Just how important are window coverings to renowned interior designer Michael Payne? “The world of window coverings is up there, up there on a par with, say, the furniture. When I’m choosing fabrics for that sofa, that loveseat, for that lounge chair, for that draped table . . . when I’m focusing on the word fabrics, part of that is always what is the fabric of the window coverings? I never think of seating or furniture without thinking of the window coverings at the same time.”
Payne will be the keynote speaker for the 16th Custom Home Furnishings Conference & Trade Show at the Valley Forge Convention Center, Valley Forge, PA, October 4 to 7. The show is produced by Draperies & Window Coverings. Payne’s appearance is sponsored by Exciting Windows!
Payne, ASID, is a certified interior designer in the state of California and has been the host and interior designer for HGTV’s “Designing for the Sexes.” In addition, he has a design/manufacturing partnership with Powell for the Michael Payne Collection of case goods and works with corporations such as Exciting Windows!, Benjamin Moore, Merrill Lynch and Wickes Furniture in promoting their products.
Tackling the remodel of his own home—and getting stuck on how best to treat large, arched windows—seems to have increased Payne’s interest with window treatments and he’s excited about speaking at the upcoming conference. “That’s going to be marvelous, being able to get up and talk about one of my favorite topics,” Payne says. “It’s going to be so easy for me to speak, and I won’t have to pump myself up to have a level of excitement in my tone because it is already there.
“I am really anxious to meet as many people as I possibly can . . . those people who have been ardent followers of my show through the years, particularly these people in the workrooms that really don’t get their praises sung enough. These are the people that make these absolutely exquisite window treatments that we get to see in magazines, and rarely does their magnificent handiwork get acknowledge.”
OFF WE GO!
Payne has had and continues with a wide range of interests throughout his life: machinery, engineering, industry, science and a love of technology from an early age. But he also has had a love for the world of beauty and aesthetics. “I walk that line between the two of them,” he says.
After obtaining a degree in physics and mathematics from Southampton University in England, Payne entered the computer industry and admits he did quite well there. But even while in college he felt a pull in other directions. “I needed to do something beautiful. I needed to do something special. A little later in life, when I was in the United States thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, those memories came back and I thought I’ve always been intrigued by design, I’ve always cared about my interior. That’s what I want to do for a living.”
Even before graduating from the interior design program at UCLA in 1980 Payne was recruited to join a small Los Angeles design firm where his career got a jumpstart. “What differentiated it from almost any other firm I knew was they had some of the wealthiest clients in the world. So as a junior designer I was truly thrown in the deep end where everything was custom. I got to work on these clients’ palaces in Arabia, England, their airplanes, their huge yachts. This was the world of design that I got thrown into, where if you couldn’t immediately find something that you were looking for, not a big deal. Pick up a pencil, design it and have it made. These were the clients that actually didn’t want off-the-shelf stuff. It was all about custom.”
That’s especially important to Payne when it comes to treating windows. “The beauty of draperies and window coverings in general is that it is all custom,” he says. “It is the most natural thing for me in the world to be able to think about what a drapery treatment might be, choose the fabrics, choose the style, choose everything, customize it and then off we go!”
Not only does Payne think of window coverings as on par with any other element in an interior design, he says window coverings represent a critical decision effecting safety and aesthetics. “I am incapable of overstating the importance [of draperies]. The issue of privacy is merely a starting point. For example, take a room without a window covering. In the daytime you might be able to look through that window and you’re looking at something really lovely. At night it is a completely different world. Unless that outside is beautifully lit, like an outdoor garden with uplights in the trees and all sorts of other magical things, it’s simply a black hole.
“Interior designers like me and others, we work overtime to make the interiors of rooms functional and beautiful and safe and, as we all realize, much of the time the homeowner is going to spend in that home it’s dark outside, which means you create these beautiful interiors with great big black holes. From a simply aesthetic standpoint you’ve got to take care of this issue.
“You’ve got to have a window treatment in order just to complete the room. Without it the room is undressed.”
DESIGN ACROSS AMERICA
Payne became best known across America as host and interior designer for the television show “Designing for the Sexes.” In the show, he is noted for using his innate ability to get men and women to find design elements they both can live with.
“As a interior designer, I spend a lot of time with women,” Payne explains. “I’m well aware that many women just like to have more feminine things around them. As far as window coverings are concerned, it is the woman who wants to have the more ornate, feminine touches—the fringes, the tassels, the swags and so on. I absolutely understand where she’s coming from and where she’s going and what she wants and why she wants it.
“I am never, however, forgetting that as a man I tend to like less—less ornamentation for the sake of ornamentation. I like cleaner, simpler design. When I speak to men about design in general, most men prefer a clean, uncluttered, simple, elegant design. So, in the show, what you see is an absolute, realistic balancing act between the two.”
Along with Payne’s show and others like it has come a sharper focus by the media on the subject of design. He says it’s one of the most important changes in the industry in the last 20 years.
“What has happened is channels like HGTV came along and all of a sudden the television watchers nationwide were seeing what designers were dong is California or New York and different areas and looked at their own homes and said, You know, why shouldn’t I have that?
“At the same time, you have the advent of mail order magazines—you’ve got Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware—so these magazines are going into literally tens of millions of people’s homes and people are looking at the pictures of rooms in these magazines and are saying to themselves, Oh, why shouldn’t I have that? And they can.
“What I’m seeing now is this pollination of the United States whereby I can walk into a Pottery Barn home anywhere in America. And I have. Even down to the accessories. The world of design is just stretching across the nation from East Coast to West Coast, from north to south and becoming less regionalized.”
Which is not necessarily a completely bad thing. “One of the things that I think is the most interesting,” Payne says, “is when they take a style, let’s say like elegant contemporary, and you do that in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Then the art and the interior is spiced up by the local artists with the lifestyle of those people in that part of the world.
“These people looking at television shows like mine and others and looking at these magazines . . . they start to see beautiful interiors—beautiful window treatments—that they simply want, but don’t know how to execute. That’s the big thing.”
And that, says Payne, is where design comes in. “I argue vehemently that it behooves the homeowner to actually hire a designer, not necessarily to do the whole project but at least to consult with and get their advice. Every penny spent is worthwhile because if you don’t have a designer and you’re just going by the seat of your pants, then there’s the likelihood of making a very costly error, which is, in fact, really, really unfortunate. The best way of not making those mistakes is to hire a professional to help you do it.”
House of Payne