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Amanda Nisbet in Freddie Gray's living room at her book sign-ing for World Pediatric Project. Beth Furgurson photo
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In May interior designer Amanda Nisbet visited Richmond to support World Pediatric Project through a book signing of her first published book, Dazzling Design , which showcases her bold use of textures, patterns and color. She sat down with R•Home at the party to dish about her personal style, decorating misadventures and her love for the Old Dominion.
R•Home: Congratulations on your first book, Dazzling Design. What's it about?
Amanda Nisbet: The book encapsulates my design sensibility, and, though the word's overused, my eclectic style.
R•Home: Yeah, we hear that term a lot. How do you define it?
Nisbet: For me it's about using different textures and patterns. I like to have balance and then throw in something that seemingly doesn't match. I wasn't schooled in interior design. My sister was, and she studied in grand design houses. She always said to me, "I'm so jealous of you, Amanda, because you're not encumbered by the rules." Eclectic's about infusing people's personalities, taking risks and mixing things up.
R•Home: What should no room be without?
Nisbet: Love and soul. I know that sounds like a Hallmark card, but it's true.
R•Home: You're from Canada and have lived a long time in New York City. What's your take on Virginians?
Nisbet: I have a real affinity for Virginia. That boxwood smell? I love it. It's an olfactory experience that seems to take me back. I went to boarding school at Madeira [in McLean] and my daughter's at U.Va. My son is going there this fall. It was my home for a while and now it's my children's home too.
R•Home: What about Richmond?
Nisbet: I come here to shop and to visit friends, especially Freddie Gray. She and I are old best friends, and I'm in town to support one of her favorite causes, the World Pediatric Project. I'm signing and selling my book and will be donating all the proceeds to WPP, a charity that provides critical health care to kids in South America and the Caribbean.
R•Home: You start Dazzling Design with photos of your living room, and you helped Freddie decorate hers. Tell us about that.
Nisbet: Freddie said she wanted to amp her living room "up to the Amanda level." I like to play with scale and generally think bigger is better. We started with a "ginormous" coffee table with an onyx top that I had custom-made and a giant pair of pear-green, 1960s lamps from Italy.
R•Home: The color combination in this room is stunning. It's bright yellow and a chartreuse-like lime green. Are you always this bold?
Nisbet: No, I'm not, and you'll see that in my book, but I like using colors with tension. It makes a room pop. A room also has to have an element of whimsy.
R•Home: You are an adventurous decorator. Tell us about a misadventure.
Nisbet: One of my first jobs was for a sweet friend who wanted me to decorate her husband's office. I was so excited that the planning went so well and that the project came in under budget. All the furniture was shipped straight to their house while my friend was away. Her husband is 6-foot-4 and big and burly, and he called me shortly after. He kept saying, "You're the expert, Amanda. I totally trust you, but when I sit in the chairs something doesn't feel right." Turns out I had ordered children's furniture! Still, he hired me again.
R•Home: What does decorating mean to you?
Nisbet: After 9/11, I thought about quitting. We lived with the smoke and the terror and it was a seminal time. I remember a client called me that day asking for a paint color. I couldn't believe it. In many ways it made me question what I was doing, but after time, I came to believe there's a reason and a need for the work I do. I'm helping people create havens — places for joy where they can create memories with friends and family.
R•Home: Are there any trends that you're totally "over"?
Nisbet: Geometrics — been there, done that. Right now I'm feeling chintz and big florals. I am craving old-fashioned looks like my grandmother had: apricots and pale greens — not pastels, but softer colors still on a big scale.
R•Home: A look to fill a future book?
Nisbet: Yes. I already have one in mind!