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Exploring the Parallels of Fashion and Interior Design with Designer Marla Mullen Sanford

Designer Marla Mullen Sanford looks at the relationship between the runway and room décor.

The author in the M-Geough showroom at the Boston Design Center. / Photo by Jessica Delaney

A good friend of mine recently walked through one of my projects. After saying, “Oh my God!” and nothing else for the first five rooms, which I nervously could not decode, she finally turned to me and said, “Marla, I just want to wear all of these rooms!” I was struck by this comment because, as someone who has always loved fashion and even dabbled in shoe design for a few years, I was unaware that this was exactly what I was doing all along. This got me thinking about the idea of assembling spaces like we would an outfit—so that you would not want to just sit in a room but be in it.

Ines satin slingback pumps, $975, Yves Saint Laurent. / Courtesy photo

The bridge between the two design worlds of fashion and interiors has always existed. In the last decade, this passageway has widened, with almost every major fashion house launching homeware and accessory lines and vice versa. New and bold trend shifts on this year’s ready-to-wear and haute couture runways exemplified this synergy in some of the most palpable and exciting ways we have ever seen.

The 2024 spring/summer fashion shows told an incredible story of new visions and challenges to the status quo—a departure from minimalism, reservation and restraint, and neutral colors. The “less is more” has flipped; instead, we are seeing a renaissance of color, maximalism, layering, pattern-on-pattern play, and even an added trend of 3-D florals penetrating several collections. Designers are testing boundaries, risk-taking, and rule breaking. Pieces that remain traditional in their tailoring are bold in their pattern and color mix, coloring outside the lines using transformed (and often mixed) silhouettes, mismatched and asymmetric hemlines, inverted heels on shoes, and geometrically shaped handbags. It is all a little bit idiosyncratic and theatrical. There is even a trend dedicated to not wearing pants, with Hollywood starlets choosing looks so outside of the box they are borderline sartorial in nature.

Andreas Martin-Löf wool rug, from $895, Nordic Knots. / Courtesy photo

When we walk across the bridge into the interior world, we see the same trends playing out in real time. Furniture, lighting, and home accessories are all taking similar style risks, providing interest and depth to rooms in a way we haven’t seen in years. Wallcoverings and fabrics are going bold with color and magnified full florals and geometric patterns, with some prints consisting of multiple patterns layered on top of one another. It is exciting and fun and a bit rebellious in the best of ways.

Take a journey with us as we traverse some of these reciprocal trends, starting with the asymmetric and geometric looks hitting stores now. If we are to “live what we wear,” now is the time!

Unbalanced Beauty

Feast your eyes on these asymmetric fashions and furnishings.

“Belle Vivier” suede pumps, $890, Roger Vivier. / Courtesy photo

“Eternal Spring” vinyl canvas wallcovering, price upon request, Phillip Jeffries. / Courtesy photo

Gucci Horsebit 1955 leather-trimmed and coated-canvas shoulder bag, $2,980, Net-a-Porter. / Courtesy photo

“Adeline” faux-marble coffee tables, set of two, $4,550, Arteriors. / Courtesy photo

“Balto” linear suspension light in gunmental, $960, Visual Comfort. / Courtesy photo

Yves II wool-and-silk rug, price upon request, Art+Loom. / Courtesy photo

From Dries Van Noten’s spring 2024 “Unfamiliar Familiar” runway collection. / Courtesy photo

Susan Hornbeak-Ortiz modern layered asymmetrical bouclé chaise, $19,460, 1stDibs / Courtesy photo

Ray Booth “Cadence” console, price upon request, Hickory Chair. / Courtesy photo

Midcentury asymmetrical wood floor mirror, $569, West Elm. / Courtesy photo

Kelly Wearstler “Piel” wrapped antique-burnished-brass sconce, $839, Visual Comfort. / Courtesy photo

“Imperial Wavelength” diamond bracelet,” $14,500, Ondyn. / Courtesy photo

First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Spring 2024 issue, with the headline “Interior Motives.”