Interior designer shares ‘The Art of Elegance’

Normally, lunch for me during our busy fall and holiday season is a few quick bites squeezed in between appointments. So I couldn’t wait to attend the elegant Committee of 100 annual luncheon a few weeks ago at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. I love this benefit event, which brings in top name interior designers, who transport us to a world of absolute beauty while we enjoy a delicious meal.

This year’s speaker was Kansas City native Marshall Watson, winner of Traditional Home’s Designer of the Year Award and author of “The Art of Elegance: Classic Interiors.” I am a big fan of his timeless designs that are graceful, but also functional.

First, here’s a bit about Marshall’s impressive career. He started his design firm, Marshall Watson Interiors, in New York in 1986. His work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Veranda, House Beautiful, Interior Design, House & Garden, Hamptons Cottages & Gardens and The New York Times.

He also has created top-selling furniture collections for Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman and a line of couture outdoor carpets for Doris Leslie Blau. For the last decade, he has written a design column for The Southampton Press.

Here are a few design tips Marshall shared during his presentation I thought we could all use to create homes we love…


When he starts a design project, one of Marshall’s first steps is to meticulously research the region and culture where the home is located, as well as the style the owners want to bring to life. He mentioned he studied drama in college, which helped him set the stage for his design career. That’s where he learned to research roles and set designs — everything he needed to carry out a flawless execution. He said, “Research is my creative tool,” essential for bringing authenticity to a design.


Ask yourself: What does home look like to me? This is the beginning of discovering the right design for your interior and exterior spaces. Because no two families are alike, he shared that he likes to start each project by listening and observing his clients to create an accurate interpretation of their idea of “home.” Then, he uses these design elements to transform a series of spaces into a genuine, coherent home: warmth, light, peace, comfort, balance, proportion, appropriateness and livability.


When he designs spaces in New York, Marshall said he is always trying to find ways to add more light to a room. One of his tricks is to use lacquering techniques on furnishings and walls to add brilliance and reflection in order to amplify available light. You don’t have to live in a high rise to embrace this wonderful technique.


Marshall concluded with a tour of his East Hampton home. He showed us how he incorporated the things he loved into his own home: balance and symmetry, Delft tiles, blue and white jardinieres, climbing flowers, items that celebrate the beach and garden. What do you love? He urged us to thread the images and items we hold dear throughout our decor.

I left the time with Marshall refreshed and reinvigorated to help people bring their own style to life in their homes.


This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at

Reader Comments

Next Up in Local

Fatal pedestrian crashes: 6 deadly area accidents this year
Fatal pedestrian crashes: 6 deadly area accidents this year

The crash this weekend that killed a killed a man in his 70s on Ohio 741 in Miami Twp. is among several fatalities involving pedestrians on area roads this year. The crash that resulted in the arrest of Sandra Lynn Rowe, 59, occurred about 6:15 p.m. Saturday near Alex Bell Road while the man was waiting at a bus stop, according to the Ohio State Highway...
Records: Dayton police arrest man on murder charge
Records: Dayton police arrest man on murder charge

Dayton police arrested a man Sunday afternoon on a preliminary charge of murder, according to online jail records.  Laron Newman Cunningham, 39, was arrested in the 400 block of West Grand Avenue around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, jail records indicate.  It was not immediately known what crime Cunningham was arrested in connection to.  We&rsquo...
New ‘Best Places to Work for 2019’ include several local stores
New ‘Best Places to Work for 2019’ include several local stores

A chicken chain that has opened two Dayton-area restaurants within the last 18 months has scored a national shout-out as “One of the Best Places to Work in 2019,” and a handful of other national national chains with strong local presence also were applauded for their workplace practices. The 2019 edition of the 11th annual Employees'...
What should be done to battle poverty’s impact on learning? Ohio will consider funding these steps
What should be done to battle poverty’s impact on learning? Ohio will consider funding these steps

A study that could impact how Ohio funds programs targeting the achievement gap between rich and poor students says broad services are needed to support low-income students but that maintaining staffing and high expectations also play a role. Local educators say they have programs in place that meet many of the recommendations — including expanding...
TONIGHT: Dayton groups plan human rights vigil at Butler County Jail
TONIGHT: Dayton groups plan human rights vigil at Butler County Jail

More than 100 people from the Miami Valley area, and beyond, will ascend in front of the Butler County Jail tonight for a candlelight vigil to raise awareness of human rights abuses committed in the name of immigration enforcement, according to a release. The Butler County Jail is also an ICE Detention Facility located in Hamilton. Vigil attendees...
More Stories