Click photo to enlarge
Oldham s designs for La-Z-Boy blend soft retro tones with warm accents to achieve contemporary couture. His favorite color pairings include fuchsia, orange and amber, as well as tulle blue, aqua and forest green.

A former couture fashion designer, Todd Oldham's work now ranges from film to photography to furniture. He stars in MTV's “Crib Crashers” and frequently appears on the “Today” show. He has also designed dorm furnishings for Target and furniture for La-Z-Boy. A contributing editor to “ReadyMade” magazine, he's developing a television series based on his book, “Handmade Modern: Mid-Century Inspired Projects for Your Home” (Regan, 2005).

Why is do-it-yourself (DIY) so popular?

Todd Oldham: Besides the serious signal that the world is moving away from automation, I think it's a great opportunity when you actually accomplish something and make something that works for you in your life. It's a great joy.

How can homeowners make their own residence a reflection of their individuality, not someone else's sense of style?

Oldham: Take a cue from the way we dress ourselves. We have a defined taste for what we like to wear. Basically we wear a room. We choose colors we feel good in, things that make us happy, textures that feel amazing. Consider the cut of a room, so to speak, the way you would choose a skirt or pants that fit you well. Make sure your sofa is comfortable. Don't tolerate things in your home because there are so many things outside the home that we have to put up with. When you're in your home, make sure it's exactly what you want. Style and comfort are only successful when they're hand in hand.


What can people do to shake up the decor of their homes?

Oldham: Paint is probably the best, cheapest and most bold way to change a room for under $30. Whether you're painting one wall, all the walls or a stripe, it's a great way to seriously change the way a room feels and looks. It's also a great way to build in the equation sign in your situation. Sometimes you need a wall color to link a couple of odd pieces of furniture together. Colors work beautifully in threes. Fuchsia, orange and amber are beautiful together; tulle blue, aqua, forest green are really lovely. You can get a little more foolproof when you stick within the color palette. It's also nice because you can change it again.

How can you get a modern vibe?

Oldham: Choose a different color palette. Start with beautiful wood tones, and add bright colors. You can also reupholster a sofa for under $50 depending on the fabric. With a staple gun, safety pins and fabric, you can really resurrect a sofa and get a look that will last years. You'd be surprised. Pick a fabric with a lot of stretch. Polar fleece is excellent because it's double-sided and has a lot of stretch. Wrap it around the legs and the back, staple it and pin it.

How are fashion and home design similar, different?

Oldham: I think they're similar. My approach to home design is similar to fashion simply because people and rooms have to function in a way clothes and fashion do. Rooms have to function like clothes. Fashion can be something that covers you up or it can be wonderful, full of folly and great personality. Fashion can mean different things to different people. It's made us stand apart and look different because we approach our furniture design as fashion designers.

How do you keep up with what's hot in decorating? Or do you?

Oldham: I don't. I didn't keep up with it when I was in fashion. I like what I like. I get overwhelmed when I see too many magazines so I tend to stay out of that world. I am happy to focus on historical things. I learn a lot from books and incredible design museums such as the beautiful Museum of Modern Art in New York City - they have incredible objects. Or places like the Wolfsonian in Florida, the largest museum devoted to decorative arts; they'll have items like a magnificent railing from Paris in the teens or a pediment off a building. It's really interesting.

What kind of DIY projects do have in your home?

Oldham: I'm constantly at it all the time. It never occurs for me to look for things; I'm a big fan of built-ins. Last night I was up at 1 a.m. hanging Martin Parr photographs. I finally had to respect the neighbors and lay off it. 

What are the five essential tools in the DIY toolbox?

Oldham: A hammer with a proper handle, an all-in-one screwdriver with multiple heads, a cordless drill with good power, a jigsaw and good measuring tape.

Weekend Warriors,


Designer Todd Oldham suggests decorating your home the way you like to dress yourself. With a sewing machine, some paint and a ton of ingenuity you can transform your home inexpensively. Here are some of Oldham's recommendations:

Use strips of wood-grain contact paper to create a lampshade which “casts a lovely, flattering light on you and your guests.”

Enlarge a 1970s photo mural for an instant window in a dark room. You could try a snowy Alps and/or a lake, but Oldham also finds a blown-up image of the stars at night nifty.

Change the look of a room dramatically by placing carpeting on the diagonal. This way, “corporate carpet tile gets a downright homey angle,” he says.

Recycle a duvet for a “Pet Lounge,” a cushion for your favorite canine or feline. Miter striped fabric for the cover.

Utilize a silverware tray to organize makeup, jewelry and other baubles. Line the tray to give it a Mondrian effect.

Source: Handmade Modern