Tamara of Tamara Matthews-Stephenson Interior Design
Tamara owns the New York City based residential interior design firm, Tamara Matthews-Stephenson Interior Design. She has has worked as a designer for seventeen years providing design services to clients in New York, Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and California.
Tamara holds a Bachelors of Art in English, and is a graduate of Castleon College as well as the world-renowned Parsons School of Design.
After Parsons, Tamara took a position with Barbara Southerland Interior Design with offices in Greenville, North Carolina and New York. For five years, Tamara was involved in all phases of design and learned the business through shopping the sources, working with clients, facilitating the installations and trouble shooting.
Prior to her career in interior design, Tamara worked in publishing at Inc. Magazine. She has recently married her love of writing with interior design and regularly contributes editorials for the East Hampton magazine Dan’s Papers. In addition, this May will mark the one year anniversary that Tamara has authored her interior design and lifestyle blog, Nest by Tamara. Each month Tamara investigates a design related topic, interviews the talent, photographs all her own content and writes the editorial. Nest by Tamara, which has thousands of fans, is much like creating the content for a small, interactive magazine.
Tamara was recently invited by the New York Design Center to talk to her fans during the Architectural Digest Home Show at the DIFFA by Design event in New York City.
Tamara and her husband, two children and the family’s Standard Poodle, Bridget divide their time between New York City and East Hampton, Long Island.
Tell us about your business.
I utilize my lifelong love for and experience in interior design to write about ‘nesting” with a philosophical point of view, highlighting great artisans in the industry. I use my publishing experience to write interesting stories to share with my viewers. Each month I choose and research a design related topic, take my own photographs, and bring in talent that offers a unique voice to the subject. I showcase a different woman each month. I have added video and music, and the blog provides an all sensory experience. “Nesting” to me is about bringing ones appreciation and love for family, community and history into your home to create a safe haven. I explore all aspects of the home from entertaining to cooking to gardening to antique shopping and decorating.
What inspired you to pursue this business?
After graduating from college and working in the business world, I wanted to be more creative on an everyday basis, so I pursued another degree in interior design. I attended Parsons School of Design in the evenings while working for a public relations firm during the day. Interior design makes me happy, and I enjoy designing a home for a client from beginning to end – the best part is the installation where it all comes together with accessories and flowers.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I am fortunate to live in the wonderfully artistic city of New York where in every nook and cranny there are inspirations to tap into for interior design from the store windows to people watching to the beauties in Central Park. It is a sensory overload at times and rather than seeking out inspiration, if often becomes about honing them.
Tell us about a favorite home decorating or remodeling project.
My favorite project was my own beach house in East Hampton. Since we bought the house in the midst of construction, we chose all the finished details. It is a simple, shingle style farmhouse style, so we kept the design in synchronicity with that style, darkened the floors, wainscoted the walls, and furnished it with a nice combination of new and old pieces that are not museum quality. The finished product is a comfortable home to spend with family and friends in weekends and summers.
Tamara dishes on her favorite things (left to right): French pleated curtains on chunky rods. Using chinese paper lanterns ( Paper Lantern Store) with battery operated lights for outdoor entertaining. Utilizing collections from clients such as the American pottery collection Shell Bowl, (lined in Tiffany Blue), from Bridgehampton Antiques Show, Bridgehampton, New York, which was used on the dressing tables. Hanging combinations of new & antique plates on kitchen walls (Egret pattern from Hermes). Perusing NYC’s wholesale flower market – scooping up pretty hues of roses fresh off the truck – Fischer and Page. Vintage shell inspired lamp from my favorite antique store – Beall & Bell Antiques in Greenport, Long Island – Beall and Bell. Combining different fabrics in a room with customized pillows to pull all colors together, as this pink, green and yellow combination – fabrics Brunschwig & Fils – Brunschwig – Clarence House – http://www.clarencehouse.com/ – and Cowtan & Tout – Cowtan Using contrasting trim on neutral-colored upholstery for a pop in color (hot pink trim from Houles ).
What’s your favorite color.
I love Pratt & Lambert paint, which has been getting difficult to purchase lately. There is one shop in New Jersey that sells the paint. I love all the colors because they seem pure color and not muddy. I use their grey color called “Carolina Gull” ( ) often and have used a pale yellow called “Lemon Whip” ( ) as staples for design.
What are your five favorite pieces of home décor from your home or elsewhere?
- My collection of Blue Willow porcelain from 1800s English to American 1950s – I combine it with other porcelain and any chipped versions go on the kitchen wall for display.
- My 1940s’ faux bamboo bar glass and bronze bar carts – I have two in my dining room. They are English looking on casters to easily move around. They are stylish and great for entertaining to act as self-serve refreshment area.
- My collection of convex mirrors, some painted in whitewash, others bull eye brass and organize them in a collage on my wall.
- My collection vintage tablecloths from the 1940s’ and I use them on my kitchen table daily.
- My antique Swedish painted chairs because their lighter color and painted finish gives them a modern feel, especially nice when paired with a dark wood table.
What’s your favorite room at home? Why is it your favorite?
I love the kitchen because it is a comfortable space where my family shares time together at the end of our day, cooking and laughing.
Who are your favorite designers?
From the past, Billy Baldwin and Sister Parish, and present-day, Bunny Williams and Albert Hadley.
What’s your personal design style? Has it evolved over time?
My father is an antique and rug dealer, and my mother was a gardener and antique lover. I have been schooled in a love for the classic. Over time, I have tweaked that style to add touches of modernism and unusual accessories to my interiors, but classic sensibilities are my anchor. I have learned to inject color in unusual manners as well. To me, a successful project should feel organic and not overly contrived, and quite frankly, not appear as if decorated by a professional, but somehow works nicely to the eye with layers of interesting objects to look at and settle into.
Many of us have a product we bought for our home-that now makes us think-”what was I thinking” - do you have one?
I adopted some of my husband’s former bachelor furniture, which I incorporated into my home – in a manner that utilizes it better. The matching bedroom dresser and side tables have been dispersed to different rooms because I don’t like matchy-match furniture and the all matching bedding (although from Ralph Lauren) needed to be changed up a bit as well.
Describe your dream room.
My dream room is one I designed for a project in design school. It was a pool house/cabana, with a serene and indulgent feel, that operated separate from the main buzz of the house. It had a variety of different hues of blue with white. The furniture was rattan and antique mixtures. Outdoor antique sconces throughout the cabana on dimmers. A large chandelier in the center in a West Indian motif. White wainscoted walls three-quarters of the way up with wallpaper in blue coral from Cowtan & Tout with dark wood floors, and a lovely view of the pool and gardens from the French doors that open wide to feel as if you are almost outside. A white paneled built-in wet bar (with painted blue interior shelves) with plenty of fresh ice tea, lemons and fresh fruit in large bowls. White peonies and cobalt blue hydrangeas in large glass hurricane lamps throughout.
What are your favorite blogs or home design/improvement websites?
- The Lisa Porter Collection – Lisa Porter is a Kentucky interior designer who journals her daily experiences. She photographs and interviews artists and other design related people and inspirations. Her blog has a clean, artistic approach and is always great fun to read. I love to stop by and see what she is involved in each week, because it is creative, uplifting and interesting to read.
- Interior Concepts by Wanda – Wanda is a busy interior designer that seems plugged into many aspects of interior design. She collaborates with other designers, bringing people together with her inspiring thoughts and wisdom on the business. She writes about a wide variety of subjects on interior design, from lighting to color.
- Hampton Hostess – Barbara is a New York City designer that blogs her experiences in New York and the Hamptons. Her blog takes us into the world of some beautiful homes, looks at great food, and stylish approaches to food, travel and entertaining.
- Smitten Kitchen – great recipes with creative posts and beautiful photographs of food
- Norbridge Antiques – Based in Florida, Norbridge is an expert in the field of antiques and offers her wisdoms, glimpses of her client’s projects and uplifting thoughts on the subject. She does all this while being very supportive of fellow bloggers. I like to stop by to see what tidbit she offers, shots of antiques, or the wisdom she imparts while on the hunt for finding great antiques and collectibles.
What are your favorite books, design shows and/or magazines?
- H&G (forever–even though out of print, so I collect the vintage ones).
- Bunny Williams–an affair with a house.
- All of Jodi Picoult’s books: Lucky, Lovely Bones.
- All of Edith Wharton’s novels and books: The Decoration of Houses, Old Maid, The Age of Innocence .
- The Secret Garden – I’m reading my favorite children’s book to my son right now.
Do you have a decorating, design or remodeling tip you’d like to share with The Decorating Diva.com readers?
Don’t over-think interior design, go with your “gut” more on how you want to live in your home, and try to avoid rooms that simply impress others, but rather, build a room slowly over time with your own personal style, by putting the books you love to read in the room, and family and travel mementos to help create a space that you will want to spend time in. Even though the advice and services of an interior designer are imperative, make sure the room has your personality injected. A good designer will work with you to help you attain that goal.
The Decorating Diva, LLC would like to thank Tamara for giving us an intimate tour of her fabulous designs, and for sharing her wonderful design advice to avoid “over-thinking” decorating and design and just listen to your intuition.