Nina Long and Don Easterling bring Mathews Design Group to life.
You might be familiar with furniture, fabric and accessories stalwart Mathews Furniture + Design on West Paces Ferry Road, which has served Atlanta for more than three decades. The business also includes Mathews Design Group, a studio developed by Nina Long and Don Easterling that includes other sought-after interior designers. The pair have been working together for 15 years and complement each other’s skill sets. “We have great chemistry,” says Long, who started out as Easterling’s assistant before becoming his partner.
Long calls Easterling “an encyclopedia of furniture” and a master space planner, while she specializes in fabrics and colors. They’ve done projects all over, from Lake Martin, Alabama, to Big Sky, Montana. Almost all of their clients are referrals and repeat business, which speaks highly of the duo’s taste, style and work ethic. Their very customized, high-touch approach keeps a hefty waiting list of clients.
The design group works out of the retail store, which the pair loves because they get to see all their designer friends while they work on their own projects. “It’s neat to be able to work with everyone in the industry,” Long says. The store carries more than 200 lines such as Hickory Chair, Alfonso Marina and Chaddock, and Long and Easterling have been working alongside owner Stephen Mathews, buying for the store for the last decade. Here, they discuss their approach.
How would you describe your style?
Don Easterling: It’s about the client’s style. But there are certain styles we like more than others. We love fun fabrics and color done in an updated way.
What are you seeing clients gravitate towards now?
Nina Long: People are letting us wallpaper their entire dining rooms, whereas it used to be just the powder room. That used to be where you could get away with going a little wild because you could just shut the door, and it wasn’t a commitment. People now want it throughout their house. The flow is important, though; you want to have a transition from room to room. We find a balance. Not every room needs to have a loud statement.
What about antiques?
DE: A lot of our clients have antiques or things they’ve found in their travels. We do a lot of houses now where I did the parents’ house years ago, and now, we are doing their kids’ houses, and they have antiques their parents have given them. But there’s definitely such a thing as bad antiques!
NL: It’s nice to have a mix. Not everything has to be brand new. Antique accessories like a magnifying glass or English box or oil painting are great ways to incorporate that look. We love working with heirloom pieces. We’re not going to throw it out just to try and sell you more stuff.
What’s the biggest design mistake you see people making?
DE: Shopping online. You think you’re getting a deal or something quick, and it ends up being total garbage. The scale always ends up being totally wrong.
Where do you look for inspiration?
NL: Inspiration is everywhere! We feel inspired by our travels as well as our surroundings. I also love looking through Don’s old collections of design magazines. I can eat up stacks and stacks of those! It’s interesting to me that good design really does live on. So much was done in the ’90s and early 2000s that’s still good and relevant today.
MATHEWS FURNITURE + DESIGN
STORY: Lauren Finney Harden
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