Designer Crush: Marea Clark InteriorsAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Raised in Kentucky by a family of creatives, designer Marea Clark formed a deep appreciation of storytelling through art, architecture and design from an early age. After receiving a degree in Interior Design and Fine Art from the University of Kentucky, she landed out West, where she trained under world-renowned designers including Madeline Stuart and Tucker and Marks. Now at the helm of her own firm based in the Bay Area, Clark has developed an ardent following who laud her traditional style and modern sensibility. Here, she shares more about her passion for design and California.
-How do you think growing up in the south shaped your design perspective? Growing up close to Louisville, Kentucky gave me a love of beautiful old homes and an appreciation for Southern hospitality. My father is a chef, so that was very much part of my upbringing as our home was a place of constant entertaining. Our house was surrounded by fields of horses, and during the summer months my sisters and I spent endless hours running inside and out, or spending our time in the sunroom. Our home was renovated by my uncle, an architect, and my mother had the exterior painted pink with a green trim—a bold move! The spaces never felt fully “done,” but they did feel lived-in and they were constantly evolving. As you grow up, you absorb the qualities of what a home is and I think my upbringing shaped my desire to create spaces which are beautiful, but also really warm, inviting and livable.
-How would you define your aesthetic? My aim is to create spaces that are truly hospitable, where you would feel comfortable curling up on the sofa and spending time with family and friends. If everything is designed to be completely perfect, you can’t relax. I have to have an edge of playfulness and spark in my spaces too—that balance of spice as well as sweetness. For example, at the moment we’re designing a room for twin baby girls with canopies over the cribs. You couldn’t get sweeter than that, but we’ve balanced that with an edgier palette of mustards and rusts. I’m always pursuing that moment of tension, the layers which make a space interesting and approachable. It changes with every project, so there’s no fixed recipe. We’re often working with the client to clarify their particular values and priorities, shaping spaces that express their personal understanding of comfort and hospitality.
-Which other designers or creatives inspired your career the most? I’m constantly drawing inspiration from my library of historical designers. But ultimately, the people who have influenced me the most are designers I’ve worked for, you absorb so much from that hands-on experience. Working with Madeline Stuart gave me the chance to spend time in extraordinary houses and witness the attention paid to detail—the custom marble inlay floors, the beautiful fireplace mantel surrounds, the ceiling moldings—every inch was designed at such a high level. Working for Suzanne Tucker was also formative, especially spending time with the highly-skilled artisans who made these homes come to life. My earliest professional influence came from my uncle, an architect, and my aunt, an interior designer. I originally started college studying pre-law and painting, and then I discovered that I thrived the most immersed in the rigor and creativity of interior design. Those two sides of my personality came together when I interned at my aunt’s interior design firm, and I became fascinated by the possibilities of interior design.
-Are there any brands, designers or artists you are currently obsessed with? I love Steven Gambrel’s work, Celerie Kemble has some of that playfulness I like, and I’ve recently become interested in the work of a designer from Kentucky, Matthew Carter. At the moment I’m really excited about the prospects of hosting people for dinner again, and ordered new dinnerware by the talented Italian ceramicist Coralla Maiuri.
-What do you cherish the most about working in Northern California? Northern California is the center of so much innovation, which is energizing. Our clients work on the cutting edge of their fields, and as such, they have a lot of ideas about their projects and expect a lot from their design partner. They want an interior designer who they can trust to build a cohesive vision, while executing within budget and timeline. This inspires us to continually grow, and to produce at the highest level both creatively and operationally.
Northern California also has some of the most beautiful homes in the world, complemented by breathtaking landscapes. From mountain-top ski getaways in Tahoe to beach bungalows in Bolinas, wineries in Napa, and the reverent Victorians of Pacific Heights. The unique culture and environment of Northern California is an interior designer’s dream.
-All-time favorite wallpaper brand? I love wallpaper, it’s impossible to choose! In my own house, I’ve chosen a Sister Parish design for my powder room and Cole & Son for the kids’ rooms. I also love my good friend Robert Malmberg’s new line of wallpapers, which I recently specified in a home office. It’s funky, fun, and just what this world needs after a year of Covid lockdowns!
-Favorite Bay Area restaurant for the design? I love the old-school San Francisco vibe of Tosca Café, and of course the bar at Spruce.
-Who would you love to design a home for? My parents! I’ve worked on a home for them but would love to design from beginning to end with no budget.
-If you weren’t a designer, you would be? I might be a painter or a clothing designer. Or work in product development. We do a lot of custom furniture, and that’s something I see in our future. I’d love to produce a furniture or wallpaper line.
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