In under ten years, MA Allen has become one of the brightest stars in interior design. Her firm, based right in our backyard, in Raleigh, North Carolina, has caught the attention of the national press, with features in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Traditional Home, and others. Allen's fearless interiors balance the full gamut of design elements from color and scale to traditionalism and modernism. Which makes her the perfect designer to help us overcome our trepidation about putting strong art in our homes. To get us ready to bid in our Contemporary Art Auction on March 13th, we asked MA all our burning questions about how to reconcile contemporary art and design.

LLA: Let’s start at the beginning: the art and the couch. What’s your response to the age-old idea that picking art to match your decor is only for art and design amateurs?

MA: I love to let art lead, but the reality is often times a client doesn't have an art collection, or the collection they have isn’t large enough or the right scale to fill the walls of their new home. I’m not your quick finisher girl that pulls a color story together, I prefer to wait it out until we find the perfect piece. I will leave a room unfinished until then.

We've established relationships with numerous artists from whom we can commission a piece for a particular space. In this process my goal is never to impede artists' creativity but to build on it. I just provide the artist with a sense of the colors being used and what in their existing portfolio appeals to us. I always encourage clients - if they find something they love - to buy it. It’s proven time and time again that it always works out.
LLA: There is sometimes a presumed divide between interior design and art. But unless art only exists in the vacuum of museums and galleries, the two necessarily coexist. How do you conceptualize the shared space of art and design?

MA: Our interiors are complex and layered. With that being said, the art, no matter what the aesthetic (complicated or minimalist), is another important layer to the room.
LLA: If you’d allow us to describe your style, we’d call it something like “edgy traditional.” How would/do you fit contemporary art into your combination of timeless choices and unexpected touches?

MA: Striking the perfect balance is critical. It's something I'm hyper-focused on. We can control other elements that are subtle, but help with harmonizing opposing design styles, like framing choice and location. I would hang something modern over an architecturally traditional mantle or a period piece over a sleek 1970’s credenza.
LLA: Can you visualize ideal placements for any of the pieces in the Contemporary Art Auction?

MA: I love Lot 1001 - Being that it’s on the smaller side, it would be the perfect piece to incorporate into a curated gallery wall.

Lot 1049 - The etching with a strong focal point draws you in and could be used opposite an entry or any room to draw people in. It's a great color - a rich jewel tone that would look stunning against a teal wall.

Lot 1080 - I love the complexity of this mixed media collage. It sounds like a lot, but would be stunning atop a busy wallpaper in a pattern that is larger in scale than the artwork.

Lot 1091 - I love the colors and the scale of this piece - long, narrow works of art can be difficult to find but work well over beds and sofas.

LLA: What counsel would you give to people who want to start collecting art and aren’t sure how to work it into their decor?

MA: Buy what you love and don’t be scared to buy big!

The Contemporary Art Auction
Live Auction
Friday, March 13th
6:30pm (EDT)