Saturday, February 28, 2009

Meet Charmaine of Charmaine Manley Design

Here at 32 Degrees North, we're big fans of Charmaine Manley and her work, and regular readers of her blog.  She has a phenomenal eye for design, takes beautifully composed photos and has left us wanting to know more about the High Desert Diva:

Photo by Philip Clayton-Thompson of Blackstone Edge Studios.

*A bit about you (name, location, where you can be found on etsy & online).

Charmaine Manley: artist, designer, interior decorator & antique seller living in the high desert of Central Oregon.

Portrait of the artist.

* When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

I don’t think I ever wanted to be a designer as much as this is, and always has been, a part of my persona.

* How did you get involved in the antiques business?

I was raised around antiques. My mother would find furniture at garage sales, buy it, bring it home, strip and refinish it (this was in the 1970’s when stripping furniture was ‘in’.) When I first moved out on my own, and was very poor, buying second hand was a necessity. I was always drawn to the old, antique pieces at thrift stores or garage sales. Picking up furniture and small decorative items (for very, very cheap) when I saw them became second nature. I couldn’t imagine not going to flea markets or sales and finally knew I needed to stop collecting and start selling. One can only have so much.

* Describe your signature style.

In the mid 1990’s I started referring to my style as timeworn elegance. I think that still fits.

* How has your approach to design changed over the years?

I’m more aware of what products are made from now. Since I don’t want anything toxic in my own home, I give my clients that same courtesy by sourcing out sustainable furniture and design elements.

* Do you collaborate with your husband on metalwork design?

Sometimes. Mark is very independent and has very strong opinions on how his metal work should look. He listens to my suggestions and incorporates them if he feels it will enhance his artwork. For the sculpture in the kitchen I told him I wanted a grape branch growing up over the window, and I wanted it wild. This is his interpretation of my request. It is my favorite piece to date.

Photo by Philip Clayton-Thompson of Blackstone Edge Studios.

* What are your favorite materials / favorite materials to repurpose? Who / what are your creative influences?

I’m currently drawn to old bits and pieces: skeleton keys, clock parts, jet buttons, metal tags. Jewelry made from this jetsam is high on my list right now. For the most part, I don’t follow trends (or design shows). A plethora of creativity can be found on the internet; Etsy has been a huge influence to me in the last year and a half.

* Any shops you can't get enough of or favorite shops on etsy?

In Portland, Oregon my favorite shops are Justin Burks and Bernadette Breu, on Etsy…oh boy. As I write this, I have 433 shops on my favorites list and I haven’t even begun to tap into all the creativity Etsy has to offer. What a treasure trove.

* What do you like to do besides etsy/design?

I love to read. And go to the beach. The ocean is my favorite place to be. Last fall, we adopted a he comes with us and we have an entirely different beach experience.

Photo courtesy of Charmaine.

* What has been your biggest design challenge so far? What was the biggest challenge in the double-wide remodel?

Remodeling a double wide (on a tight budget) definitely tops the list of challenges. Turning a long, narrow, low-ceilinged metal box into a home took months. I’d say my persistence paid off...I wasn’t willing to live in an ugly home. Challenging, but worth it in the end.

Photo by Philip Clayton-Thompson of Blackstone Edge Studios.

* People are often intimidated by re-doing a room / space and it seems like having virtually unlimited choices in colors / styles / ideas is just plain overwhelming. What advice would you give to someone tackling a design project on their own to get them on the right track? Are there any color combinations that you often turn to that work with a wide variety of tastes and can be styled up or down?

I suggest starting with color. Changing wall color is one of the cheapest things one can do to change the entire look of a room. I always recommend either Devine or Yolo paint. (Devine is low VOC, Yolo zero VOC.) These paint lines have limited color palettes so the choice isn’t overwhelming. People are still interested in soft green: a sage or olive. The color works well with a variety of styles, easily lending itself to white cottage furniture, or dark stained modern décor. I tend to like darker, more vibrant colors. If clients are open to this; deep reds or chocolates make a beautiful backdrop. In our master bedroom I saturated the room with color. It looks very rich with the ceiling painted the same red: Devine’s Saffron; I’ve never cared for white ceilings.

Photo by Philip Clayton-Thompson of Blackstone Edge Studios.

*Anything you want customers/etsians/readers to know about you?

I believe design should be a fun process and the end result should reflect one’s lifestyle. One of my favorite quotes is from Designer Billy Baldwin: “Nothing is in good taste unless it suits the way you live. What’s practical is beautiful…and suitability always overrules fashion.”


  1. I'm in awe of the transformation of the double wide into such an incredibly charming home - may hat's off to Charmaine!

  2. The grape branch metal work is unique. Very informative interview.

  3. The first day we walked into Charmaine's home in Silverton, Oregon, we were amazed to see our book on Decorative Hardware displayed on her coffee table. She didn't know us when she bought it, but Kismet must have brought us together. We also had the honor of photographing the transformation of her double wide trailer in the High Desert, and like many others, we follow her blog with relish. Not only has Charmaine transformed her home, but her design and her blogging have undergone amazing transformations in the time we've known her. Brava, Charmaine! Thanks for sharing your know-how.

  4. Thank you for the interview with Charmaine. I truly love visiting her blog and it was great fun to see her featured in an interview and to view her the photos. What an inviting home.

    Many designers can make a house with beautiful structure and lines look amazing. She did it with a double-wide. THAT's talent!!

  5. Excellent interview. Charmaine has an eye for make-over! What an fabulous atmosphere she created in her home. Thanks for the interview with The High Desert Diva.<3

  6. I am a huge fan of Charmaine's work. I think if everyone in Oregon hired her it would be too few people. Her eye, attention to detail and abilty to balance a space is simply amazing. Great questions, terrific interview!