The Pursuit of Inner Beauty
Wild Madder Design is a new kind of interior design firm dedicated to the belief that true beauty is natural, imperfect, simple, authentic, and humble. Wild Madder is about creating spaces that have a special kind of simple beauty. Wabi sabi is the only single term that comes close to describing this aesthetic. It is said that this ancient Japanese concept is difficult to define but that it is based upon three truths observed in nature: Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is complete.
Wild Madder Design is also about place, the alchemy of place. By definition, alchemy means, “any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.” We have all experienced such places--a treehouse, a tea house, a fort, a summer camp, a lake cottage, a family home, a secluded studio, or even a wondrous work space--that bring magic into our lives. These places are often humble…a brew of simple ingredients and elements that create a magical whole. Places we return to again and again.
Our design approach is about finding beauty in unlikely places, and creating beauty in our own surroundings. It’s about helping our clients curate their environments, focusing more on what matters and less on what doesn’t. And it’s about finding and fulfilling the inherent magic of each special place.
Read more below . . .
Wild Madder is a plant whose root has long been used as a natural red dye for carpets and clothing, and as pigment for artists. In “The Root of Wild Madder” Brian Murphy writes, “The madder root, dried and ground into dyer’s powder, was carried by Phoenician traders and mentioned in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Bible refers to madder as pu’ah which some scholars believe was also a lullaby sound used to calm crying infants. To the Romans, it was rubia, which has endured as its scientific name.” In other words, Wild Madder is a common and natural substance that has been used for thousands of years to create things of great and enduring beauty. These are the values that help define us.
There’s a weathered pine bench pulled up to my parents’ dining room table for extra seating. The arms are deeply scarred, and the rungs worn and scuffed. I remember climbing over the rails to squeeze in alongside my siblings, a movement mimicked by my own children over the years. My parents rescued “the deacon’s bench” from the harbor in Port Jefferson after a hurricane – the antique dealer told them it was waterlogged and worthless. After countless meals around the table beside the Long Island Sound, it sits half a century later in their Vermont farmhouse. The bench evokes what home means to me - all the stories and layers of experience that give a place meaning.
Places that conjure a similar feeling have followed – enclosures created by the long, low limbs of a copper beech tree, a fifth floor walk-up in New York with a ladder opening to the night sky, the peaceful work space in my barn. Their quiet aesthetic has informed my work creating environments for people, animals, and the world of make-believe. After studying sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Tufts University, I worked in exhibit design, leading to a career as a stylist and set decorator in film and television - and now in design.
It was my mother who taught me the skill of nest-building and the art of making a home. She became a master at it, partly because we moved…a lot. And it was my grandmother who introduced me to the alchemy of place. With her gift for storytelling, she’d hold us spellbound while the sights, sounds, and smells of the fields surrounding her Idaho farmhouse intensified the magic.
My non-linear career path began in Portland, Oregon, working in Marketing and Design for Nike, with later company postings to Germany and The Netherlands. Then came a pesky little cry for more purpose—resulting in a two-year side-track to Kenya to work as a Peace Corps volunteer, and later, to a posting in Malawi with my husband and three young children. Currently rooted in Vermont, it is the many people I have encountered along the way—a Finnish designer who was the queen of color, women in Kenya who made intricate baskets, bead work, and bomas using plants and animal hides, furniture-makers and tailors in Malawi who crafted our household furnishings and clothing by hand, and a Vermont neighbor who never replaced the hand pump in his kitchen sink—who have inspired me, my independent projects, and now Wild Madder Design.