Martha Dayton Design’s residential, multifamily and boutique commercial projects range in style but invariably display a certain refined cohesion. Whether a project occupies a stately Kenwood lot, an expanse of Minnetonka lakeshore or a North Loop condo lobby, the look is edited and sophisticated, tempered with a witty, playful touch.
Spend a few minutes with President/Principal Designer Martha Dayton and Design Director Kelly Perry, and you understand why. They radiate contagious enthusiasm and love breaking the rules. Both followed unorthodox career paths (Dayton as a design director for a local developer and a real-estate flipper; Perry as a Tiffany’s jewelry designer and a Christie’s art consultant). Dayton hung out her shingle in 2005, and Perry joined her shortly thereafter. Since then, they’ve built a well-trained team of interior designers. With assurance born of experience, they instruct new hires: “Keep your skills, but throw out the rules. We don’t have those here.”
Dayton and Perry requested to be interviewed together about their favorite things, and for good reason. They both gravitate toward the eclectic, often drawing on the Twin Cities’ thriving artisan community. As Dayton explains, “Our answers are usually the same, and we run everything past each other. Why do this separately?”
“Currently, my favorite is my own living room,” shares Dayton. During a recent renovation of her 1892 house, she refurnished with the mix of styles she favors: “It was really fun to shop for my own house and have an excuse to spend time on 1stDibs.” She also sourced pieces from International Market Square’s Holly Hunt, AJ Maison and Tapis Décor. “Some things are very old and some are very new,” she notes, “but it’s cohesive.” She particularly loves the wall of gallery-hung art featuring work by beloved local and national artists, pieces by her children, and finds from the Midway Monster Drawing Rally.
They love today’s eclecticism — a mix of colors and styles we wouldn’t have seen 10 years ago. Perry’s own home demonstrates: “We recently bought a house on Lake Minnetonka, so I got to start all over and bring everything I love into my rooms.” That means layering rugs, pattern, color, old lighting, new tables, coffee-table books and — always — fresh flowers.
“Basically, everything goes,” laughs Dayton. “Our No. 1 loved Instagram photo combined a multicolor chevron hide rug with a multicolor plaid chair in a historic home in Kenwood.” This is one category where their personal preferences differ: Dayton favors pink and red, while Perry likes green, blue and pink. When designing a space, “we like white on the walls and neutral furniture,” Dayton says. “Then you pop art, books, pillows and rugs. You can change up the art and pillows, and change the whole look of the room.”
Space to Design
The dining room, because it’s a space where you can take a risk. “It’s got every element we like to design with: tables, rugs, lighting, wallpaper, flowers,” shares Dayton. Perry adds: “We both love entertaining, so it’s one of our happier rooms. We love to be able to cook for everyone, then bring them together and gather around the table.”
They consider good coffee-table books the essential finishing touch to a well-styled room. “We love layering them,” Perry says. “Everyone needs good coffee-table books and fresh flowers.”
Both love Iris Apfel, the centenarian fashion icon famous for her bright colors, oversize jewelry and trademark enormous eyeglasses. “She dares to be different and doesn’t hold back on anything,” explains Perry. “She loves her jewelry, her faux furs and her eyewear — all of which we also love. We just love everything about her!”
Each has a favorite in her respective neighborhood. Dayton loves Kenwood’s Isles Studio, a fascinating shop filled with natural history collectibles and fine home goods. Perry prefers Wayzata’s Historic Studio, a lovely store selling luxurious accessories, paintings and global artifacts.