many florals in your home when your boys were growing up?
JM: If you really dissect the spaces in my home, floral fabrics are rare. But it is interesting that the images left you with a sense of femininity. It’s actually wonderful… it’s a goal. A house should tell the story of who lives there. While in the trenches of parenting my brood, I often felt a bit like I was in charge of a fraternity house. So, I was determined to make a stamp on our environs and and represent the feminine, design-friendly sensibility of the matriarch!
Dusky rose draperies bring depth to the pale pink walls, and the fuchsia in the rug brings life to this room, which Janie designed. Image credit Gordon Gregory.
C&C: You’ve very effectively mixed antiques with modern pieces—the white footed concrete table in one room; the Giacometti-like lamps in another. Does this come natural to you? Can you tell us why?
JM: Yes, it all seems to work in my mind. At my core, I’m a modernist but I have such a respect for history and furnishings that I always try to bring a little “old soul” to the mix. This yin- and yang-rub creates the most memorable interiors…rooms with a bit of a twist or surprise.
This eclectic space that Janie designed has deep-toned walls that bring the room a cocoon-like atmosphere; it includes our Gallus Table Lamp. Image credit Mali Azima.
C&C: Where is your favorite place to shop for antiques and what is your favorite find during a shopping spree?
JM: I have purchased a lot of antiques overseas but my typical sources are in the southeast. I love larger markets with multiple vendors like Round Top in Texas, Scott’s Market in Atlanta, Antique & Design at the High Point Market, and Brimfield in Massachusetts. And as far as finds, I’ve never said no to a beautiful 18th-century trumeau mirror.
Janie calls this space The New Formal; it illustrates her talent for mixing patterns and periods. Image credit Mali Azima.
C&C: You are fearless when it comes to mixing patterns. Were you always so courageous or did you develop the ability over time?
JM: I have honed my craft over time for sure. And there were some misfires along the way. The best learning tool is an error or two. Now I trust my instincts. I encourage young designers to do the same thing. I see so much design work now that is successful in scale and appropriateness but unimaginative. I encourage designers starting out to follow that one weird little idea they’ve been stewing on and expand and develop it. That’s what they’ll be remembered for.
Proving what a mix-master she is, Janie intermingled a toile wallpaper and antique furniture with a contemporary light fixture and kicky poofs for this space. Image credit Gordon Gregory.
C&C: You speak of your mother and her design prowess very lovingly in the introduction. Do you think your abilities come naturally through your DNA or do you think it was a mix of nature and nurture?
JM: I learned to value a well-loved home from my mother. She prioritized the design of our house and could pontificate for hours on the shade of a paint color or the arrangement of furnishings. Our design tastes weren’t necessarily aligned but my awareness of design was decidedly learned from my mother Jane.
The subtle patterns that Janie chose for this space bring it a hint of texture without interrupting the room’s serene feeling. Image credit Gordon Gregory.
C&C: You make even the most formal rooms feel fresh. What would you say to someone who would prefer a formal home but would fear the atmosphere will be stuffy?
JM: Fight back with unstuffy! I remember reading an article years ago about the home of John Loring, the Design Director of Tiffany’s. His home was filled with elegant antiques, but everything was covered in simple mattress ticking…a brilliant foil to all the formality. That’s why I love my job. That’s why I love interior design. You can have a formal room with informal components. You can have everything!
A modern sculpture on the wall heightens the drama in this contemporary space that Janie designed. Image credit Gordon Gregory.
C&C: Tell our readers what you mean by refined maximalism?
JM: There’s Maximalism for the sake of Maximalism, which is basically the kissing cousin of hoarding. Refined Maximalism refers to a more edited approach. It’s fine to have beautiful things and collections but with refined maximalism, the way in which possessions are curated and displayed doesn’t overwhelm or clutter, rather invites further exploration.
This photo of Janie during the book signing in our High Point Market showroom captures the essence of the fun we all had. Image credit Beth Tilley Green.
C&C: We loved having you for the book signing during HP Market. Did you have a favorite moment during the event?
JM: The whole team at Currey were the most welcoming hosts! They showered me with my favorite pink flowers, pink drinks, and custom pink cookies. I loved meeting other designers at the book signing. Conversations with my peers is one of the most validating experiences the book tour has given me. As principle of my firm, I often operate by following my own arrow and my own knee-jerk direction. Hearing a little bit of affirmation every now and then is a beautiful thing.
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We honored Janie’s penchant for pink at her book signing with pink flowers, pink cookies, and pink drinks!