John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, the design duo behind Madcap Cottage are masters of reinvention. One time magazine editors in New York City, the pair have turned their creative eye towards their own line of home décor and design services from their current home in High Point, North Carolina. Their specialty is a brilliantly colorful, whimsical, joyous take on classic patterns and styles, resulting in designs that are both timeless and surprisingly versatile. When you make room for Madcap Cottage designs in your home, you make room for more joy, more color, and more flair. The same can be said for the designers themselves who are nothing if not delightful and passionate creators of lively beauty for the home.
When Jason and John decided to relocate from their long time Brooklyn home to High Point, North Carolina, they made the bold decision to completely revamp their entire home by starting fresh with all new furnishings – a decision that no doubt was quite a bit of additional work, but which appears to be well worth the effort. Their home is a love letter to the glorious colors, patterns and vintage styles that serve as inspiration to them in their creative work. “There is not a single new piece of furniture at the House of Bedlam, our High Point, North Carolina home. We sold almost everything when we moved from Brooklyn south—whether to the new owners of our former brownstone or on online antiques channels. What fun to start a whole new chapter fresh. We wanted the House of Bedlam to feel like you had been whisked somewhere magical once you step inside and I think the mission has been accomplished. Lots of tenting, scenic, occasional tables, and surprise-and-delight details. Our style hasn’t really changed—it just continues to evolve. We see ourselves as stewards of the treasures we pick up on our journeys. We are not about trends but rather celebrate timeless yet fresh.”
Wonderfully in sync both personally and professionally, Jason and John combine their skills to create the design business of their dreams with Madcap Cottage. “We love working together—our skill sets really round each other out. John is a creative wunderkind who paints and sketches while I am more of a marketing/making noise type who can really write. John can write beautifully, too, but he leaves that to me so I can run amuck. I run the social side of the business, i.e. Instagram and such. John and I have very compatible design aesthetics: We can wander a large antiques store separately and discover that we both identified the exact same finds when we group. We both love Chinoiserie, monkeys, scalloped anything, layered… We don’t like beige and white rooms—unless they were crafted by, say, Syrie Maugham.”
Their compatibility can be seen in the way they work together as well as in the outcome of their designs. “We are both storytellers, so, after years in magazines and telling other people’s stories, we decided it was time to bring our own storyline to life. Hence, Madcap Cottage. Madcap Cottage is a brand that we oversee, we are the guiding force behind this small but ever-growing venture. Working and living together can be a challenge, but I think we have navigated these waters swimmingly. We are students of history and vintage movies and literature and art and great house museums, and all of that plays such a pivotal role in our work—whether the occasional interior design projects we work on or the products we create such as fabrics, wallpaper, and furniture. John can paint and sketch which I cannot do. But I can PR the shit out of what he designs.”
The MadCap Cottage look is one that finds influence from beauty around the world. Colors, styles and eras blend together seamlessly for a fresh take on classic looks. “Travel is a key component of the Madcap Cottage DNA. We love to mix a little India with England, France, Japan, and Mexico and shake it up and see what sort of heady cocktail results. We also love road trips around America. We are so lucky to live in this glorious country. We have four pound-rescue pups (three pugs and a Boston), and they are mad for our road trips, too. Always keep your eyes open—you never know where you will encounter great design. As John likes to say, “Good design need not be expensive—just expressive.”
An essential element in their form of expression? One of a kind vintage and antique finds. “John and I keep our eyes open for great vintage finds—whether that be a consignment store, an online portal, an auction house, or a dumpster find. We love pieces from the estates of folks who have lived rich lives, so we have collected treasures from the homes of luminaries such as Vivien Leigh, Fleur Cowles, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Nancy Reagan, and the Duchess of Devonshire. We love having that energy in the House of Bedlam.” With their wide-ranging love of styles and eras, their design motto when pulling it all together is to: “Layer, layer, layer. It’s all creating an engaging storyline and bringing that vision to life. Who wants rooms that look like showrooms. Snooze-o-rama!”
This ability to artfully curate and layer to stunning effect is a technique they use in their own home as well as in the homes of their clients. Inspired by travel and serendipitous discovery, they aptly describe their home’s style as “The Grand Tour.” “ We have picked up treasures all over the world and created a whimsical environment that is like Narnia. Magical. Transporting. Transfixing. And always fun!” One (of the many) notable finds from their shopping adventures is a particular favorite of the pair. “We love the long, long dining table that came from the estate of social doyenne Betsy Bloomingdale in the Holmby Hills section of LA. Oh, the luminaries that once dined at this table in a legendary home now owned by Tom Ford. The table went up for sale at auction and went unsold so we were able to pick it up for a steal. We treasure this piece.”
Whether it’s a vintage find or a new creation from the Madcap Cottage collection, there is much to be treasured in the work of this passionate pair of designers.
5 Questions with the designers of Madcap Cottage
TLV: Go to color combination? Or most beloved pattern?
MCC: We love green, that’s a Madcap Cottage neutral. As John says, “If the colors work in your garden, they will work in your home.” Pair green with anything and create magic. We adore pink. Orange. And yellow. Yellow is such a glorious, Doris Day-inspired happy hue. We adore a trellis and a small geometric paired with an exploded floral pattern.
TLV: What are some of your most beloved design inspirations?
MCC: Music. From Bryan Ferry to Candi Staton and Nina Simone. Vintage films such as How to Marry a Millionaire or Auntie Mame. Great house museums such as the Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, Massachusetts or any of the National Trust properties in England.
TLV: Favorite era for design?
MCC: The 1930’s
TLV: Currently reading or watching?
MCC: Anything by Pedro Almodovar and a history of the Mitford sisters.
TLV: Dream travel destination?
MCC: Gasparilla Inn. The Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, England. Anywhere in northern India.
Click here to shop the design duo’s TLV curated collection.
Readers can follow Mad Cap Cottage on Instagram at @madcapcottage and check out their fabrics and wallpapers, available on madcapcottage.com. “Everything is printed to order in North Carolina and is available in two weeks! We can print fabrics on cotton, cotton/linen, and velvet, and wallpapers are available as clay paper or on grasscloth. We try to be super nimble and craft magic domestically.”
Photos Courtesy of MadCap Cottage / Text by Liana Hayles Newton / Portrait of the Designers by Maria West