Liz Stiving-Nichols: Until You LOVE It

LizWhen it comes to adding the right area rug for her client, Liz Stiving-Nichols won’t stop until they can’t imagine not having it in their room.

Thanks for joining us, Liz. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design.

I have always gravitated to more artistic or visual courses in college but didn’t make the leap to Interior Design until my early 20’s. I had a summer job on the Vineyard and realized I had a knack for spatial design while working on window displays. This was in the mid to late 90’s when design shows were just popping up on TV. I decided to go back to school and study Interior Design and chose a school in Chicago that (at the time) was the only private school focused solely on Interior Design and Interior Architecture.

New England is a wonderful place to work with design. Which classic New England features do you try and incorporate into your designs? How do you try and limit it?

When beginning a project, my team and I have a process we go through to familiarize ourselves not only with our clients and their lifestyle, but we also get the lay of the land, literally. One of our primary goals is to find inspiration in the perennial elements of each site, creating a direct connection to the natural surroundings of the home. While we work towards creating a connection to these elements, we don’t necessarily aim to duplicate them – rather we find materials, lines, and finishes that will produce a complimentary environment inside.

Describe some of your more challenging spaces? Does a unique layout benefit the designer by expanding their ability to be creative? Or does it limit options?

Sometimes it is the opposite way around, and the challenge comes from making a traditional space feel unique. We recently had a client with great taste who purchased a very traditional home on the island. We focused on transforming the undeniable traditional elements of the house to create a stronger synergy with the views beyond.

In the living room, we replaced the classic white columns and walls with a rustic, reclaimed barnboard, making the fireplace the centerpiece of the room. For the fireplace surround we replaced the oversized white mantle with a noncombustable material that visually blended with the barnboard. Neolith is a relatively new product that is incredibly versatile with this veneer like construction.

The furnishings and décor supported the monochromatic pallet and focus on texture. Natural finishes, like wood and raw metals, mixed with neutral colors complimented the rustic aspect, while creating a refined and sophisticated living area.

Open floor plans are more popular than ever and many clients are consumed with the idea of flow. How do you ensure against clutter, and that the occupant always feels stress-free in that space?

I would suggest finding beautiful furniture with purpose. Elegant furniture can also be useful. Console and coffee tables with discreet drawers, elegant baskets, and when applicable, built-in bookcases and storage drawers under window seats are also subtle but useful. Area rugs are versatile. New England homes and businesses use lots of hardwood floors. Explain how you incorporate area rugs into your designs.

As you noted before, open floor plans are very popular. Rugs help define areas within large spaces. For example, with area rugs laid correctly, a Great Room could potentially have three or more living spaces- a seating area by the fire, a large dining table for family dinners, or a reading nook for relaxing. Families can enjoy each other’s company while still feeling they are in their own space.

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

As with any design element, there are too many factors that come into play when choosing a rug. As mentioned my team and I strive to create a direct connection to the perennial elements of each site but also the architecture influences our design direction greatly. A colorful cotton rug could be perfect in a beach cottage, a Tibetan cut pile wool and silk in a more modern home or loft, or perhaps a Gabbeh or Dhurri in a farm house.

Personally I like simplicity and texture. I love an abrash technique on a wool and silk blend. Although one may view these inconsistencies in color as ‘flaws’, I love the visual texture of an abrash stria and the beautiful hand of a wool and silk blend.

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs?

There is no one size fits all budget. This truly depends on the client and how the rug will be used in their home. Some may see a rug as an investment piece while another may focus on durable and if the rug will stand against the test of time. A rug could be a piece of art, an artifact found during travels, or simply be what anchors the space. The price point should really be dictated by the use of the rug and the value the client sees in it.

Do you have any final words of design advice?

Be cognizant of your space planning. If you rug will be heavily concealed by furniture, keep that in mind when looking at rugs with patterns. If you are in search of a rug for an area with heavy foot traffic, pay attention to the weave and materials. For a space where one may often be barefoot, pay attention to the hand.

And with most design decisions, I tell my clients “You have to LOVE it.” If not, we’ll keep looking.

Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?

You can view our portfolio on our website or call our office at 508-687-9555 to speak to a designer. If you are on MV, check out our store Bespoke Abode or on line at

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