A Home That Gives Hugs

By Karen Leblanc

When Marc Thee was selected as interior designer for the New American Home, he opted for a subtle yet sexy look that’s modern, but with a dose of old-fashioned coziness.

The New American Home’s combination kitchen/great room demonstrates how interior spaces are becoming more seamlessly integrated. Most of the kitchen appliances are hidden behind cabinetry.

Marc Thee, principal of Marc-Michaels Interior Design in Winter Park, believes your living space should have sex appeal. Not the bawdy, gaudy, girly boudoir version, but the subtle sexiness of a designer menswear collection.

It’s not an easy look to pull off. But with a skillful mix of texture, sheen and color, Thee manages to tease the senses and invite you to cocoon in a home that, in his words, “hugs you back.”

This particular cuddly abode is the 2014 New American Home, sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders in conjunction with its International Builders Show held recently in Las Vegas.

Thee was selected as interior designer for the project, which debuted during the building industry’s largest annual event. The home, set in the exclusive Sky Terrace community, was built by Element Building Company of O’Fallon, Ill., and designed by Berkus Design Studio of Santa Barbara, Calif.

A different New American Home is built each year to showcase the latest trends and most leading-edge technology.

“A huge trend I see is that people want to live sexier,” says Thee. “We’re feeling younger and sexier — at least we hope we are — and this house truly brings that to life.”


The home has two master suites. The larger VIP suite (above) features a dual-sided custom stone fireplace. In the smaller master suite (below) there’s a “peek-a-boo” bathtub, eliminating the barrier between bedroom and bathroom.

The 2014 New American Home boasts an open floorplan encompassing 6,700 square feet of living space. It’s intended to accommodate three generations, reflecting a trend toward extended families living under the same roof.

Thee wanted to create spaces that felt both open and intimate. “When you have an open plan, you really have to think about presenting backgrounds that are quiet to the eye.” he says. “Now, this is a showhouse, so it isn’t supposed to be a yawn. We focused on both celebrating subtlety and making it exciting.”

The New American Home blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors as well as between bedrooms and bathrooms. Thee, taking a cue from upscale boutique hotels, created “peek-a-boo” bathtubs to facilitate the unusual bedroom-bathroom combo.

Throughout the home, Thee used an organic color palette that he calls “neutrals with an attitude.” Neutrals, he adds, don’t have to be limited to beige and cream. They can reflect other colors found in nature, such as flax, graphite, bone and limestone.

The colors, selected from Marc Thee’s Neutrals, the designer’s own line, were paired with intriguing hues of bronze, brassy pear, peacock, palomino and sea glass.

Throughout the home were headboards, tables and other furniture designed by Thee. Each bed was fully dressed in mix-and-match Marc Thee Home Collection bedding, using colors and patterns that complemented the overall design theme.

“I’m a big believer in trends, so timelessness is not a word that I love,” Thee says. “Trends, I love. The spaces I design reflect trends with staying power, because they integrate the five elements that are forever—water, stone, fire, earth and metal.”

Every designer has a favorite “moment” in the homes where they work their magic. For Thee, it was the New American Home’s monolithic fireplace, made of natural stone that he sourced in Las Vegas.

“The stone represents everything I love in trends,” he says. “It’s earthy with beautiful mink and terracotta colorations and veining. We complemented the fireplace with what we call our feature bar in the kitchen.”

Another view of the VIP suite (above), on the opposite side of the fireplace, reveals a uniquely configured tub. The home’s main entrance (below) is a large open area ideal for entertaining, with the kitchen just to the right. Thee is a proponent of monolithic design, which eschews fussy detaining and emphasizes dramatic swaths of color and texture.


Monolithic design is a marquee Marc Thee attraction, and you’ll find it in most of his projects.

“Materials can be so beautiful if they’re used simply.” he says. “Ten years ago, fireplaces, floors and ceilings had profile moldings and carvings—all sorts of animation. Today, instead of all that articulation, we’re using beautiful sweeps of special material — big, clean broad-brush bands of simple detailing.”

Thee splits his time between his main Winter Park office and locations in Naples and Boca Raton. Because he travels a lot, he has a deep appreciation for the time he spends at home.

“A home should nurture you, be easy to take care of and give back to you the moment you walk in,” he says. “Contemporary style is very of the moment, but there are ways to do contemporary that I think are cold and unwelcoming.”

Thee’s work, although elegant in its simplicity, exudes warmth and comfort. “Less is more,” he adds. “I despise useless, decorative things.”

Thee is now applying “his less is more” aesthetic to his signature product line, which launched this year. In addition to bedding, The Marc Thee Home Collection features tile and rugs in his favored neutral palette, which he has categorized as “menswear light” and “menswear dark.”

The rug collection features geometric designs, metallic accents, natural fibers and plush pilings. The bedding collection offers 350-thread count cotton sheets that are wrinkle free and seductively soft.

“I designed my bedding collection to be mixed and matched so the flax colors mix with the graphites, for example,” Thee says.

For a look at more of Thee’s work on the 2014 New American Home, check out tnah.com.

Karen LeBlanc is host of The Design Tourist, an online program airing on The Design Network (thedesignnetwork.com). She travels the globe in search of unique design finds and brilliant design minds. For a global dose of design inspiration, watch her show and check out her blog, HouseSpiration.com, which tracks the latest trends and tastemakers in architecture, design and home interiors.

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