I am THRILLED to host Madcap Cottage on the Lycette Blog. A few months back a message popped into my inbox, an invitation to talk needlepoint with John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, the gents behind the interior design megahouse Madcap Cottage. My first reaction was, “NO, who would be mean enough to play this joke?” I had been following, and admiring, the careers of the Madcap men for years, including their recent cover of “House & Garden UK.” It turns out the message was not a joke, and I have been pinching myself ever since. John and Jason Oliver are vivacious, eloquent, and passionate about their love of needlepoint. The duo is dedicated to making “gorgeous needlepoint an interior design essential once again,” a cause I also share. Please join me as I explore Madcap’s passion for needlepoint, why John and Jason Oliver believe needlepoint is a staple to interior design, and how to incorporate needlepoint into your own home.
Q: When did your love of needlepoint begin? Is it something you grew up with, or did you learn about needlepoint through your time working in the magazine industry?
A: John and I are storytellers and love bringing history to life when creating an interior design scheme. Using needlepoint in a room lends a time-honored, handcrafted dimension to a space, as well as a sense of whimsy and fun. My grandmother needle pointed when I was a boy, and I loved watching her as she crafted pillows while sipping a Scotch. John has always been passionate about needlepoint since a child and has collected needlepoint pillows for years.
Q: What about needlepoint drives your passion for it?
A: We love the handwork and time that goes into crafting needlepoint, and the historic tradition of the art. In this day and age when everything is immediate and gratification is instant, needlepoint is the perfect tonic to the overload. John and I would both love to learn the art. We bought kits at Liberty London several years back to bust out upon a trans-Atlantic crossing, but we spent too much time in the Queen Mary’s disco that we never dove in.
Q: Why do you believe more traditional elements of interior design, like wallpaper and needlepoint, are becoming “trendy” again?
A: We don’t believe in trends, we love what we love. If needlepoint and wallpaper are “on trend,” great, but we loved both when Belgian linen and white walls were all the rage, dear sweet, baby Jesus. For us, good design is about telling an engaging story, and layering in handcrafted pieces, pattern, and vintage and antique finds only helps further the engagement and experience.
Q: The House of Bedlam, your charming home in High Point, features needlepoint in almost every room. What makes needlepoint an essential of interior design? Is there one room you would NOT use needlepoint?
A: We even have needlepoint pillows in our kitchen and needlepoint rugs in our bath! Needlepoint is like crushed ice and design books: You should have some on hand in every room of a home.
Q: What is your favorite kind of needlepoint design? Mine, for example, is cheeky needlepoint.
A: I love cheeky and witty sayings. We also adore animals upon our needlepoint pillows and florals on needlepoint rugs. When John and I have the occasional argument, I like having a spirited needlepoint pillow with the perfect phrase upon it that I can hurl his way to get my point across.
Q: Y’all are acquiring quite the collection of needlepoint, from CZ Guest’s needlepoint pillows to Nancy Reagan’s needlepoint chairs. Who is your favorite needlepointing dame?
A: Needlepoint is like cocktail olives, you can never have enough. It just might be a sickness. Ah, well, there are worse vices. We cannot pick a favorite but are certainly channeling Betsy Bloomingdale and her upcoming auction at Christie’s of late.
Q: How can readers incorporate needlepoint in their own homes, while maintaining a modern feel?
A: Needlepoint works deliciously with midcentury as much as it does with traditional. Scour flea market for great finds, then layer, layer, layer. I love an all-glass, contemporary home with antiques and needlepoint layered in. Someone signed me up for a Dwell magazine subscription, all beige and hard edged, the pages make me nervous and jittery.
Q: In addition to needlepoint, what are other timeless interior design accessories that you recommend readers invest in?
A: Antique and vintage furnishings, vintage accessories and lighting (hardware stores can often rewire), and antique rugs are must haves.
Q: Congratulations! Y’all are releasing your first book, “Prints Charming ” this fall. Will snippets of needlepoint be nestled in it’s whimsical pages?
A: Our book from Abrams, “Prints Charming: Create Absolutely Beautiful Interiors with Prints & Patterns,” hits in October and offers oodles of needlepoints in its pattern- and color-packed pages. The book is really a stunner and offers heaps of ideas and history lessons. Pre order a copy on Amazon right now.
Q: Lastly, I know you both adore old movies, and the golden age of Hollywood. Is there a quote from a classic movie that you would love to see needlepointed?
A: John and I are huge fans of vintage movies, and they so inspire our designs. Favorites include any of “The Thin Man” films, “Now Voyager,” “My Man Godfrey,” and “Auntie Mame.” It’s not needlepoint, but we love when Mame talk about her short-lived adventures with her loom. Notes Mame, “I have instructions from a descendant of Pocahontas. I began with an enormous rug. It’s that bell pull by the fireplace.” Genius. But I would probably have Bette Davis’ iconic quote from “All About Eve” needle pointed upon a pillow: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” Love it.
Aren’t Jason Oliver and John both “Prints Charming?” I certainly think so! If you would like to learn more about the gents of Madcap Cottage head to their website, and follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Jason Oliver and John’s fun posts feature whimsical interior design peppered with cheeky updates from their travels. And be sure to keep an eye out for lots of needlepoint from these gents, including the Madcap Cottage needlepoint collection that is launching on HSN.