Curating a Nostalgic State of Mind
Author of "Modern Americana," Max Humphrey, designs interiors with nostalgia in mind
Interior designer Max Humphrey calls mountain living “a state of mind,” saying, “Even though my actual house is on a flat cul-de-sac in suburban Portland, I live in the mountains in my head.” He adds, “A way to incorporate some modern Americana design elements into an actual mountain home is by bringing the outdoors in. Both literally with greenery and figuratively with botanical decorative references like floral prints, wallpapers and fauna-inspired designs.”
Humphrey, who has a new book, “Modern Americana” (with Chase Reynolds Ewald and photographer Christopher Dibble), credits his distinctive, nostalgic sensibility to excursions to antique malls with his parents as a child. “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,” he says.
Today, Humphrey drags his own family to similar venues to find objects, furnishings and accessories that express his contemporary retro vision.
In his design, Humphrey honors local wildlife by using objects like “a vintage brass deer sculpture or little needlework pillow with a raccoon on it.” Sourcing materials and furnishings from local craftspeople likewise celebrates a home’s setting.
Mountain-home design demands putting comfort first. “Homes in the mountains are meant to be lived in, so to me that means durable materials (unlacquered brass, leather and handmade tiles) that look even better once they develop some patina,” he says.
Humphrey recommends referencing the natural world, from surrounding forests to “a blue jay hopping across my lawn,” to create an interior palette. His book includes chapters particularly relevant to mountain homes, such as “Leather,” “Maps,” “Fireplaces,” “Wild West,” “Summer Camp Vibes” and “Animals.”
In the “Taxidermy” chapter, Humphrey describes turning to artist Chase Halland of Faraway Lovely in Idaho, “who makes the stag busts out of foam, covers them in Pendleton wool and then adds vintage and found antlers” to enhance the mountain-home vibe for a family with kids. “This is a modern way to use taxidermy and honor the deer as an animal,” the author writes.
Having recently released a handmade nostalgic window treatment collection with Hartmann & Forbes, Humphrey believes the best design evolves over time. “Interior design is not like it is on TV, where there’s a big reveal at the end with scented candles burning,” he writes. “Most of my projects take many months, some take many years, and the really good ones never actually end.”