This is the house of chaos, the house of uproar, the house of ruckus, or as Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke of Madcap Cottage lovingly refer to it – The House of Bedlam. Though all of their client projects have a clever way of reference, when designing your own home, what seems more appropriate than the no-rules-approach of total bedlam? A perfect metaphor for their attitude towards design, Nixon and Loecke’s home is every bit charming and eclectic as it is comfortable and chic. With a mash-up of patterns, textures, colors, themes, and styles, every space extends an invitation to melt into the room. In their eyes, it’s unfussy, comfortable, and truly home.
Nixon and Loecke called New York home for more than twenty-five years, but after countless trips to market in High Point, NC, the pull towards an easier pace became palpable. “We would tack on days to our market trips and go to dinner parties. We got to know more and more people,” Nixon explains. “We really enjoyed the under-the-radar feel of High Point and felt like it was time for a change.” After one particular market trip, they hired a realtor and toured around twenty homes. In the end, the first home they toured was the clear winner.
The Regency-style home was built in the 1930s and was handed over to Nixon and Loecke by only the third owner. “I could see exactly what this house needed to make it ours,” Loecke says. “At the end of the day, we really appreciate Georgian architecture with regency touches. We both could envision an English country house with no rules where anything goes, and everyone is welcome.” Over the course of the first year in their home, the pair gutted the kitchen, though keeping the footprint, and re-styled it to bring it back to its glory days of the ‘30s. The master bathroom and master bedroom were blown out to create a large master suite, and the two-car garage was turned into a back-of-the-house entrance. “We lived over the garage with our dogs during the remodeling, and every morning, it was like, ‘Cue the circus,” Nixon recalls.
Most of the other original elements of the home were left untouched and instead enhanced by Nixon and Loecke’s keen eye for pattern-mixing and over the top design. “Our mantra is ‘Banish the beige!’ We wanted the home to look lived-in and passed down,” Nixon explains. “And you can only uncover those elements as you work. For example, our wallpaper guy was taking down around six layers of paper on the living room walls.
But when he got to the third layer, we just said, ‘Stop.’ It was perfect. It was exactly the look we wanted.” Inspiration comes from everywhere for Nixon and Loecke, but they look to history as their muse. In fact, very few of the furnishings and accessories in their home are new. Most are captured from auction houses, flea markets, or estate sales. Style icons like C.Z. Guest and Betsy Bloomingdale, movies like Auntie Mame, and tastemakers like Nancy Lancaster – they all play a part in their personal home and in their perspective on design. Interesting people and places inspire whole rooms; accessories and layers are added to evoke drama and tell a story. The foyer was inspired by the murals painted by Oliver Messel in homes across Europe.
Two pieces of art by Chuck Close hang near a Hollywood Regency game table in the living room, where Loecke says, “We’re learning to play canasta and Mahjong.” “Chairs from Nancy Reagan here, a piece from C.Z. Guest there – we’ve filled our home with things that really speak to who we are,” Nixon says. “Homes are about the people who live there, not which designer decorated them. We prefer a style that cannot be pinpointed but instead reminds you of the person who lives there.”
Sure, you may notice that Madcap Cottage has a signature love of mixing patterns and bold colors. After all, their new book, Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns, is full of inspiration from their own portfolio on how to layer and mix patterns and color in beautifully cohesive designs. Despite this, however, clients will tell you that the heart of Nixon and Loecke’s process is getting to know exactly what the homeowner’s “brand” is and then translating that into their home. The result is a vague recognition of hallmark design but an overwhelming feeling about the individual homeowner.
“We want to engage our clients in the details. We aim to tell a story through design,” Nixon says. “In our home, we don’t just go up and down the stairs. Stop and take in the photos, the art, the layers – It’s a journey. The furnishings, the wallpapers, the fabrics, the patterns – they all play a part in a big story.
The designs make you feel like you’ve been on a trip somewhere.” From the bright and cheery dining room inspired by the bar at the famed Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice to the adjoining pistachiohued sunroom inspired by an Indian-style estate in England’s Cotswold district, you can understand this philosophy. A custom vintage trellis design unifies both rooms, but the elements in each are distinct and original. A vintage Murano glass chandelier hangs in the dining room complemented by dining chairs covered in pink and green leather, which were found on eBay. The ceiling in the sunroom is upholstered in Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen fabric, which matches the fretwork over the windows. The vintage sofa covered in eye-catching daffodil chintz fabric, which is also Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen, brings the room together.
It’s these unifying, yet completely individual elements that define the home of the Madcaps. Entering the House of Bedlam means you’re welcome to throw your feet up, open a bottle of your favorite wine, which they likely will have on hand for you, crank the music, and enjoy some great conversation over good Chinese take-out. “We feel like great design is all about being aspirational and affordable.”