She delights in stripes, thinks greige is gruesome, and never met a shocking pink she didn’t like. There’s no mistaking a Megan Winters interior. When other decorators play it safe and soothing, Winters spins a gleeful magic. If you see a room papered in a red-and-white zebra print or a gilded vanity shaped like a cartoon cloud, it’s a safe bet that the Chicago-based designer had a hand in it.
Winters creates the kind of joyful spaces we could all use right now. We asked how homeowners can tap into her signature style to create their own happy place.
The color renderings you create for clients are beautifully done, and easily allow someone to envision the final result. Is there a similar process a layman can undertake to help nail a color scheme?
MW: Color is such a personal thing. Typically, I ask clients to pull tear sheets of what they love, and more importantly what they do not like. Frankly, clients do not come to me for “demure”! I am known for bold pattern and color so most know what they are getting into.
Are there any really big-ticket color decisions a homeowner should avoid? Something like custom upholstery in a questionable color?
MW: I am NEVER going to talk a client out of a hot pink sofa. For the more reserved, I often suggest paint as the vehicle for wild color; and I can honestly say we have never had to repaint!
What’s your trick for making a black-and-white scheme feel personal and happy?
MW: Black and white are my classic go-to colors. Think Chanel! I adore infusing hot pink, sexy gold and silver, and vibrant “pop” accents into my design projects. It’s like throwing on spectacular gold jewelry with a little black dress — it just works.
You have a strong affinity for stripes. Why are you drawn to them and can you use them anywhere?
MW: Stripes are THE BEST! I love them for so many reasons. That strong, linear pattern can balance a room and offer the perfect backdrop for ornate furniture, accessories, and art. And yes, you can use them anywhere, just keep in mind the overall balance of the room. If you have an incredible bold stripe on the wall, let that be the focus.
Can a neutral palette — beige, putty, white — be joyful?
MW: Now we are getting into dangerous territory! I am not much for beige. Even my beach homes that have massive amounts of bleached wood, rattan, and driftwood are infused with joyous pops of blue and green. If I have to pick a neutral, give me crisp white any and every day. Just know I am going to layer in an accent color or two.
How would you bring happiness and life into a mountain-style home with heavy wood beams, wood floors, stone fireplaces, and ironwork, while staying true to the surroundings?
MW: You’ve got my attention! I adore mountain projects. Organic wood, stone, and ironwork absolutely can be sensational. A magnificent rug, seriously fabulous art, and killer throw pillows are all game-changers, adding instant visual pop. And I have painted many an iron piece in my day, from bright colors to gold and silver leaf. I love strong, shiny glossy lacquer paint. Instant spark!
Who are some of your favorite designers or style muses, and what do you take from them? Are you influenced by a particular time period or place?
MW: Fashion is so important to me; my wardrobe is exactly what you’d expect. Bold signature pieces of black and white, killer shoes, and statement handbags. I adore Chanel, the fashion, the lifestyle, the glamour. I think Celine is fabulous, and my Prada shoe wardrobe is kind of legendary! As far as cities, there is no place in the world like Paris — she is my constant muse.
How has your approach to design changed over time? Is there a room you did 10 years ago that you’d love a chance to redo today?
MW: I can truly say I am still crazy after all these years! I am grateful to look back at the few first projects I completed and not cringe in the least. I just celebrated my ten-year anniversary and in all that time I would say my evolution is more of a personal one, starting with don’t take clients that are not into what I do. If you want subtle beige, I know just the designer for you and I am happy to give you that name and number! Style wise, I have always been about chic, glamorous, happy spaces.
How do you know when a client’s existing piece will work in a new design, and when it needs to be put in storage? Let’s say you’re creating a glamorous, gilt-edged dining room and they want to incorporate a rustic farmhouse dining table.
MW: Ah, the number one question! Once in a blue moon a client may have an heirloom piece that I might think is god-awful, but part of my job is to make it spectacular. I think sometimes a piece that is a bit “off” can make a room. So, we make it work. But on a rare occasion, I will look deep into their eyes and ask if they trust me … and we lovingly find grandma’s end tables a new home.
What do you do to keep a budget under control? What’s worth splurging on, and what can you spend less on?
MW: Since I am a business person, I totally respect budgets. I am crystal clear about what you can get for what you want to pay. If a client has limitations, I will always suggest investing in good upholstery. Case goods [cabinetry, bureaus, bookshelves] we can cheat a bit, but I am fortunate to say so far, my clients are along for the show-stopping ride.
Do you have any surefire tips for giving a room an immediate spark of happiness?
MW: YES! I love to place oversized stuffed sheep into even the most formal room. Instant joy, laughter, eye candy!
Describe your dream client.
MW: Coco Chanel. She was quite a broad, with a wicked sense of humor and impeccable taste. We would have gotten along perfectly.