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A table and cupboard that belonged to the homeowners join a new console and chairs in the dining room. The art above the cupboard is by Banksy, a well-known graffiti artist.

Styleline: Artistic Bent – Urban Art Collection Inspires Birmingham Abode

Styleline // July 2014

Finding the right designer isn’t always easy, especially when you’re new in town. Online design site Houzz would connect Margaret Skinner, principal interior designer at Margeaux Interiors in Birmingham, with Catherine and Christian Nieman, recent transplants from Chicago.

Their impressive art collection served as the starting point for the home.

“What was unique about this particular project was incorporating pieces that were selected without ever being intended for the current space,” says Skinner, who describes their works as “urban street graffiti art with dark humor.”

Comfy Quarters

While the art would play a prominent role, it wasn’t the only consideration.

“Another goal was to create a comfortable, inviting and durable environment for an active family and entertaining,” Skinner says. “They have a kid-friendly home to the neighborhood, as well as adults, family and friends.”

The 3,400-square-foot house is undeniably alluring without letting go of its avant-garde edge. As Skinner explains, the interiors consist of modern and contemporary design elements with warm woods and industrial metal accents. A neutral color scheme creates the perfect backdrop for art.

“They like a mixture of distressed wood, clean-lined furniture and cool artwork in an uncluttered environment,” Skinner says. “And she likes a little bit of bling thrown in here and there.”

Private Hideaway

The wife’s retreat combines a sofa and table from their previous home with new finds, such as the rug and chair. Art above the mantel is by Dolan Geiman. A piece by Swoon hangs above the chair

A cozy space near the entryway serves as Catherine’s retreat where taupe-colored walls and wood floors warm the surroundings. Dolan Geiman did the art above the fireplace.

The sofa from their former home that was supposed to go to the lower level couldn’t fit down the stairs. Luckily, it fits like a glove in here. Above hangs a piece by Jose Parla.

Shades of gray that appear in a newly purchased chair complement the warmer hues of the homeowners’ existing pieces.

“I was trying to freshen it up a bit,” Skinner says. “It worked perfectly with the artwork.”

Art by Swoon hangs above the chair that sits next to a shapely end table. A plush rug rests beneath a trunk that her clients already had. Most of the lighting and accessories are new. A colorful accent piece near the sofa is made from recycled metals

“It very much has an art quality to it,” Skinner says.

All Together Now

Covered in vinyl with a little shimmer, new chairs surround the dining room table from their former home.

“They’re very durable and family-friendly,” Skinner says.

Rustic touches, such as the cupboard, contrast with brighter elements, including the light fixture. “She likes a little bit of glamour,” Skinner says.

Art by Banksy, a well-known graffiti artist, hangs above the cupboard. Decorative spears are from Leon & Lulu in Clawson.


A lively kitchen nook features a built-in banquette designed by Skinner, who chose commercial-grade vinyl.

“You can use commerciUntitled 4al fabric in a residential situation,” she says.

Cole Wagner Cabinetry in Rochester Hills made the custom walnut butcher-block tabletop, and its metal base came from a restaurant supplier.

Hang Out

A gray sectional from RJ Thomas provides ample seating in the family room where pillows and draperies add some punch with pattern.

“The grommets are very clean with a little bit of an industrial feel,” Skinner says. “The mix is clean enough so that it didn’t compete with the artwork.”

Varied tones in the fabrics tie everything together in the space, the designer says. The art is by Jose Parla

Home Again

Every piece in their collection has found the perfect spot. “The art’s size, scale and color scheme seem almost as though they were made for the space,” Skinner says.

“It’s fun to have people that appreciate art instead of just filling a space with something. It’s personalized.”

Designer insider

There will always be the right space for a great art piece, no matter where you move.

An art piece that you love can be the inspiration and starting point for designing any space. When the art makes you smile, you know you have found the right piece.

By Jeanine Matlow
Photos by Gene Meadows