Style at Home: Marshall Watson shares ‘The Art of Elegance’

Mary Carol Garrity
Tribune News Service

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.

© "The Art of Elegance" by Marshall Watson, Rizzoli New York, 2017.

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.

© "The Art of Elegance" by Marshall Watson, Rizzoli New York, 2017.

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.

© "The Art of Elegance" by Marshall Watson, Rizzoli New York, 2017. (Rizzoli)


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