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Mark D. Sikes Starts Every Room With One Hero Fabric

Words by Gabrielle Savoie
a dining room with a table and chairs

Dining room designed by Mark D. Sikes featuring Brunschwig & Fils fabric drapes. Courtesy of Mark D. Sikes.

Hero fabrics are the cornerstone of every Mark D. Sikes room.

“So many new textiles come into the studio every day,” says the LA-based decorator, whose A-list clientele includes names like Nancy Meyers, Reese Witherspoon, and First Lady Jill Biden. “When I’m drawn to one, I can immediately see it on everything in a room.”

A good chintz, check, paisley, or stripe is almost always the catalyst for Mark’s projects—and he isn’t shy about applying it to everything, from sofas to drapery, even walls. From there, every room is quietly calculated by a formula of prints, textures, and shapes that informs the Expert’s decisions: a touch of rattan, a stripe, a ruffle…

Creating his Showroom for The Expert was an exercise steeped in tradition: “The fabrics that I’ve chosen are my personal favorites,” Mark says. “They’re patterns I’ve loved, in some cases, since I was a child.” A standard-bearer for all-American classic design, he looks to the great rooms of iconic decorators from Billy Baldwin to Bunny Mellon for inspiration, but injects his homes with a fresh, 21st-century spin.

Discover Mark’s exclusive edit of time-tested staples and iconic prints.

Introducing: Mark D. Sikes' Showroom

a man sitting in a chair in a living room

How I curated my Showroom:

I’m very much a storyteller. When I was thinking about this Showroom, I started with the story first: I really want to create a sense of place with the furniture. I like to think in threes, and my own projects often fall into the categories of country, coastal, and city.

This framework becomes a nice lens to approach different collaborations. With client projects, I like to think about what environment the home is in, what's appropriate for the architecture, and what point of view the room is going to have. I grew up in the South and in Illinois and I live in LA, but very few of my clients are actually local. I work all over the country, and now the world. I always think about sweeping the different pockets of America and how each influences design.

My three signature styles:

In my idea of a country home, the finishes are warmer, more rustic, and show patina over time. There are florals, checks, and rush details, which create that casual authentic feel. The more weathered or patinated you get, the more rustic and casual it’s going to feel.

My city look is more refined: there’s neoclassical detailing, lacquered finishes, and more brass and glass. The fabrics are neutrals and velvets. I often refer to the classic designers for city environments: Billy Baldwin, Bunny Mellon... I draw a lot of inspiration from them. Chaddock’s Hollyhock dining table fits this category: it has fluting details and it's more architectural.

The Begonia settee is a great example of my coastal style: you get those modern, rounded shapes that are more casual. It’s slipcovered, there are lots of stripes. I think of coastal environments as very casual, family oriented, warm, versatile, and not too fussy.

a chair with a floral pattern on it
ChaddockLilac ChairSHOP NOW
a white table with columns and a round table top
ChaddockHollyhock Dining TableSHOP NOW
a blue and white couch sitting on top of a wooden frame
ChaddockBegonia SetteeSHOP NOW

How I decorate a room:

I start with fabric. Before I would even select a chair silhouette, I have a group of fabrics to use in the room. If it's a breakfast room that has a Chinoiserie Vine pattern on the walls or on the roman shade, for instance, it might make sense to have solid upholstery to balance it out. And vice versa. If there's not a ton of pattern going on in the room, a busier pattern could go on the seat pad.

a blue and white floral print fabric
SchumacherChinoiserie Vine FabricSHOP NOW
a chair with a cushion on top of it
ChaddockBoxwood Side ChairSHOP NOW

How I pull a whole house together:

When I start to think about a project, I really visualize it almost immediately. I start with a pattern that's going to set the tone for the whole house. What I always strive to do is create continuity throughout the house. The flow from one room to the next has to be seamless. I put my fabrics up on a wall, room by room, so I’m able to see immediately the flow of color. In one room, the palette might be more blue-forward with green as a secondary color, but the adjacent rooms might be more green with blue as an accent. The environment outside drives a lot of that too. If there's a lot of beautiful green vegetation, I try to pull a little bit of that in.

How I use fabric:

I think about fabrics and patterns as a whole within a room. I like to use a hero fabric that sets the tone and the color palette for the room—maybe it’s a larger scale print on drapery or a larger piece of furniture like a sofa or a pair of chairs. A hero fabric is really going to anchor the room and create something that feels really fresh. It’s typically a mid-scale pattern that can be balanced out by smaller ditzy prints, solids, and geometrics. It has to have a ton of visual interest and be very memorable. When you walk into a room, it should be the first thing you notice.

a blue and white paisley pattern on a white background
Brunschwig & FilsKomal Paisley FabricSHOP NOW
a blue background with white squares on it
SchumacherMarietta FabricSHOP NOW
a blue and white striped wallpaper with flowers
SchumacherCabanon Stripe FabricSHOP NOW

My hero fabrics:

I try not to overuse fabrics, particularly hero prints, but there are a few Schumacher fabrics—especially my own—that I go back to often. Brunschwig & Fils is another fabric house that I truly love. The Paisley that I paired with the Ivy Lounge Chairs and Ottoman is a good example of a hero print because it has different coordinating versions of itself. I love to think about the same motif in different scales or patterns. It’s nice to be able to pair things that go easily together. I love a paisley.

a chair with a blue and white upholstered seat
ChaddockIvy Lounge ChairSHOP NOW
a blue and white ottoman sitting on top of a wooden frame
ChaddockIvy OttomanSHOP NOW

How I shop for rugs:

Rugs are like a puzzle. When I start designing a home, I think about the rug puzzle. If there’s a big, antique colorful rug in the living room, I’ll most likely do a solid rug in the adjacent room. I like to always mix in natural fiber rugs. Sisal is really great for stairs. I love all-wool Dhurries in family rooms, because they’re durable and washable. Bedroom rugs are often wool or cotton so it's soft on the feet. You also have to think about what's on your walls. I try to balance patterns, neutrals, colors, and solids.

How I pick accent tables:

I always look for scale and the amount of space between the seating so nobody is stuck reaching too far to put a drink down. In fact, with floor plans in general, I always think: Do I have a place to put my drink? I start with the amount of seats in a room and work backwards.

a small wooden table with a wooden base
Rose TarlowCountry Cousin TableSHOP NOW
a piece of cloth with a pattern on it
Rush HouseAldama RugSHOP NOW
a white table with a drawer on top of it
ChaddockPosy Side TableSHOP NOW

A few parting thoughts on tradition…

If you look at the past and how a lot of the great designers have curated a room, you’ll find they often used similar formulas—which are now just timeless. I always love the idea of being able to say: this room looks great today, it would have looked great 20 years ago, and it will look great 20 years from now.

Shop Mark's Showroom.