Fashion designer, interior designer, and blogger, Mark D. Sikes brings his spirited take on California living to his first rug collection, created in collaboration with the Merida design team. We chatted with Mark about the inspiration behind the California Stripes collection, his roots in fashion, and his lifelong obsession with stripes.
What role do rugs play in your projects?
Rugs play a huge role for me. They’re the beginning of a scheme and set the foundation of every room. I’m not the kind of designer that starts with a big antique rug. I tend to gravitate toward natural fiber rugs, or something like a striped dhurrie – which is what this collection is all about. I also like to layer rugs, a natural fiber with a different style of rug on top.
Why do you source Merida rugs for so many of your projects?
I use a lot of different rugs and Merida’s product far exceeds most of the competitors out there. Seeing how Merida develops their rugs, I have a better appreciation for the quality of their yarns and their craftsmanship, and also the value of their expertise. They’re problem solvers and will work with you to figure things out, and for a designer it’s important to have that collaboration. There’s a high level of client service that’s just part of their brand.
How do the dhurries in this collection compare to traditional handwoven dhurries?
We wanted to capture the look of a vintage dhurrie, but thicker, more durable. When you look at the construction, the quality of the wool yarns, these rugs are made to last. We worked hard to get the details right – the colors, the striations and shade bands, and the finishing. The end result is a collection that is timeless and beautiful.
Where do you see designers using these rugs in their projects?
I genuinely believe they work in any space, and in any location in the country. They look great layered in a bedroom, as a foundational rug for a family room, as runners in hallways. The collection has a lot of range and the rugs are incredibly versatile. They’re alive, they’re happy, and they’re very cool.
What surprised you most about the process of creating a rug collection?
Working with Merida on this, I’ve come to appreciate all the detail that goes into it. Just the steps involved in getting a color exactly right can be a very long process. I will never look at a rug the same way again. As a designer it was important to be a part of that process, and I also think it’s important for consumers to understand how much is involved to create a rug of this quality.
What was it like collaborating with the Merida design team?
What impressed me most from the beginning of the process is how creative it was. I was very inspired by the way they accumulated inspiration to visualize what a collection could be. After an initial conversation with their creative director, Roxanne Hanna, she and her team presented mood boards. I love mood boards and I really liked how the creative conversation started. Throughout the collaboration the creative process was always at the forefront.
Their design process is also very structured and organized. There’s a lot of communication, and we always had integration points where we shared ideas and would tweak things. I appreciate structure because I tend to work that way as well. I was focused on the aesthetic and the look, and working with Merida I knew I could count on them for the quality, the durability and the value the rugs provide.
What was the inspiration for the collection?
The collection is very much inspired by traditional dhurries, which I started gravitating towards about ten years ago. I buy vintage dhurries and tend to use them a lot in projects. I layer them, cut them, make runners out of them. A lot of images in my new book (Beautiful: All-American Decorating and Timeless Style) were taken prior to my collaboration with Merida, and you see me using these types of rugs in many different ways, whether it’s casual or formal, east coast or west coast.
One source of inspiration was a photograph of a Billy Baldwin room – at Villa Fiorentina, on the Mediterranean in the south of France – with all this blue furniture and a huge striped dhurrie in the center of the room. The photo was taken more than forty years ago, but the room looks great today and will look great forty years from now.
Stripes are a big part of your brand. What does a stripe do for you?
Anyone who knows me knows I love stripes, in both fashion and interiors. Stripes are season-less… timeless and classic. There’s a graphic nature to it that works with everything. It can work with a floral print or a batik. Stripes go with anything and there’s something appealing about it that makes a room approachable.
How does your fashion background inform your interior design approach?
Working in fashion you learn so much about solid and print, hard and soft, classic and trend – that all relates to interior design. And the way you merchandise or lay out a store is similar to how you would do a living room. The fundamentals are the same.
As a designer, what’s most important to you in a partner?
Besides the quality of their rugs, what attracted me to Merida was the integrity of the company and the people. When I first met [CEO and owner] Catherine Connolly and [creative director] Roxanne Hanna, there was this feeling that there was a common sense of who we all were. And that’s a special thing that’s hard to translate. There’s a genuine spirit to what they do that’s really important, and that spirit comes across in the finished product.