Today in The Lounge, Nick is live from High Point Market. The show kicks off with a live recording of “Marketing Your Design Firm,” a panel moderated by Nick at the Zuo Mod showroom. Hear what Shayla Copas, Jason Clifton, and Jeffrey Johnson do to get the phone to ring each day. Then, Nick is joined by Madcap Cottage‘s duo, Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke, in the Phillips Collection Showroom. Nick speaks to the duo about how they started in interior design, how they license their own products and all about their new book.
Getting to Know Jason and John
Jason is from Tampa, Florida. He went to school in Maine and then later moved to New York. John grew up in Iowa where he attended Iowa State and then, also, moved to New York, which is where he and Jason met. Jason’s favorite accessories are his bags…just ask John. It’s not that he has a problem with them, he just owns over 60 L.L. Bean Boat and Tote bags and these bags go everywhere with Jason. John’s favorite accessory is his watches. He also loves vintage movies; his favorite is Auntie Mame. Auntie Mame inspires him because the design style is so over the top. John also loves books but admits that he’s been so busy with work, he doesn’t have time to read novels anymore. Jason’s favorite guilty pleasures movies are murder mysteries or vintage James Bond books and movies. John’s favorite stores are Fortnum & Mason and Liberty in London. He loves the designs, presentation, and architecture. John and Jason spend 24/7 together and to balance out their lives they build in time to actually see the city they’re working in and visit a museum or cafe. When asked ‘beer, wine, or cocktail?’ Jason says, he loves a craft beer or a citrus beer, for wine he loves a good rosé and for a cocktail, he chooses a Tito’s martini dirty with olives on the side. In other words, “All of the above.” John prefers a gin or vodka cocktail.
John always thought he wanted to be an architect, but when finally in school, he saw that it wasn’t right for him. He didn’t really look at interior design as a profession until he started writing and doing graphic design work for a couple magazines in New York, including House Beautiful, American Homestyle, and Better Homes and Gardens. This is where he met Mario Buatta and Bunny Williams, who both inspired him greatly. Meeting them was a wake-up call that interior design was where he really wanted to be. On the other hand, Jason was always interested in interiors. As a kid, every Friday night, he would move around his parents’ contemporary furniture. Jason worked in television as a producer and was a magazine editor when he met John in New York and they decided to start their business. John says that they are storytellers and it took that thread of working in the magazine and television industries to be able to tell people’s personal stories through design.
The Business Today
Madcap Cottage is a small firm with Jason, John, and three or four regular employees. Their employees help with strategy, structure, social media, bookkeeping and running errands. They are currently working on a 40,000 square foot home as well as small projects in Sarasota, Florida; Pittsboro, North Carolina; and one in Connecticut. They take projects for people who want to embrace living to the fullest in a space that is all about them. They work on three to four interior projects a year, license their own products, and would like to be the next great Laura Ashley: where clients can get great home and accessory items that are both, affordable, and accessible.
They two J’s both love to travel and traveling inspires their designs. They have written a book called Prints Charming about looking to the past, to move the needle forward. They enjoy planning the old-school way, on paper and have hired someone to do it professionally in CAD. John and Jason’s talents compliment each other very well, they can go into a fabric store and pick out pieces that go together, even if they are shopping at opposite ends of the store. John is in charge of design, drawing, and fabrics. He works with Robert Allen to bring his fabric designs to life and never goes off what they already have in stock. Jason’s job includes weighing in on the design, style, scale, proportion, and positioning as well as handling marketing, PR, and branding. They love coming together to go back and forth with ideas in order to bring their visions to life, with the help of their team too. Their job descriptions really aren’t black and white, they work on a lot of it together.
Madcap Cottage’s First Project
When Jason and John first founded their firm, it was called John Locke Inc. but they wanted to create a brand that was bigger than themselves, with spirit and a sense of adventure. They started throwing name ideas around and loved the word ‘madcap’ because it had a good feel to it. They wanted a name that would bring whimsicality, sensibility, and fun to mind. They also wanted their brand to be famous, not themselves. John and Jason’s vision was to have their designs available to everyone, not just a select few. Madcap Cottage has been around for fifteen years now. Even though some people think they came out of nowhere overnight, they are still building their business every day.
Their first project was for a friend who asked them to renovate his rental home in the Hamptons. They worked with lots of color, prints, and pattern, and just had fun with it. When they finished, the creative director of Oprah asked if he could run their work in Oprah’s magazine and it turned into an eight-page spread in O at Home. This was how they got their start and from there, they took off. Today, Madcap Cottage still learns from their mistakes and are humbled every day.
How to Bring Madcap Cottage into Your Home
Jason and John always knew they wanted product and furniture lines and because of John’s graphic design background, they were already doing custom items for their clients, like furniture and rugs. They got a call from Robert Allen, who was interested in getting back into the print world, and he told them Madcap Cottage was going to be the perfect partner to do so. The fabric line led to wallpaper and upholstery lines too. They like to work with brands that are like-minded and that will inspire clients. Jason and John really market themselves as being connectors and think hard about what their social media and traditional media stories are across different channels. They love mapping out their branding strategy every year.
Jason and John say they have no regrets because they spend a lot of time making decisions for their clients. They’ve been really lucky getting their work out into the world and reaping the benefits that come with it. They see licensing as a collaboration and have been doing it for about four or five years now. Madcap Cottage has licensing deals with Robert Allen, Smith & Noble, Howard Elliott, Laboratory, 1stdibs, One Kings Lane, HSN, and MP Interiors. They also have a new collection coming in Fall of 2018. Licensing and collections are just another way to help them get their brand out there. Everything they do is to make their products accessible for designers who are looking for prints and patterns that aren’t readily available, at an affordable price point. Working with Robert Allen, Madcap Cottage products are available to the trade, manufacturer, and retailer. Their profits come 50/50 from designing and from their product lines.
Jason and John have just been doing residential projects, but they would love to get into commercial interiors and travel around the world doing them. They also hope to go into fashion, accessories, notebooks, and dinnerware, like Laura Ashley. Their goal is to create a lifestyle brand that is Madcap Cottage. They even use the products that they’ve created in their own home. Most of their furnishings are either vintage or things that they’ve been inspired by. The fabrics in their home are actually from their collection, like their bedding. The only new purchase in their home is their sofa. Jason and John really do believe that every piece in your home should have a story and be something that resonates with you.
All about the Book
John and Jason’s book, Prints Charming, was launched during High Point Market. It makes matching prints, colors, and pattern together for clients, EASY. Embracing prints can be difficult so their book gives out baby steps in order to bring patterns into a home. It gives history lessons, tips, tricks, and resources. The book came to be for their clients and audience over at HSN but they also just love educating people and bringing their design expertise to a broader audience. The book, yet again, is also another way to help market their brand.
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