20 Questions with John Loecke & Jason Oliver Nixon

Meet John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon of John Loecke Inc. This fearless duo brings a fresh mix of Hollywood glamour and Moroccan cool to their clients’ interiors. With the promise of never dull or ordinary, Loecke and Nixon paint bold, colorful strokes and deliver interiors that are anything but safe.

1. How did John Loecke Inc. get its start?

We have always been interested in interior design. We’re known for rearranging the furniture as kids when our parents went out to dinner and left us with the babysitter (“Hurray! We get to eat fish sticks, move the sofa and watch Creature Feature on TV,” we’d cheer).

When we moved to New York, a friend in PR asked us to work some magic on her summer rental in the Hamptons, a project that had a quick turn around time and a very limited budget. When we finished the re-do in a month, the folks at O at Home contacted us about publishing the story. We figured it would run as a quarter page, but it ended up being eight pages. We immediately had business cards made. It’s been a fabulous ride ever since.

2. When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

I think we both knew when we were about 10 but decided to pursue various other careers first, including editing, cater-waiting, branding as well as attending culinary school, launching various websites and consulting. We feel most at home whilst contemplating console tables with a selection of paint chips in hand.

3. How does where you come from influence your design?

John: I’m from Iowa and Jason hails from Florida, so we bring disparate reference points but we both grew up dreaming of Hollywood so our influences are not so far apart as you might think.  I loved my granny’s mirrored wallpaper in Dubuque, and Jason grew up with a mother who paired Palm Beach chic with a decidedly disco-driven sensibility.

4. Were there any setbacks for you along the way?

We are constantly learning and enjoying the ride. If we make a misstep, we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. And that’s the fun of it. It’s all about having fun. If we weren’t having fun, we’d probably open a restaurant or learn a technical skill (Jason has always been fascinated by welding).

5. Do you have any role models or mentors who influenced your design?

We are nuts, cuckoo, over the moon for Dorothy Draper, John Fowler and Nancy Lancaster. And we don’t make a move without asking ourselves, “What would Auntie Mame do?” Mame Dennis’ ever-changing Beekman Place apartment has definitely been a major inspiration in our lives, as has that famous photo of Talitha Getty across a Marrakech rooftop. Also, we love Carleton Varney for his color sensibility and ability to wear floral scarves in the most unusual situations.

6. How do you make seasonal changes in your own home?

Unlike most folks who might switch out slipcovers or pillows, we make major changes, perhaps repainting an entire floor of our home or deciding “It’s All About India!” and the house goes Rajasthan for the summer. Or maybe we take the house on a whole Hollywood silver screen trajectory or channel 1930s Shanghai. One summer, it was like stepping into the Bund, all lacquer and Art Deco nods and slashes of scarlet.

7. What is your favorite holiday to decorate for?

John: I go nuts for Christmas and break into box upon box of vintage decorations I inherited from my Granny Stabenow. I love the lights and the color.

Jason: My dream is to decorate the Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street in Chicago. I prefer to do more obscure, European-styled fetes including May Day, Bastille Day, and the August premiere of crayfish, a festival much loved by the Swedes. Around crayfish time, it’s like the Disney ride It’s a Small World comes to life at our house. And don’t get me started on my Marie Antoinette nods at Bastille Day.

8. What is the worst design mistake people make?

Folks play it safe. Have fun with your décor and shoot for the moon. As Mae West once remarked, “It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.” And who wants to be overlooked, n’est-ce pas?

9. How do you help your client’s to avoid this mistake?

We never play it safe. Instead, we push their boundaries.

10. Describe your ideal client.

Fearless and fun to be around. Someone who loves cocktails.

11. What has been the most rewarding design project you’ve worked on so far in your career (so far)?

A showhouse we did at Old Westbury was amazing. The project raised money for a great cause and allowed us to spend weeks at one of our most favorite estates on the East Coast. We frolicked about the gardens and became good friends with the crew.

12. What’s your all time favorite dish to bake? To make? (To buy?)

Jason: There is something so comforting about Shake n’ Bake chicken, and it’s so easy. My most favorite food is definitely cheeseburgers from McDonald’s. They are perfection in petite packaging. But I don’t eat them regularly.

John: I favor Cocoa Puffs cereal and turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce.

Jason: Once I tried to make a dish from The Fat Duck cookbook—a restaurant I just love—but I failed miserably and ordered pizza.

13. Who is your favorite fashion designer?

Jason: I love vintage Cristobal Balenciaga, Albert Nipon, and 1970s Lilly Pulitzer.

John: I covet Paul Smith and vintage Liberty of London.

14. What is your favorite vacation destination?

John: I love visiting the great homes of England (from Chatsworth to Castle Howard).

Jason: I favor St. Pete, Florida, St. Barths, and Barcelona.

15. What is your favorite hotel in your home town?

Jason: I’m from Tampa, Florida, and Tampa has a decided lack of good hotels.

John: I agree about my hometown—Des Moines, Iowa. There are hotels with possibility, but they need to hire the John Loecke Inc. design duo to whip them into shape and make them world class. Jason wants to tackle the Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach, Florida and I have my sights set on the Hotel Fort Des Moines. We would totally “Greenbrier” them and fill them with fabulous color, wit and whimsy.

16. Where do you shop for your own décor?

Everywhere, from bazaars in India to flea markets in Mt. Dora, Florida and Maine. We love house sales at Christie’s and are crazy for mixing eBay United Kingdom finds with things unearthed while trolling through antiques shops in upstate New York and the great department stores of Europe.

17. If you had 10,000 dollars how would you spend it?

We would fly to Marrakech for a long weekend and wander through the medina and spend an afternoon in a hammam and make a pilgrimage to YSL’s fabled Majorelle gardens.

18. What’s your favorite fragrance?

Jason: Carnal Flower by Fredéric Malle.

John: Flowerbomb by Viktor + Rolf and a fragrance that London Claridge’s did up a few years back.

19. What is the most frequently played song on your iPod?

Jason: Anything by Goldfrapp or Roxy Music

John: Diana Ross

20. Who is your style icon?

John: I think Diana Vreeland is the bee’s knees.

Jason: I’ve  always been a fan of Diana Vreeland, Martha Stewart and Tony Duquette.

Want to hear from John and Jason regularly, check out their blog Demystifying Design.

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