Myles of Style
On a visit last weekend to the island, the multi-hyphenate interior designer Kim Myles — Season 2 winner of HGTV's Design Star; CEO of her own lifestyle brand, Kim Myles Design; host of HGTV's Myles of Style and America's Biggest Yard Sale; and now a member of OWN's Home Made Simple team of experts — spoke with reporter Curt Cawley about the power of urban spaces and the art of layered interiors as they perused the aisles of Rapid True Value, Sovereign Centre, and she also solved the mystery of why your home appears to be so dark.
Curt Cawley (CC) What's your favourite interior design trend of the moment?
Kim Myles (KM): I'm really excited about reinvention, so I love the fact that people are upcycling, using things that one already has and creating something new out of it. Take, for example, a piece of furniture, with one coat of paint that piece is totally transformed. I like to see curtains that were always in the living room being moved into the bedroom, which instantly changes the space. I love mixing things up in that way as I feel it gives people ownership over their space and it inspires them to be creative. With a little tweak here and there you can have something completely different. Add something new, regularly — a little piece. Maybe it's a new curtain or rug, or new throw cushions — small items that make a huge transformation or visual difference versus the huge overhaul or renovation. Lots of people have begun coming on board with this 'little-by-little, bite-size' concept — and that really excites me.
CC: Name the one non-essential furniture item everyone should have in their home and why?
KM: I am a huge fan of the occasional table. I feel that most of the time, people love to say they already have a dining table or a coffee table, and therefore don't need anything else when it comes to the business of entertaining, especially for the holidays. But an occasional table is a piece that's great to have around, for putting additional food or drink on. I also love a console table at an entry. Many people think they have to do storage in such a space but a console table and beautiful mirror, beautifully appointed gives a great effect. It adds sparkle, warmth and elegance to an entry. It's not necessarily the kind of thing where you're storing all that you have and going, 'Wow, that's super-functional!" but it's super-stylish. And since these are non-essentials, then this is not the place to splurge and drop tons of money. That's key! Buy something a little smaller, a little easier, a little simpler and then jazz it up or personalise it with accents.
CC: What paint colour should we all be dunking our brushes or rollers in this season?
KM: This season, as in any season, it's about the colours you love! If you aren't sure what colour is right for you, just go to your closet. I promise, you wear the same three colours over and over and over again. Those are your colours! Use them for inspiration or a jumping- off point — start there. For instance, if you are that person who loves purple but uncertain if you're ready for a purple room or space , then take a look at paint chips; that's what they are for. Yes, there's that deep purple at the bottom of the paint chip, but any of the lighter hues running up that chip are going to work for you. It's going to feel like you; it's going to feel authentic — so paint what you love!
CC: As a DIY project, how can stenciling be made more digestible for the uninitiated?
KM: You know what? I think a really easy way to tackle it is with spray paint. One of my favourite projects is the old-fashioned glass shower doors. Sometimes they are frosted and look really dated. Stenciling them with spray paint is a great way to update them. Don't do it in a colour; do it in white or cream, so that it stays really classic — in a fabulous pattern. Really easy to do! The key, though, with spray paint is you want to ensure that you do it in a well-ventilated area and you'll want to mask off everything and drape everything, because spray paint produces what we like to call spray dust, and it gets paint everywhere. This shower doors project wouldn't take more than an hour to do — super-simple, and small in scope — so it remains bite-sized and doable for anybody.
CC: What is the first detail you notice whenever you enter a room?
KM: I tend to notice the paint colour — I'm a colour girl. I notice whether people are living in beige or vibrant colour. I do not get the sense that Jamaicans are living in beige, I really don't (laughs)! I've been checking out the fashions on the streets and this is not a beige country. It's about bright colours which I personally love. The second thing that I notice is whether or not people have personal items in the space. There's a huge difference between a space that
looks like a catalogue or showroom — while beautiful, very impersonal — and one that you've made all your own. Family pictures showcased in gorgeous frames is a great way to tell your story, and imparts a sense of history. I'm always looking for that story; I want to know who really lives there, and not what they think they should look like.
CC: How has living in New York City influenced your decorative style and tastes?
KM: New York City is a global city, with 187 languages spoken every single day. You aren't in your car, you're on a train — you're sitting next to people from all walks of life and from all over the world. If it doesn't influence your sense of style, then I think you must be dead inside. That's really how I feel because it's just so amazing the sensory access one has. The hotels, the window displays, the fashion, and just the way people turn themselves out. There are a million ways to be inspired there; it's all around you. I'm a self-taught designer and New York City was my design university!
CC: You are recognised for your use of urban surroundings for design inspiration. What would the Kingston room look like?
KM: What would the Kingston room look like?! I think it would have a really beautiful, rich base of colour and then it would have a sophisticated layer on it. The colour would be really rich - maybe even a little wild. I would juxtapose some of the colour with an unexpected complementary colour, just to mix it up. That's what I've been seeing here in city — a really amazing, wild mix of colour! I am a modernist, so I would keep the furniture — just like a lot of the architecture
here — really traditional and classic. And even though Kingston has an Old World charm, it also has a really sleek quality to it. So I would want all of the furnishings, casegoods and upholstered items to retain that feel.
CC: What are the visual features you perpetually gravitate toward whenever you're in any major city?
KM: I'm always, always, always looking at the architecture and the fashion. Every time. It's such a great indicator of who people are, and what a culture is and what it values. I also keep an eye out for public art. I noticed here those fabulous, gigantic, dual-statue nudes at Emancipation Park — they are stunningly beautiful. Public art on a massive scale that's celebrated, that's brave. I'm looking for that, because that tells you everything!
CC: Which are your favourite global cities and their highlights?
KM: New York City is my all-time favourite. Its highlights for me would be the famous Bergdorf Goodman windows on Fifth Ave. They are gorgeous! Their holiday windows are crazy and over-the-top! And the Nolita neighbourhood for the stylish boutiques. Another fantastic global city is Amsterdam. The architecture and canals are my highlights — I'm always really inspired there.
CC: Despite your escape from the suburbs, all those many years ago, do you find any of its iconography popping up in your work or aesthetic?
KM: Hmm, you know, I think that I do, in that, you know, you are where you've been raised. For many years I wanted to be as far removed from that as possible. I wanted to reject it, but I am now a 40-year old woman, and I really believe you cannot reject all of your roots. There comes a certain point where you have to embrace them and figure out how to make them grow and flourish for you. In all of my designs, no matter how modern, global or urban they are — they all feel very comfortable; they all have a sense of home which is an element often associated with a suburban childhood. I grew up in very comfortable homes; my mom was a wonderful homemaker; she had a really great eye. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' house which was also very comfortable. So, for me, a design isn't successful if you feel that you can't touch it. The space needs to be a place where you're going to live your life, hopefully be your best self, be recharged and rejuvenated.
CC: For those of us who have retreated to the communal conformity of suburbia, how can one add a touch of whimsy and individualism to one's home or space?
KM: You can always get whimiscal with colour, and with lighting. So much of the time you walk into a space and the lighting is often just the contractor-issue lighting. No choice has been made. Lighting is an opportunity for sculpture. It is like jewellery in the space. It lights up, so it illuminates, it sparkles, and it's drawing the eye anyway, so it might as well do some heavy lifting and also be sculpturally interesting. Where you might hang one pendant, why not cluster three at three different heights? Suddenly, you have a statement focal point. I think that people underlight! I walk into so many homes that are dark because there is just one lonely, sad lamp! You should have overhead, natural (if you can get it), task and ambiant — there should be all different levels of lighting in the space. It's a really simple and inexpensive way to highlight one's individuality.