Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters are no strangers to the interplay of color, texture, and mood. As the founders and principals of Atlanta-based interior design firm ForbesMasters, they work with an array of clients to create dynamic, sophisticated, layered spaces—from a music-inspired den to a contemporary-bohemian bedroom.
The common denominator throughout their projects is a skillful mix of pattern and palette, which is why we asked the designers to style our three limited-edition Stone Diffuser colors in their own homes (they’re loving all three, and our Sleep Blend, too). “With something that has a function that looks like a decor item, it’s going to be amongst other decor items you have,” says Forbes of styling the Stone Diffuser in Honey, Rose, and Sea (check out the photos for more). “So I would actually set it up so that it’s in a monochromatic setting or a vignette.”
We caught up with Forbes and Masters over the phone to discuss color, comfort, and designing their own homes in more detail.
Let’s start with color. How do you incorporate it into your designs in a tasteful way?
Monet Masters: Depending upon the client, sometimes color is an accent and sometimes it’s the foundation. We have some clients who are bold enough to go with something like a deep orange sofa, which we are going to be installing soon; in most cases, we have a neutral foundation in beige or white, and then we add those pops of color on top of that with a second layer through the pillows, drapery, rugs, and so forth. That is typically what we’re defining at first, at the top of the project: what are we using to infuse color. And then based on what the foundation is going to be, we determine how we do that. And then also, of course, accent that with art and maybe paint and wallpaper.
What else do you consider when you’re starting a new project?
Tavia Forbes: The client. Taking inspiration from the client—getting to know them, and creating a space that’s personal for them and where they’re going to see touches of their own art or things that they’ve mentioned in their consultation. We recently completed a consultation where there was a heavy Star Wars influence, and that influenced our design. So trying to find some things that are very near and dear to the client that we can turn into a room.
Okay, now I have to ask—how are you going to include “Star Wars” into that space while keeping it sophisticated?
TF: Maybe in some lighting, and also an ode to Yoda.
MM: And then our wallpaper pattern on the ceiling.
TF: Yes and our wallpaper, which looks almost like the Death Star but in a nice, cool way. Kind of like a spaceship radiating light.
Let’s talk about your own homes. What did you take into consideration when designing your spaces?
MM: The most important thing about decorating and designing my house is that it feels built upon—that there’s not one single note, but that every piece kind of has its own story. And everything is interesting. I probably could speak for most designers when I say that designing our own home takes the most time, because we are exposed to so many different styles and products. But it’s not until we can really connect with one thing and build our own story around that item that we introduce it into our home. So my home is a collection of stories and experiences and things that I’ve fallen in love with on shopping trips for clients.
TF: For me it’s similar: there’s a sense of continuing to build on it all the time and changing the styles based on your mood and feelings. Collecting art on travels; every time I go to a new city or new country, I try to find a piece that will remind me of that place and where I was. And having figures of women, all types of women, in art throughout my home.
Do you ever feel like it’s done?
TF: Nope. Never going to be done.
MM: If I guess it's only officially done when there’s no room to add anything else.
TF: You can put art on the floor! There’s always room to grow.
Are there any pieces in particular in your homes that you hold very dear?
TF: There’s a mask from a Jamaican artist that I fell in love with, and when I bought it I found it in purple, my favorite color. I just love it; it reminds me of that time that I was there. Another piece that I really love, and it’s really just not [my style] because it’s so, so, so, so feminine, but it’s a gold-leaf Italian pelmet encrusted with jewels and amethyst and all kinds of crystals.
MM: I will say that I am pretty in love with most things in my house, but I absolutely adore this 10-piece set of these very intricately-cut and carved small vases. They are all different shapes and sizes, and the set comes from Mozambique. We were out shopping for another client and I saw them and I said, “I want those.” And I love that little set. They don’t look like it because of the way that they are carved, but you can actually open the top and hide little things in there and I just love that. I also love this wire sculpture that I created; I love wire sculptures, and I’d wanted something above my sofa … so I created this sculpture and I’m absolutely in love with it.
What else makes you feel truly at home in your space?
MM: For me it’s going to be the amount of natural light, and what I’m looking at when I wake up. When I leave my room, I’m seeing the city of Atlanta, and beautiful white drapes flanking my windows. The city is probably the biggest piece of art in the space, and it’s just, gosh—it’s just so rewarding to see.
You own your own business, which must keep you busy. How do you take care of yourselves?
MM: I feel like that list is so long. As a community, as a world, we have really gone through it. We have gone through it, but we have learned more about ourselves, we have spent more time with ourselves, and we probably practiced self-care more than ever before. Some of the things for me include meditating, yoga, and getting out of my rollerblades when I want to entertain my inner child.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.