Q&A With Martha O’Hara
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Martha O’Hara: I grew up in a small southern town where my parents and grandparents were small business owners. As a child, I helped my grandmother primp the rooms of her Main Street hotel, and it gave me an appreciation for how a beautiful room could set people at ease. As an adult, after moving seven times in ten years, I discovered a love for design, and everything fell into place from there.
C: How would you describe your style?
MO: My style has changed quite a bit through the years. Currently I love pairing opposites: traditional architecture paired with modern furnishings, modern architecture with a mix of furniture styles, etc. No matter what I do, my designs always have a little taste of southern living to them.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
MO: Every time I am in a hotel, visiting a farmers’ market, walking through downtown, or strolling through a park, I see something new that inspires me. It might be a color, a texture, or a combination of things that I hadn’t considered before – but the world itself, and nature, in particular, inspire me.
C: Favorite room in the house?
MO: My favorite room is usually the one that is most relevant to my client – the space where they’ll spend the most time. Personally, I love bedrooms and dining rooms. I love layering beds and setting a beautiful table. Both are probably throwbacks to growing up in that old hotel.
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
MO: I love color combinations that are usually frowned upon: brown and black, orange and pink, navy and black. The combinations that are found in nature are always pretty, and nature breaks the rules every day.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
MO: A redesign of my own work twenty years later! My client reached out for an update of their farm home. They’d gone from raising kids to having visits from grandchildren. Seeing my clients so happy with what I’d designed long ago was wonderful, and it invigorated me to update their interiors in an equally timeless way.
C: What is “good design” to you?
MO: Good design should meet the test of being functional and relevant to the people who use it. And, of course, it should always be beautiful.
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
MO: I wouldn’t mind living in Gatsby’s estate. It was a period of unapologetic style and glamour – parties and carefree luxury. Why not live amongst beautiful people moving through beautiful homes?
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
MO: If the guests are having fun and the police don’t show up, it’s a success! Why do you think I want to move into the Gatsby estate?
C: Best advice for DIYers?
MO: Resist the urge and call a designer. Ha! No, in seriousness, I have a lot of respect for the do-it-yourselfers who get it right. Those are the people who do their research before they start, and who don’t confuse DIY-ing with cutting corners.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
MO: Review the designer’s work and make sure you like their style. Even more important, be sure to interview the pro first. A good personality fit is the foundation of every great project I’ve done. Pick a designer who listens before she starts!
C: How do you take your coffee?
MO: Black in the morning. Later in the day, I’ll take a skim latte. No flavors, please.