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Interview with Melinda Cox

Maker Monday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Melinda Cox

At Balanced Design, Melinda Cox infuses tension with calm, negative space with color and pattern, and sustainability with accessible designs. The name of her studio originates from these offsets – Cox believes that good design requires a balance of contrasts. In this way, art imitates life. Balanced Design arose from Cox’s desire to bring beauty to a world not always lacking in kindness but yearning for creativity. She accomplishes this by creating lively textiles under sustainable practices, offering balanced sparks of shape, color, and texture for any environment. This week’s Maker Monday is the founder and heart behind Balanced Design, Melinda Cox.

Balanced Design’s flowery Alex print, seen here in mustard yellow, is offered in canvas, linen, or felt for pillows and upholstery.

Andrew Joseph: Describe your design style as if you were explaining it to someone who cannot see.
Melinda Cox: I design bold, graphic and simple patterns often called “happy.” I refer to myself as a minimalist pattern designer. I strip away as many elements of the design as possible because I donʼt like visual clutter. Much of my work is influenced by midcentury abstract artists. I have degrees in art history and graphic design, and I think that shows in the work.

AJ: What is the last book you read?
MC: I actually just reread The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda. Weʼve had revolutions in industry and technology, but here comes simplicity as the next growth industry. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful in all areas of our lives.

AJ: What is something you hope to see trending in design in the future?
MC: Sourcing small design studios. I hope to see a commitment to sourcing one (or more!) products from a small studio for each interior design project. Clients love makersʼ stories of craftsmanship where you can actually see the fingerprints of handmade designs.

AJ: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
MC: I love peacocks and have a peacock design in my collection. As an introvert, I think it would be fun to be flashy for a day? A month? A year?

An armchair in Cox’s Peacock coral print, complemented by a pillow in Tango Butterfly, brightens its surroundings.

AJ: What are three words to describe where you live?
MC: Sophisticated. Colorful. Organized.

AJ: Whatʼs your design pet peeve?
MC: Lazy, formulaic design. Great design needs tension to work. My late mother, an interior designer, referred to it as “the poison”. It can be a color just a shade off, a shape just a bit too big, or an organic form in the pattern of a structured grid. Creating these moments of tension is hard work and you canʼt be lazy to achieve it.

AJ: What would your dream project or dream client be right now?
MC: Custom rugs are fun! Iʼve designed stair treads recently and canʼt wait to do more. With one-of-a-kind rug projects, we can start with any idea and bring it to life quickly. Iʼm also working on a new fabric and wallpaper collection with block-printed artwork that Iʼm excited about.

AJ: Style (or design) icon?
MC: Modernist Irish furniture designer and architect, Eileen Gray. With no formal training in architecture, she designed a house so impressive she made Le Corbusier jealous. As a textile designer who went to art school for graphic design, I can relate to the “ no formal training” part of her story as well as moving from discipline to discipline. I think thatʼs why makers are such good collaborators. Our excitement comes from the problem solving and the discovery process. Although I have to say, Eileen Gray designing a Modernist masterpiece with no experience is BOLD.

Cox’s patterns, including her Lake Collection, use classic bases in nature, including flowers, leaves, and animal prints, with just enough of a twist.

AJ: Favorite app?
MC: No question, itʼs Pantone Studio. Every picture I take on my phone can become an instant palette available to upload to Adobe software libraries. I work forward and backward with technology. My designs are hand drawn but my repeats and color exploration are done in Illustrator. Once I have my repeat and color mapped out, I go back to traditional methods. This app is a must for me.

AJ: Whatʼs inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
MC: Biophilic design. Iʼm interested in the science that explores the relationship between our environments and our well-being. In terms of pattern design, weʼre moving away from the geometric patterns and moving towards representations of nature. Iʼm seeing a lot of the color green in interior design, which is refreshing.

AJ: Best advice youʼd give your teenage self?
MC: Practice asking for help so that it becomes second nature. Because when you actually need help, if you have to stop and think about if you feel comfortable asking, youʼll never do it.

AJ: Where is the first place you want to travel now that everything is opening up?
MC: Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland would be nice. An inn “on an island, off an island, at one of the four corners of the Earth”. Strange and Familiar: The Architecture of Fogo Island documentary is a must for designers. Itʼs a wonderful example of the power of design in a rural community struggling to survive.

About The Maker | Melinda Cox is a multidisciplinary artist at the intersection of minimalism and graphic pattern and the designer behind the bold, hand-drawn patterns of Balanced Design, a Rhode Island studio that designs textiles, rugs, fine art prints, and home decor accents, all made in the USA. Most often described as modern, graphic, and bold, her designs have appeared in numerous local, national and international publications, including books, the New York Times, Metropolis Magazine, Traditional Home Magazine, and on HGTV. A passionate believer that design matters, she is excited by conceptual thinkers and anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. Melinda was raised in central Massachusetts surrounded by the textile mills she grew up visiting as a girl and has an art history and graphic design education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the Massachusetts College of Art.