Welcome to Madcap Cottage where a sign over the firm’s front door announces, “Banish the beige.” “Truth,” notes Jason Oliver Nixon, one half of the High Point, North Carolina-based design firm. “If you are looking for boring and banal, go bark up someone else’s tree. We don’t want to live in a museum—unless it’s the Isabella Stewart Gardner.” Adds John Loecke, the other half of Madcap Cottage, “Think prints, patterns, color, and heaps of fun! These are the core elements of the Madcap Cottage brand DNA.” Former New York City magazine editors, the duo sees themselves as storytellers who help guide a conversation. Notes Jason Oliver, “We bring your adventures to life through our products, interiors, and social channels. Madcap Cottage is all about giving permission to celebrate a life well lived.” The duo is mad for long road trips across the USA with their four pound-rescue pups—paired with more far-flung global adventures. Says John, “We love visits to our home states of Florida and Iowa just as much as we adore Sicily, Harbour Island, and Portugal. Good design resides everywhere.” What else excites the gents? History, old movies, great gardens, house museums, auctions, vintage magazines, and, surprise, color-coded spreadsheets. Oh, and a cool, crisp pitcher of martinis—olives on the side.
The Question Bar:
Jason Nixon & John Loecke
What have the silver linings been during this pandemic?
John and I reorganized our business and really rethought our strategy for the future. We also cleaned out our office and got it hyper organized. We bought a gas-powered chainsaw and took down 39 trees in the overgrown woodlands at our 1930s-era Regency-style High Point home. Oh, and we did loads of road trips to the likes of Savannah, Charleston, The Greenbrier, West Palm Beach, and Highlands, North Carolina. And we lost weight, too!
Who is the one person, living or dead, you would want to have lunch with?
John: Elsie de Wolfe or Nancy Lancaster. Oh, the madcap stories these design icons could tell. While doing handstands!
Jason: I am intrigued by Caligula as I like a man who peels a grape while Rome burns. Or maybe Cecil Beaton.
Do you go out of your way to support small business?
Absolutely, we are a small business so we put a premium on helping others like us. It’s really tough as getting loans and such in the past decade has become really difficult, so you have to work around and figure things out. We don’t buy anything from Amazon except videos, and we love our local, old school hardware store.
Do you have a weekend house?
We had a vest pocket-sized escape when we lived in New York—an 1840s-era former schoolhouse near Bovina in the Catskills—but we sold it last year. Too far and too much upkeep. Who wants to deal with a leaking roof or weeding the garden? Although we wouldn’t mind getting a small Mediterranean cottage in an up-and-coming neighborhood in West Palm Beach, Florida and spend a good part of the year there. We are mad for South Dixie Highway and love the tropical landscape.
What’s your favorite weekend getaway?
We have three acres at our High Point, North Carolina home, the House of Bedlam, complete with woodlands and a stream, so we love to stay home and sit outside with a stack of magazines and a pitcher of some libidinous cocktail. The dogs scamper about, and everyone blisses out.
Do you garden?
We are mad gardeners and have an English-style garden going at the Madcap headquarters just down the road in Thomasville, North Carolina. The House of Bedlam will have a very Capability Brown aesthetic once we get the underpinnings in place and can start filling in with plant materials. Nothing makes us happier than plants. We like plants and dogs fare more than we like people, truth be told.
Do you have any weekend rituals?
Every Saturday morning, we visit a nearby diner in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Wallburg, North Carolina. The Wallburg Diner attracts everyone from truckers to families and everyone in between, and we love a good mix of folks. But what really sets this eatery apart is the Johnson & Wales-trained chef, Josh, who crafts diner fare offset with A-list specials such as the shrimp po’boy with a killer, peppery coleslaw and homemade remoulade. The cooking is really fabulous. We also like to take the dogs for a walk on the nearby country club golf course (we are members) and putter about in the garden.
Favorite town and why?
We are both crazy for John’s hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. The museums, the restaurants, the incredible downtown, the sculpture garden… A little gem absolutely under the radar. We almost moved there, in fact, after leaving Brooklyn.
Do you have pets now?
We have four pound-rescue pups—Weenie, Cecil, George, and Amy. Three pugs and a Boston. They all came from difficult situations but now live happy little lives packed with dog treats from Fortnum & Mason in London. The dogs have free run of the house and are very much part of the Madcap Cottage brand story.
If you weren’t interior designers/product developers, what would you be?
John: Head of visual display for a department store—if there were still great department stores in the USA such as Marshall Field’s. I guess I would head to London to work for Liberty of London.
Jason Oliver: A gardener or motel innkeeper. I love nothing more than digging about and watching things grow. And I would love to find an old motel on South Dixie Highway between West Palm Beach and Lake Worth, Florida and make it really fun and chic and be the host with the most.
Where do you see yourselves in ten years from now?
We will have sold the brand and moved to Mexico where we can have a staff. Maybe San Miguel de Allende. Jason Oliver is fluent in. Spanish.
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