House Tour: Luxe + Layered

A traditional study goes glam

TEXT Jasmine Bible + PHOTOGRAPHY Anna Routh Photography

When it comes to designing spaces, MA Allen makes her own rules. As lead designer at MA Allen Interiors, Allen has the freedom to experiment with design, push boundaries, and create magnificent spaces like this burgundy study in Raleigh, NC. Designed for the Designer Show House to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Wake County, Allen was able to bring her signature luxe and layered look to the room.

house tour nest realty

“For this study, function drove the ship,” explains Allen. She wanted to create a cozy space that was a television-free zone—a quiet room that could be used for entertaining, enjoying a glass of wine, and, of course, settling in with a good book. “Holding onto a traditional study feel and twisting it,” describes Allen. With a mix of vintage and custom pieces, original artwork, bold colors, and rich patterns, the result is a sophisticated, layered, and eclectic look. Read on to learn some of Allen’s design rules.


Inspiration for a space can come from anywhere. For Allen, she travels extensively, scouring markets and sourcing fabrics. She recently flew to Vietnam, where she visited various villages, trekking miles into the hearts of towns with a translator to purchase bolts of their unique embroidered fabrics. Fabrics like these may become what MA Allen Interiors refers to as “map fabrics,” a patterned fabric that begins to narrate a room. Colors are pulled from that pattern, and then used in large scale (draperies, furniture) or small scale (pillows, accents).

Sometimes the original map fabric doesn’t even end up in the room, but there is an undercurrent of cohesiveness that remains. “For this room, the inspiration was actually a pair of shoes,” laughs Allen. While brainstorming about this room, she kept coming back to a pair of burgundy heels in her closet that seem to magically go with everything. Trusting her instinct, she decided to envelop the whole room in a lacquered burgundy. Used on the paneled walls, moulding, and bookshelves, “the lacquer gives a rich look and adds drama,” says Allen.


With burgundy acting as the base, Allen added marigold silk draperies and accents of magenta, violet, emerald, and teal. “I use lots of layers—luxurious fabrics and trims. Pops of color hidden in the drapery lining or pillow flange,” shares Allen. (A flange is a piece of fabric that extends well beyond a pillow seam; think of it as a border around the edge of a pillow.) “This keeps your eye discovering different textures and colors throughout the room.”


Rather than floating the vintage banker desk in the center of the room as one might expect, Allen chose to place it right next to the bookshelf. This allows one to easily grab a book from the shelves to enjoy some screen-free time. Flanked by two gorgeous malachite-patterned velvet chairs, this placement permits two people to use the desk with laptops or tablets. It also left enough room for a second seating area, complete with two vintage pony hair print chairs and a chesterfield sofa. A family friendly fabric with channel back stitching was used on the sofa, foregoing the typical leather tufting. The relatively small room ends up with comfortable seating for seven.


When working with vintage pieces like the hand-knotted linen on linen Soumak rug, you can’t specify the exact size, you just have to work with its existing dimensions. Placed in the center of the room, this magenta patterned rug works well with the proportions of the room, allowing approximately 12 inches of hardwood to show on all sides. Don’t worry about objects fitting entirely onto the rug—the desk and chairs float from the rug to the hardwood floors without issue.


Allen emphasizes the importance of the ceiling, or “fifth wall.” In this room, “If we had left the ceiling white, it would have stood out and brought down the entire aesthetic,” she explains. Instead she took the opportunity to add yet another pattern—an emerald latticework wallpaper that draws the eye up. “When you are creating a jewel box effect like this room, every surface needs attention.”

To connect with MA Allen, visit

We shared this story with you in our Fall/Winter 2017 Issue of NEST Magazine. To view the full issue, click here.

Written by
Posted in 501 Nest Realty, Asheville, Atlanta, Charlottesville, Fall/Winter 2017, Fredericksburg, Greater Louisville, Greensboro, Lake Norman, NEST Magazine, New River Valley, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Roanoke, Shenandoah Valley, Wilmington
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments closed

Comments are closed.



Join our Newsletter