Q Why do you think details are so important in home decor?
A To me, detail equals imagination. The environment you live in should be so much fun that when you enter, it gives you a spiritual uplift. I wanted to encourage people to be creative, to do little things on their own. If you mess it up, it's OK.
Q What are some of your favorite details in your own home?
A Walls are fun. It's a large surface and the only one that doesn't have to be totally functional. In my great room, I have three different wall coverings. One is split travertine, with stone left over from a job, adhered to the wall as an accent. On another wall, I had a faux artist do tone-on-tone painting in shades of beige. Another wall has very subdued metal panels. The fourth wall is a teak wood surround for the front door. No one notices the different surfaces unless I point them out, but they feel the creativity and spirit of it.
Q How hard would it be for someone like me to try that at home?
A Walls are good for do-it-yourselfers. They might be hard-pressed to make a table or chair but they can cut out panels and put them on the walls.
Q What's the most common mistake people make -- using too many details or not enough?
A Not enough. We're talking about middle-class people who don't use an interior designer or have a custom home. Most homes are just a box. People add furnishings and think that will give a home character. You need to create excitement, beyond just a chair and sofa.
Q One of the most unusual details featured in your book is a stainless-steel mantel with cutouts for candles (pictured at top). What inspired that design?
A That's [music producer/recording artist] Timbaland's house. He's a young man, with a huge house in Miami. He wanted contemporary, and he had candles burning all over. I found out he was buying them from Neiman-Marcus, and they were $50 for one little candle. It was totally inspired by that. If he's paying $50 for a candle, he loves candles.
Q Some of the ideas in your book are pretty expensive, such as custom-made carpet. What are some low-cost suggestions for someone on a tight budget?
A The materials themselves are not out of range for most people, if they can do the work themselves. Most people can cut a panel and use a small nail to tack it on the wall. You can learn how to faux and use all the beautiful paint colors to change up a wall. If you're not handy with machines, maybe just a strip of wood on the wall, like molding.
Q You incorporate African elements into a lot of your designs. Any suggestions for people who want their homes to reflect their heritage?
A I have African art but I also have Italian art and South American art. I have everything, and that makes a home more exciting. It doesn't hurt to identify with your art, but not necessarily to put African pieces in your home because you're African. Most of my art is abstract, so you don't know who the hell it is.
Q Your furniture collection (www.mikalainc.com) is named Mikala, and your book is dedicated to her. Who is she?
A She's my last-born grandchild. Her mother, my daughter-in-law, died of colon cancer at age 30 when Mikala was 2. I enjoy watching her and her brother and the uninhibited things they do that we adults have lost.
Q Any suggestions for grown-ups who want to get back in touch with their creative side?
A Look around. Some of the most creative spaces are the lobbies of hotels -- and restaurants. They don't feel they have to be inhibited. They empower people to love their space, go for the gusto. They inspire me a lot. Or go to a flea market or garage sale and find something inexpensive that you love. Keep looking at it and turning it around. Eventually you'll get an idea about what to do with it. If it doesn't work out, it's OK because you didn't pay that much for it. And if it does, when you know you had something to do with making it what it is, boy, will that make you smile.
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784