Rolling Stone Gathers Moss

Charlotte Moss heads to Lake Forest in May

Manhattan-based interior designer Charlotte Moss often employs horseback riding anecdotes when talking about style and decor, but the longtime equestrian is no one-trick pony.

In addition to creating timeless and elegant interior designs, Moss designs home accessories, including a fragrance, china and fabric, and she recently finished working on her seventh book, “Charlotte Moss Decorates: The Art of Creating Elegant and Inspired Rooms,” to be released in April. In May, Charlotte Moss and Make It Better are teaming up for a charity event to benefit the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.

Home writer Tate Gunnerson spoke with Moss about her prolific work.

MIB: How do you keep the creative fires burning?
CM: This is at the core of my new book. When you’re decorating, where do all the ideas come from? You need to withdraw from your everyday routine. I don’t care if I’m puttering around the house, in my garden, out in my kayak, photographing something or walking through the streets of Paris, that’s when it unleashes. When it unleashes, you have to be ready to act. You have to roll with it until the pen runs dry.

MIB: How do you distinguish trendy from timeless?
CM: I don’t think you can deny that we’re all going to be influenced by trends. It’s like this cosmic force, this zeitgeist of the universe that directs us in one way or another, and I don’t think you can fight that, especially in this century with so many things coming at us and so many different vehicles transmitting information to us. How do we digest all this information? How do we distill it? And how do we sync it up with who we are. Deep down in their gut, everybody knows what’s them and what’s not them.

MIB: How does the accessibility of ideas and materials impact how you decorate?
CM: It’s made good design accessible to everyone. The downside is that it has homogenized the market somewhat, so you have to be careful not to buy the whole package or you’ll look like everybody else on your block. Remember to create your own style by personalizing it. Don’t feel fearful about adding your notes. The good, core base layer can be purchased at a good price in a way that it couldn’t be 20 years ago.

MIB: You’ve said that you always start with a master plan. What should be included in such a plan?
CM: You have to look at your expectations of your life and lifestyle, and give yourself a timeframe. Where do you want the place to be in three or four years? Then, figure out what you can achieve on your income within that period of time.

MIB: What is the most common decorating pitfall?
CM: That overly self-conscious decorated space where everything looks tormented and if you move anything three inches, somebody’s going to go crazy. It’s all so arranged. They’re sexless, lifeless and it doesn’t look like there’s any joy in the room.

MIB: What do you mean when you speak about adding layers?
CM: Mix it up. When I was younger, people said you can’t wear a stripe with a plaid, but anything goes today. All those rules got chucked out, and the same thing applies in decoration. People need to be comfortable finding the balance and blend for themselves. I’d rather see a room layered with color and texture, but with less stuff. I just don’t like chaos.

MIB: Is that worse than a sparsely decorated room?
CM: I know a lot of apartments that have very little in them and they are so fabulous. When you have very few things in a space, you get picky about everything else that goes into that space. You become very selective about how to fill it. A room is for people, so everything should look as if it’s inviting you to sit there, rather than being a vehicle for a pillow display.

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