Known for his star power on Bravo’s cult favorite Million Dollar Decorators, Jeffrey Alan Marks embodies California cool. After stints in London, New York City and Los Angeles, he’s settled into the quiet seaside town of Montecito, where he’s redefining the all-American beach vibe with his recently renovated 1920s English-style cottage. He spends his days taking morning walks on the beach, working with clients coast to coast, and designing lines for Kravet, Palecek and WestPoint Home. And he’s convinced this will be the summer to remember.
On the Biggest Summer Yet
People are excited for this summer more than any other. I think it’ll be like the Roaring Twenties. People want to party. Entertaining at home stopped the past couple years with the restaurant boom, but now people want to be home, where it feels safe, special and intimate with handpicked friends. Everyone wants outdoor living rooms, bigger barbecue areas and Courteney Cox’s famous indoor/outdoor bar in Malibu. Outdoor furniture is sold out at Restoration Hardware, Palecek, Summit; they can’t make it fast enough. Being at home is bigger than ever — not so much in your living room, but in your outdoor room. After the past year, you realize what’s important to you. For me, I can’t wait to have a party!
On the Digital Boom
Online business is bigger than ever. My online sales are triple what they were a year ago. There’s a sweet spot in spending; if you know the vendor, things are selling sight unseen, just like with real estate. If you know the neighborhood, you might buy a house without even going to look at it. People are redoing their bedrooms without ever leaving the house and spending more than ever on custom bedding. Why wouldn’t you?
On the Modern Client
I’m on a lot of Zoom meetings, and everyone is doing their own color boards. They all have these Instagram boards (which I just started using because of Nate Berkus) where, say you like my bedroom and Nate’s bathroom, you can bookmark those images in a file. Now my clients come to me with a very organized idea of what they want, which didn’t happen even two years ago. They’re more hands-on. It doesn’t hurt my ego because I want everyone to be involved in the design process. I have a client who is on her yacht pretty much 10 months out of the year. I work on four houses for her, and she is the most involved person. You’d think she’d be out water skiing behind one of her boats, but this is fun for her. That said, clients are not out grabbing that lamp at Lucca that three other designers want. They don’t have the time, don’t know where to go and aren’t on the ground running. I don’t think that will ever go away.
On the Restoration Hardware Factor
It’s funny — even when people are building their $20-million dream house, they’re showing me photos of a Restoration Hardware set. I recently met Nancy Meyers and told her, “Nancy, my clients for the past 20 years have asked for that kitchen with Jack Nicholson from Something’s Gotta Give not knowing it’s a set!” And It’s Complicated, with that beautiful garden in Santa Barbara? That was curated for six months to make it perfect. I’m working with a client on their fifth house, and they only want Restoration Hardware. Sometimes I ask, “Why am I even here?!” Because they need someone to guide them through the process, and they will pay my markup on Restoration Hardware. It’s genius marketing.
On Contemplating Art
People are spending more time and money on their art. Even with me pushing clients to get an art wall done, they really want to collect it and make it feel special rather than just fill it up. I have three houses that have been fully decorated for a year, and they still haven’t found the right artwork. They want to wait. I don’t see that with any other aspect of the house.
On the Return of Preppiness
Everyone is a little jumpy right now. Even the magazine industry is going for shock value, something more avant-garde. I think the pretty house has been a little left out there. I want to bring the preppy house back.
On Kicking Up Color
My house is basically red, white and blue with a bit of green. I have red and white candy-striped curtains in my living room. People were like, “Red? You’re so not red!” But there’s a very coastal, preppy, all-American feel to it. A lot of people are afraid of color, don’t want it, don’t think it’s cool. I try to infuse color wherever I can, because it’s so important to the psyche. I want houses that are a little happier and more jovial than Restoration Hardware or Jenni Kayne — although that monochromatic look is still so big. People just die for that. But Jenni Kayne is never going to throw in a beautiful Nantucket red linen pillow — never.
On Sophisticated Beach Houses
I’m never going to do a floppy, shabby beach house. I want a little more tailoring, structure and sophistication. There’s always something in the room that’s nautical and beachy, but I definitely don’t want that blue and white clapboard you’re expecting. Take my beach house — if you didn’t know where it was, you’d think it was in the Cotswolds. My training was in England, and my house is very English with linens, pottery and pieces that look like you found them at the beach. It’s more traditional than contemporary.
On the Little Things
As I say to my team: It’s the little things on the big things. It’s the little things people are going to see. I don’t sweat the big things so much anymore, because people walk into a room and notice the curtains, that 17th century wooden bowl or the potted plant in the corner hovering over the whole space. I always give clients one unexpected surprise in a room that they know has my stamp of approval (#JAMapproved).