Mark and Lily
Mark D. Sikes On Business, Creative Inspiration and What’s Next
Looking at Mark D. Sikes’s upcoming roster of projects, you have to wonder:
“Does this guy ever sleep?”
The Insta-famous L.A.-based designer is on fire, as evidenced by a number of high-profile collaborations that keep a team of nine busy and (until recently) jet-setting across the country.
The busy designer also has more than a dozen private residence projects currently in the works—from southern California to Nantucket—but like everyone else, his team has had to adjust to conducting business during a pandemic. While the business hasn’t decreased, he’s adapting to Zoom meetings and a slower pace just like the rest of us. We sat down with Sikes to learn more about his past, what influences his current work, and how he envisions the future of the design industry after COVID-19.
1. Tell us a bit about your background…When did you know you would be a designer?
Dad was a preacher, so we lived in several different places. I was born in Texas but moved to Illinois at six months old. At 15, we moved to Nashville. After college, I went back to Nashville for a while, then moved to San Francisco where I worked in merchandising, store design, and marketing for several well-known apparel and home retailers. In 2011, I opened my practice in Los Angeles and have been here ever since.
2. How has living in different regions of the U.S. influenced your outlook in terms of design?
In the Midwest, I was surrounded by family and had a strong sense of what a home really feels like… comfortable, inviting, and filled with love. My years in the South were centered around history, tradition, decorating, gardening, and entertaining. People in the South love to entertain and they enjoy traditions. In California, it’s all about the weather and the laid-back, casual spirit of coastal living. That’s also informed my work from an indoor-outdoor perspective. My doors and windows are always open and there’s a bohemian sensibility here.
3. You're known for your blue and white interiors and mixing east and west coast aesthetics. What are some other Mark Sikes design signatures?
Definitely things that we use in most of our projects: natural fiber rugs, really comfortable upholstery, and striped rugs are some signatures. As for accessories, I love wood boxes. Now that I’m designing a lot of products, those are the things that I enjoy creating as well.
4. Who/what/where inspires you, and why? Describe your design philosophy.
In this unusual time, I am inspired by the little things. I’ve always been inspired by nature, but even more so now. We may not be able to go to museums or restaurants, but we can always go out in nature.
I also look to the past for inspiration, whether it’s architecture or interiors. I have a large book and magazine collection, but there is also so much online that can be inspiring. I always say: just keep your eyes open, there’s something beautiful everywhere.
5. What's your favorite room or home of all time, and why?
There are so many rooms and homes that I find truly inspiring, but if I had to pick one, Bunny Williams and her husband John Rosselli have a beautiful home in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic called La Colina. It isn’t just about the décor or design…it’s the serene and relaxing feeling you get when you are in the space.
6. How do you decide who/what brands you will partner with on your various collections?
It always starts with a love of the product or company and through mutual admiration. In most cases, they are products that we already buy and use personally. It’s about having a natural, organic relationship, and then through conversations, learning what I can contribute to them and what they can contribute to me. The reason our collaborations are so successful is that I’m designing things I truly love and am passionate about. We don’t design things we think people want—we design things that we authentically love.
7. What is your biggest business challenge? The biggest creative challenge?
I’ve always approached my creative work with a business sense. My years in retail taught me how to execute creativity. There is a big organizational aspect to successful design, so I rely on the process. It’s all about working the calendar and adjusting…true success comes from a well-managed calendar!
8. What part of your work do you find the most rewarding? What’s been your most fulfilling design project so far?
The most rewarding aspect is when things come together at the very end of a project. Creating spaces that people will live, work, and raise families in is very personal and extremely important, especially now. I take it very seriously.
As for favorites, the current project is always the favorite one! But the families and repeat clients that we have built trust and relationships with really stand out. They need me and I need them, and it feels like family. The biggest compliment is when people return to work with you because they had such a great experience.
9. Please touch on a few recent and upcoming projects so we can let our readers know what you’re working on.
Right now, we have several projects in progress all over the U.S.: Little Rock, Louisiana, Chicago, Kansas City, Idaho, northern California, Montecito, Palm Beach, Nantucket—and that’s just homes.
We are also about to launch a new bedding line, a fabric line with Schumacher, and lighting collections with Hudson Valley and Troy Lighting.
We are also very excited about our new book, the follow-up to Beautiful: All-American Decorating and Timeless Style
, which has been four years in the making. The first book was a huge success, and this one is even better. After this unusual time, people are going to want to focus on beauty, inspiration, and the things they love. The new book comes out in September 2020.
10. What are you doing to stay connected to your clients during the quarantine, and what positives can designers glean from our current situation?
We were the type of firm that went to the office every day and traveled a lot. Now, we are all working from home, which is an adjustment, but it’s going smoothly. In the past, we have done creative presentations and we use Zoom a lot. We are working differently; in some ways, it’s more efficient and in some ways, it’s harder. No matter what, though, we will come out stronger—whenever you are faced with challenges, there’s always a benefit.
On a positive note, people are spending more time at home, so I expect more of a demand for interior design. With any huge shift, there is an entrepreneurial burst that takes place. New businesses and ideas will come out of this and I think the home industry will flourish. I’m optimistic about it.
On a lighter note, what are your hobbies/free time activities?
I love to play tennis, meditate garden, go to the movies and play with our French bulldog, Lili. In the last year, I’ve been on a journey of finding more balance. With that comes more personal time and connecting with people on a more personal level.
Name something that would surprise people about you.
People think I’m a rule follower, but I’m more of a rule breaker! I push the limits of everything.
Describe yourself/your work in five words.
Kind, classic, hardworking, funny, thoughtful.
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—Davina van Buren, Senior Editor, and VP of Marketing, Designer Society of America