James Swan

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How It’s Done; Something Other Than White Walls, Please!

With the beautiful summer weather here in New England this past weekend I found myself gathering a stack of my favorite design and decorating magazines as I headed out to the beach. With my pale complexion my ocean bound forays always include a huge umbrella, gobs of sunscreen and giant hat which helps create a perfect environment for leisurely scanning pages and reading articles.

With my stack of 6 magazines completed I found my mind racing in all sorts of directions; thrilled about this, concerned about that, curious to learn more and occasionally hoping a trend or two will be short-lived.

One impression (I’m never certain when an impression becomes something more…like a trend) my afternoon left me with is that our homes, lives and certainly magazines are over-come with white walls. When did this become such a “thing”? And how quickly can we migrate away from room after room of blistering, boring, white painted walls?

While I have a theory or two about why….I’ll save those for another post; today I’d like to just raise our collective awareness a bit and remind us of the many richly creative options available to the creative soul when contemplating a decorating scheme and its associated walls.

And where better to draw inspiration that from the pages of the May 1990 edition of Architectural Digest and the Normandy home of Baron and Baroness Gerard de Waldner as designed by Francois Catroux with text by Charolotte Aillaud and photography by Derry Moore.

On the walls of the salon the walls have been wrapped in stencil-painted burlap, evocatively resembling the cordovan panels of the Renaissance. Anyone up for replicating or bettering this type of delicious treatment? Sign me up please!












We see it from time to time these days…but sadly not frequently enough but here we see the drawing room, with its more formal furnishings, and walls wrapped in dramatic crimson brocade. Fabric covered walls can make a come-back any day if you ask me!











Finally we see a simple little guest bedroom, tucked into the eaves of the manor house. Here its walls are again fabric wrapped but I point out that this effect can also be achieved by use of coordinating wall-coverings and fabrics.












Look at the impact the pattern repetition brings to the room when beds and simply draped table are wrapped in fabric matching the walls. It’s a simple technique that adds to the beauty of a home and in my opinion should be used with greater frequency.



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About the author, James

With the launch of the new podcast, Million Dollar Decorating, James Swan adds media-host to his career accomplishments. The interview-based show becomes the first daily podcast devoted to the worlds of design, decorating and beautiful living and features interviews with the world’s leading designers, decorators, architects and artisans. Life-style leaders like Robert Couturier, Sandra Nunnerly, Vicente Wolf and Timothy Corrigan populate the podcast where unguarded conversations reveal behind-the-scenes sources of inspiration, resources and stories that inspire and motivate.
James Swan has built a career crafting classically influenced interiors across the United States. Swan has been featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune and wrote for the “Trends & Shopping” column in House & Garden magazine. His book “101 Things I Hate About Your House” won a 2011 American Bookseller’s Award.
Television appearances on HGTV’s “Homes Across America,” speaking engagements with the professional design industry association NEOCON, regular guest spots on national radio programs have consistently placed Swan in the media spotlight.
Swan’s career took off back in Northern California at a noted San Francisco architecture firm, where he managed residential interiors. After that, Los Angeles beckoned, specifically the prestigious design firm of Frank K. Pennino & Associates, where as senior designer he managed high-profile projects, and earned a reputation for refined classical design that succinctly reflected his clients’ lives. In 1999, Swan opened his own firm in Beverly Hills.
Swan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology and music from Southwestern College in Waxahachie, Texas, and studied in Arizona State University's Architecture and Design master's degree program.
Swan is a past member of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, serving on its Executive Board of Directors. His other commitments include PAWS/LA, which assists with the care of pets for people living with disabilities, and KidSmart, an art education foundation for inner-city youth. In his free time, Swan may be found furthering his passion for skiing and traveling. Currently he lives and works from his home on the Maine coast.