On Sharkey's Shelf: "Simplicity"

Kevin explains why simple design has always been the best.

Executive Editorial Director Decorating, Home, and Style

I love my apartment. Really, I do. Everything from the couch to the soap dish was handpicked by me, and the whole thing just screams Kevin Sharkey. They’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming one day, except for one not-so-minor detail: the baseboards.


They’re just sloppy. And they’re everywhere! You can’t hide bad construction, and attempting to do so often results in something garish and overwrought. I’ve resigned myself to keeping my chin up and my eyes averted -- and deploying some well-placed area rugs -- but the situation has taught me the importance of nailing the basics before piling on too many accessories.


Interior designer Nancy Braithwaite knows this better than anyone -- and her new book is one big, beautiful testament to the art of keeping it simple. Nancy’s work celebrates calm without compromising creativity. And it is genius.

Photography by: Simon Upton

No shoddy flooring here -- and this kind of graphic aesthetic would never work if there were. Look how the stripes on the curtains mirror the lines of the banister and the chandelier. There’s a quiet confidence about it that just awes me.

Photography by: Simon Upton
Now this is how you do neutrals. Between the rug, the baskets, the quilted duvet, and the high-contrast lines of the furniture, the texture here is insane. No detail has been overlooked. The results are simple but memorable.

There’s so much going on here -- velvet! marble! moulding! statement rug! -- and in someone else’s hands, it might have been overkill. Not here. There’s no sense of desperation or trickery -- each element was chosen for what it brings to the room, not for what it can disguise, and that makes the final look exceptional.


Overwrought does not mean inspired. In fact, it usually means the opposite. And simple definitely does not mean boring. Books like Nancy’s remind me to invest in the little things -- like, ugh, my baseboards -- and trust the wow factor that goes hand-in-hand with well-considered design.

About the Author

Kevin Sharkey

Kevin Sharkey is Senior Vice President and Executive Editorial Director, Decorating, and Executive Creative Director, Merchandising for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSLO). A designer and all-around creative expert, he plays a vital role in shaping MSLO’s editorial content and product designs. Mr. Sharkey came to MSLO in 1995 from Parish-Hadley, a venerable New York City...


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