Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Masters: Mariette Himes Gomez

Recently I've developed an obsession with those gigantic coffee table books, especially those by the great interior decorators of the world.

One of the first big celebrity designer books I lugged home from the library a few months back was American designer Mariette Himes Gomez's lovely 2003 book, entitled "Rooms." Interior Designer Mariette Himes Gomez

In case you didn't know, Gomez was named one of Architectural Digest's top 100 interior designers and architects on their famous AD100 list. In other words, greater design minds than mine have blessed her with the keys to AD's inner sanctum and she now has job security for life (had that been a concern). Which it wouldn't be because she's a decorating goddess, a master decorator (if there were such a title), one of the reigning grand dames of classic design, in my humble opinion. Gomez is the Emily Post of good design etiquette, patiently following the rules with impeccable good taste and restraint.

I loved "Rooms" because it presented a lovely set of essays on various decor subjects to help you get your head around various issues. She divulges tons of great decorating tips and rules, if you will, that are less rules and more just hard-won learnings from years of practice and finally learning what works!
Gomez is old-school and believes in knowing the rules before you can break them. Gomez has a very particular point of view, even if her rooms seem familiar in their unerring and somewhat traditional perfection. She calls herself a minimalist, but looking at her rooms I think she means that she restrains within herself a desire to over-decorate. I don't consider her rooms minimal at all, but looking closely you do see evidence of restraint, that only perfectly chosen things find their way into her rooms. There is never too much...just enough in every room. Each element is painstakingly studied and worked-out. For a woman who is a master of decoration and a lover of art and furniture, I imagine that chosing the few key elements for a room would require such immense restraint that she probably does feel like a minimalist, even if her rooms aren't exactly spare!

Gomez is also an advocate of the white or off-white room (after my own heart, she is!). I think practically every room I've seen attributed to her is white or off-white (with the odd blue room for good measure). By the way, her favorite paint colour is Donald Kaufman #5, which she calls essentially a perfect white. White rooms are her canvas because her furniture and art selection are impeccable and take center stage.

She's also an advocate of getting your "shell" (i.e. the bones of the room) straightened out before decorating. Sort out and improve (or remove) mouldings and trim, re-plaster if you must, and clean up the architectural elements first. Once this is done, the canvas is ready for decorating!

Draperies and furniture placement can be used to balance "not so perfect" spaces. For example, she notes that two identical chairs used in a room, placed side by side, can add a note of structure to an otherwise plain or off-balance room. Drapes and valances can be used to help line up off-kilter windows. She's a fan of symmetry, but mentions that too much (more than 3 pairs of anything in a room) can be, well, too much!

Gomez, besides being an advocate of impeccable arcitecture and a perfect white shell, is an art afficionado. She recommends buying the best art you can afford, things you love, that speak of your character, to fill your home.

I could write more, but unfortunately I inadvertently returned the library book "Rooms" with all my Post-Its still inside and can't give you all the quotes I'd intended! That same day, I picked up her new (2007) book entitled "Houses", where she talks about all the elements of a great house. I haven't studied this book the way I have "Rooms" (which is on my Christmas list), but I will pore over it in the next few weeks.

Gomez's writing is enjoyable and approachable. She's a lovely writer and is frank in her point of view, but also quietly acknowledges that the reader might not be quite as well-heeled as some of her clients. She mentions places where you can save money (lamps, for example) but where a little extra expense is well worth it (down pillows!). She talks about buying great art but also loves the whimsical little objects and grassroots artifacts of bygone years that are precious to us, if no one else. So despite her sucess, Gomez seems to be utterly grounded.

Here is a quote from her book "Houses" that I like:

"I need to have my things around me. They speak to me in their own tongues. They have become the fabric of my life, as do yours. You put them in the house, and the house becomes a vessel, an anthology of tales."

I encourage you to read more about her and to look at her work and her lovely books carefully. This is a woman with a lot to teach us about great design. Her style is classic and restrained and somewhat formal to many, but I think she has a great philosophy to share about loving our homes, even if you don't love her style. And on that, we can all agree!


  1. Hey!
    Sounds like a wonderful book! Lovely pics too! Yeah, I wouldnt call that minimalistic either, but I do like her restraint. The rooms are lovely, just enough, and I like that :) Hope that all is well with you! Have a nice wednesday!

  2. H ej Terri!
    Now I wrote english to my latest blog thing. I always or most of the time write on english bqs I want all to understand what I write.

    So now u are welcome a visit to my place to read it ,, swedish is such a complicated language to learn...:-)w r only 9 million speaking it :-D, bqs it is to complicated :-D

    Many hugs

  3. Such a thoughtful post on one of your favorite designers. Her rooms are lovely. Really lovely.

    So what do you think of Benjamin Moore's "Lancaster Whitewash," HC-174? LOL! I had to look that up immediately and wondered if you were doing the same.

  4. It was featured in a Letter to the Editor in this month's COUNTRY LIVING. Don't mind me, I'm vague like that! It was just that these things make me curious and send me on wild goose chases all the time and I wondered if it does the same to you and, apparently, it does. LOL!

    As for the award and MEME, don't worry about either. I never mean for that to be an additional stress. Do it only if you're truly interested...no pressure!

    Sorry that the job is keeping you so darned busy. Jobs! What's a gal going to do?

  5. Terri, I'm learning so much from you about design and beauty! This is such a beautifully written and illustrated post.

  6. Terri, a very inspirational post! And the pictures you posted are exquisite! Based on the pics I like her style very much. Thank you for broadening my horizons.


  7. Wow, I'd like to have that book on my living room coffee table! Not being a huge fan of white, white, white, I nontheless loved the other rooms you profiled. The living room with the odd ceiling and two of the hallways....you know, my house needs an update and I'm getting some awesome ideas from your blog. Thanks for all the help!

  8. Oh yes. Coffee table house books. My favorites, and such gorgeous pictures!

  9. Wow! Where do you find all these lovely photos? I just sit here and enjoy looking at them.
    The ceiling looks like from a church or an upside-down boat. Gorgeous!
    Very interesting to know about Mariette Himes and her ideas about interior design.

  10. Great post, Terri! I forget about the library, I love going there and getting a big stack of design books and learning new things. But, now the library came to me with this post! Loved it!

    Hope you are well!

  11. I love her timeless, classic design and neutral palette. Thank you for sharing her with us!

  12. I have this book, as well as MHG's newer one on Houses. I love her style and her philosophies. I really like that she insists on impeccable architecture...that is exactly how I feel. I would be SO disappointed if I custom built a home and could not use one of the best architects (which is why I may not ever custom build!).

    Great post.

  13. hey !

    such a lovely side you have, very inspirational and beautiful pictures. just my style. Ill be back..have a lovely day

  14. Hi, Really great effort. Everyone must read this article. Thanks for sharing.