Designing with Joy in Mind: A Conversation with Meg Braff

Designer Meg Braff’s work is undeniably joyful. Rooms infused with her signature bright colors and bold patterns are described as being “ideal settings for gracious living and celebrations with friends and family.” With an elegant blend of modern and antique pieces that mingle with cheerful textiles and inspiring paint choices, it is easy to imagine the homes she designs to be perfectly suited for happy occasions as well daily enjoyment.

Photo by: J. Savage Gibson

“I grew up in Mississippi, so the whole notion of gracious entertaining and southern hospitality really rings true for me. I believe in the need for dining rooms, spaces for entertaining groups of various sizes, for real fun, and for quiet contemplation. Comfort and ease are of the upmost importance.”

Photo by: J. Savage Gibson

Creating beautiful rooms for the whole family comes naturally to Braff. Growing up in the South, her first inspiration was her own family. “My mother and grandmother were my early style inspirations. I loved my grandmothers big Greek Revival home in Corinth, Mississippi, with its family heirlooms, interesting furniture and bits of Victorian wicker. I got my love of shopping and entertaining from my mother. My mom would plan all her dinners in advance, do the flowers and a lot of her own cooking. When I was about 8 years old I would help serve the dishes and felt very grown up! Seeing early on the way to entertain, and how houses function has helped me immeasurably as a decorator, as has visiting museums, and fabulous homes of friends in the states and Europe.”

Photo by: J. Savage Gibson

Her mother’s home would eventually be the designer’s first foray into working for a client, benefitting from not only Braff’s design savvy but also her interest in and ability to keep the people she designs for at the forefront of the process. “I always had an interest in design, but I actually studied human development in college. After graduating from Vanderbilt I decided to move to New York and study design at Parsons. My mom was my “first client,” and we gently refreshed our lake house in Mississippi. After Parsons, I worked for a few New York decorators, before beginning on my own in 1994.”

Photo by: Tria Giovan

Her passion for working with clients is a major factor in what inspires her work. “I love the early stages of the design process, the first few meetings with a client, getting to know them, their taste, their fantasies, and then running through ideas and inspirations and filling in the blanks with pretty furniture and fabrics and accessories. So much in decorating, especially these days, is about problem solving and keeping a project on course. The creative time, before orders are even placed, is really the most fun. And of course I love seeing a project installed, and coming back for the photoshoot, or attending a party given by my clients. Its wonderfully rewarding to see a home you’ve designed ‘in action.’”

Photo by: Tria Giovan

To give the spaces she works with a vibrant and playful feeling, she often turns to color and pattern. “The easiest way to instantly add color to a home is via a wallpaper or a fantastic paint color. Wallpaper does wonders for rooms that with architectural imperfections, paneling that isn’t the most attractive, or cavernous high ceilinged spaces that need warming up. Regarding fabric, I love decorating with prints, but it can be daunting, for some, to think about a wild pattern on an expansive sofa. I’ll often use a solid color for the large upholstery pieces, and then prints on chairs, pillows and other accent pieces. Blues and greens, colors of nature, are among the easiest to work with and always look great.”

Photo by: Tria Giovan

Color and pattern are only one element of what makes her work so eye-catching. A blend of modern and antique pieces are layered into each space, creating rooms that are filled with depth and character. “I love shopping for antique and vintage pieces, both for myself, my stores, and my clients. Antiques give authenticity and verve to a room. I love vintage upholstery— its often a better scale than the oversized pieces being produced today. I buy plenty of new furniture, but without a few vintage items a new space can begin to feel like a showroom. My advice on buying is to figure out what you like and respond to, and seek out dealers and shops that share your aesthetic and inspire you. The more you see, the more you learn and expand you references, the more depth you wind up imbuing to your work. I also love to assemble sets of vintage outdoor furniture for my projects, especially for newly built homes.”

Photo by: Tria Giovan

Her love of antiques extends to her own home as well as the homes she works with for her clients. “My home is full of a lifetime of design inspirations and holds many of my favorite pieces collected over the past 25 years. Every room in my house contains antiques and vintage pieces. I love the thrill of the hunt, discovering something new, or finding something of a bygone era that you just do not see being produced today. In my living room I have a very large coromandel screen, purchased at a local estate sale, from a home that had been decorated by Mario Buatta. It’s one of my favorite pieces, and I still wish I had been able to buy more from that sale!”

Photo by: J. Savage Gibson

Favorite design era:

“I love the grandly scaled homes of the 1920s, the era of design icons like Syrie Maugham, David Adler and Francis Elkins and I also love the mid-century decorators Billy Baldwin, William Haines and David Hicks to name a few.”


Favorite summer cocktail:

“I love a spicy margarita in the summertime!”


Ideal way to spend a weekend afternoon:

“Tennis, lunch with friends, maybe a bit of shopping or relaxing and reading by the pool.”

Click here to shop Meg’s TLV Picks.

Text by Liana Hayles Newton / Photo of Meg Braff by Shawn Connell

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