A Few Words From Max Humphrey, Maven of Modern Americana

Joyful nostalgia guides the work of the Portland-based designer and newly-minted author.

My book, Modern Americana, is organized by design element rather than by project. In the excerpts below, you’ll find ideas from the “Utility” chapter. The book is as much about style and styling as it is about interiors. It’s meant to be read front to back, back to front, from the middle out or upside down. Don’t follow my rules—or anyone else’s!

Elements That Work 1

The handmade aspect of rope objects reminds me of knitting. Photographs by Christopher Dibble.

When I was a kid growing up in New England, my parents would drag me to antique malls on the weekends. If I was lucky, there would be a pinball machine in the lobby, because otherwise it was the last thing in the world I wanted to be doing on a Saturday in the summertime. I’ve read about interior designers who had subscriptions to Elle Decor when they were in kindergarten, but I wasn’t that kid. I was in the woods blowing up my G.I. Joes and playing video games. Fast forward to now and my favorite thing to do on the weekend is drag my family to junky antique malls. Someone said that interior design is autobiography. For me, it’s nostalgia.

There’s a quote on my website, “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” The best compliment I get is when someone says they saw a picture of a room in a magazine or online and they knew I designed it before reading the caption. It’s like when you turn on the radio and you hear “She was an American girl raised on promises” and you know it’s Tom Petty from the first note. There’s no one else it could be.

Elements That Work 7

You can dedicate an entire room as a home office, or you can just carve out a corner of your kitchen. All you really need is a comfy flour-sack stool and a flat surface for your coffee cup. Surround yourself with stuff you love so work doesn’t feel like work. The Lucite desk in this upstairs loft is transparent, so you can still appreciate the setting. Photographs by Christopher Dibble.