Midcentury Modern is here to stay. An expert in all things Midcentury Modern, Karen Nepacena, founder of San Francisco-based interior design firm Destination Eichler, designs spaces with functional foundations that frame eye-catching standouts.
Inspired by the materials and motifs that defined the period, Karen chose Midcentury Modern mainstays like turquoise and pops of orange to bring her Fireclay collection to life.
Loving Karen's expert take on Midcentury design? Shop her top tile picks here (you can also head to her Eichler-inspired Pinterest Board for more inspiration). Each of Karen's sample packs comes with a 2 x 4 color chip in Calcite, Turquoise, Frond, Desert Bloom, Caspian Sea, Glacier Bay, Azul and Ember.
Tell us more about your Walnut Creek-based design firm, Destination Eichler:
My husband John Shum and I started a design renovation blog after purchasing a midcentury modern Eichler home. We originally wrote the blog to chronicle our renovation journey. After a few years, we started to get inquiries from other homeowners asking if we could help with their home design projects. We took on a few clients on the side, before I eventually transitioned from my full-time corporate career to focusing solely on providing interior design services.
What keeps you inspired?
I love stepping into older midcentury modern buildings and seeing original architectural details still intact. It's like walking back into history and getting a glimpse of what went through an Architect or Designer's mind at the time they were designing the property or space. I love helping people preserve older architecture, while making the space functional for the way people live today.
Do you have a design philosophy?
Finding the right balance between respecting a home's architecture and character, bringing in modern functionality and most importantly reflecting the personality of the people who live there.
Click here to learn more about this project.
What's something that most people don't know about you?
I was a professional ballet dancer before going to get my undergraduate's degree. Becoming a dancer takes a ton of perseverance, blood, sweat and tears, but those years really helped form who I am today. That same work ethic from dancing also helps tremendously when running your own small business!
Tell us more about the concept behind your collection:
The concept revolves around color and pattern, which hugely influence our work. I design spaces for many midcentury modern projects, so I find a lot of inspiration from midcentury modern design history books and iconic designers/designs from the period. Whether it's textile design, graphics/typography, or fashion and art, I like to draw from those historical details, and try to bring them to life in a fresh way.
How did you choose these 8 colors?
The mid-century modern era was full of fun pops of color. Designers such as Ray and Charles Eames are also very influential to my work. Their inventive use of color and pattern-play especially resonates with me; whether it's products they designed or their own iconic homes.
Shapes can also reflect Mid-century style. Matte grays like Pyrite, illustrate the prevalence of concrete and cinderblock materials commonly used in building construction during the era, while a glossy shade like Tempest represents some of the deeper tones of architectural trim work in many midcentury post and beam homes.
You can't go wrong with a straight set pattern if you're going for a mid-century look:
Click here to see more of this kitchen.
I collect vintage pyrex and many of my housewares share this similar palette, which is why I chose bright colors like Desert Bloom, Glacier Bay, Turquoise, and Tiki Blue. I also inherited Egg Style Chairs from the 1960s that are Chartreuse, which is a color that works so well in midcentury inspired spaces.
See more of Karen's Escher kitchen here!
Why do you love working with tile?
Other artists use media, such as paint or clay to create their art. For me tile can be used in different ways to create a mood or make a statement. For example, a monochrome palette with a straight set pattern reads so differently than a mix of multiple glazes to make a pattern play. The possibilities are endless, but that's what makes tile design so fun.
See more of this bath here!
Three best design tips?
- Find balance. If you go bold on one element on the space, for example a real showstopper kitchen backsplash, then balance the other materials and elements so that they aren't competing for attention.
Click here to see more of this project!
- Have a surprise element. Whether it's bold pattern in wallpaper or an unusual color accent, it's these special details that can really make a space shine.
- Live in a space for awhile before embarking on a big design overhaul. It allows you to learn how you use and interact with a space and this learning helps you when deciding what kind of adjustments to make to a space.
Photo: John Shum
Mad about mod? Shop Karen's Mid-Century tile picks here! Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.