Reath Design's Frances Merrill Knows How to Balance Bold Color with Comfort

portrait of frances merrill wearing pink striped dress
Laure Joliet

As a kid in New York City, Frances Merrill lost herself, and found her calling, in books. She envisioned the Ingallses' log cabin in the Little House series, Sara Crewe's curio-filled parlor in A Little Princess, and gilded Manhattan in The Age of Innocence—and loved the black-and-white-tiled bathroom in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. "I really credit my work to the amount I read—it sparked my imagination," says the interior designer, whose sought-after stock-in-trade is creating worlds of pattern and color that are whimsical, warm, and personal. In 2000, with a degree in creative writing and English, Merrill drove west to Los Angeles, where she studied textile design and worked at the home-and-fashion mecca Lost & Found, a portal into the city's burgeoning design scene. She launched her firm Reath Design in 2009, and her childhood reveries came to fruition.

"I want to tell the story of somebody's life through their house," says the mom of two, whose personal style—"classic with prints thrown in"—is quieter than the homes she designs. After soul-searching chats and lots of sampling, "you just have to jump off the ledge," she says. Even then, her imagination is still racing: "Sometimes I wish there was another color in the rainbow."

She has, however, found ways to make life as vibrant as possible in the meantime; her favorite things, across her home, wardrobe, and beauty routine, embrace the bold with a healthy balance of cozy. Here, Merill shares a few of her favorite things, from the swipe-and-go lipstick she chooses time and again to the cardigan she throws over, well, anything. You'd do well to bookmark her interior selections—a color-blocked lamp included—as well.

01 of 13

A Favorite Pattern

pierre frey le manach pommes de pin wallpaper in mordore
Courtesy of Pierre Frey

"This pattern has everything: a floral, a stripe, and a cool 1970s colorway."

Shop Now: Pierre Frey Le Manach Pommes de Pin Wallpaper in Mordore, to the trade,

02 of 13

Colorful Lamp

servomuto meringa pendant lamp
Courtesy of Servomuto

"I like to add fabric wherever possible, and the colors for this style are incredible."

Shop Now: Servomuto Meringa Pendant Lamp, $470,

03 of 13

A Go-To Dress

heidi merrick alison dress
Courtesy of Heidi Merrick

"It's perfect: a classic piece I wear all the time, with or without the belt."

Shop Now: Heidi Merrick "Alison" Dress, $515,

04 of 13

Go-To Gift

home cooking by laurie colwin book cover
Courtesy of Indie Bound

"I've bought several copies for friends. The writing is sharp and smart. I love the care she takes in writing about the domestic."

Shop Now: "Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin, $15.95,

05 of 13

Shell Earrings

kathryn bentley nautilus shell earrings
Courtesy of Kathryn Bentley

"These are so pretty. I tend to pick one small pair and just wear them for years."

Shop Now: Kathryn Bentley Nautilus Shell Earrings, $500,

06 of 13

Cozy Cardigan

babaa cardigan number 18 in clay pot
Courtesy of Babaà

"I throw it on over anything I'm wearing. The texture keeps it interesting."

Shop Now: Babaà Cardigan No. 18 in Clay Pot, $250,

07 of 13

Decorative Urn

fielding clay works camellia decorated urn 025
Courtesy of Fielding Clay Works

"It's beautiful on its own, or with flowers in it. I like the mix of a classic form with decorative details."

Shop Now: Fielding Clay Works Camellia Decorated Urn 025, $400,

08 of 13

Cheerful Plates

richard ginori italian fruit dinner plate
Courtesy of Richard Ginori

"This pattern is bright and happy, and pairs so well with modern graphic napkins."

Shop Now: Richard Ginori Italian Fruit Dinner Plate, $185,

09 of 13

Turning Tables

matthew philip williams low tables
Courtesy of Matthew Philip

"We use tiny movable tables everywhere."

Shop Now: Matthew Philip Williams Low Tables, from $245 each,

10 of 13

Swipe of Color

kosas weightless lip color in electra
Courtesy of Kosas

"I'm a simple makeup person; a swipe of this and I'm done."

Shop Now: Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Electra, $28,

11 of 13

Castile Soap

dr. bronners pure-castile bar soap
Courtesy of Dr. Bronner's

"A few years ago, I switched from liquid to bar soap. I stock up on this in the eucalyptus, rose, and almond scents."

Shop Now: Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Bar Soap, $5,

12 of 13

Go-To Rosé

domaine tempier bandol rose
Courtesy of Domaine Tempier

"My favorite treat. I'll pour a glass on nights when we don't have plans, or when I have had a bad day, or my husband is going out."

Shop Now: Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé, $38.99,

13 of 13

Favorite Flats

tabitha simmons hermione flats
Courtesy of Tabitha Simmons

"I've been wearing this style for years. They are very comfortable, but look finished."

Shop Now: Tabitha Simmons "Hermione" Flats, $695,

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