A Summer Party, Madcap Cottage Style

John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, the duo behind the design and lifestyle brand Madcap Cottage, throw a casual summer party at home
Jason Oliver Nixon (left) and John Loecke share a love for exuberant pattern, rich color, flowers of all sorts, and rescue dogs. All flourish happily in the 1930s-era home they call The House of Bedlam.

On a steamy Saturday in High Point, North Carolina, the air feels just right for stirring up a late-afternoon summer storm, the kind that locals welcome for the relief it gives from the heat and the revival it brings to lawns wilted from too much sun and too little water. Welcome, that is, until Mother Nature becomes an unruly guest who crashes a party, like the one that John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, the masterminds behind the design and lifestyle brand Madcap Cottage, have planned in their garden today.

Visions of friends strolling their almost three-acre property with highballs and hors d’oeuvres in hand will have to wait for another time. The men, always quick on their feet, shift gears and move the festivities inside their 1930s-era Regency Revival home, which they’ve dubbed The House of Bedlam.

While Loecke makes a few last-minute floral arrangements from an armful of zinnias he brought in just before the rain, Nixon mixes pitchers of refreshing libations and turns up a little Blossom Dearie on the sound system. As friends start to wander in—it’s a casual, come-and-go sort of affair—the party begins.

A round marble-top table with an elegant metal base holds a vase of flowers and tray of cocktails to greet party guests in the cottage's foyer
Gin Bramble cocktails, alongside an urn of flowers brought in from the garden, offer a cheerful welcome in the foyer. Note the ceiling painted like a tent top.
John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon's dining room features yellow wallpaper bearing a botanical print, a glass-top table with a carved wooden base painted light green, white painted chairs with pink upholstered seats, and peach floor-to-ceiling curtain panels
Although there is no seated dinner at this gathering, the dining room’s confection of color draws guests in like candy.

A garden of delights of the interior variety awaits exploration in rooms that seem transported out of an eccentric English country manor, with a riotous fusion of color, florals, geometrics, and textures enveloping almost every surface, be it the tented ceiling, chintz sofa, or decorative mural. With a name like House of Bedlam, one certainly wishes the walls could join in the lively conversation already underway.

And in a sense they do, speaking of Loecke and Nixon’s passion for vintage prints purchased on eBay, historical design references gleaned from treks around the globe, and their pack of rescue dogs named Weenie, Jasper, Amy Petunia, and Cecil, who scamper underfoot and whose likenesses playfully appear in the custom chinoiserie wallpaper in the living room. Eclectic art and antiques picked up at markets and auctions mingle with collections amassed along the way—layers that seem to belie the fact that the couple has been here only a few years.

“We like a house to have a sense of personal history and look as if it has evolved over time. Good decoration always provides clues as to who lives there.”—John Loecke

The cozy Asian-inspired den features a bright oriental rug, a red laquor coffee table, upholstery boasting rich hues and patterns, and wall bookshelf/cabinetry painted a dusty blue. A small pagoda tower sits in the window.
Platters placed around the house invite guests to wander and discover rooms such as the cozy space Nixon and Loecke call the opium den—no illegal substances to be found, of course, but the designers’ uninhibited mix of color and pattern provides plenty of visual stimulation.

After two decades in New York, where Loecke and Nixon became serial movers, renovators, and decorators (including a historic schoolhouse in the Catskills that inspired the brand’s moniker), these former magazine editors turned interior designers looked south in search of a less-frenzied, hospitable place where they could focus on expanding their business in new ways. They had both attended many a High Point furniture market, and the city’s cadre of craftspeople and makers, as well as its laid-back sensibility, proved alluring.

After a lightning-fast weekend spent with a real estate agent, they found the place where they could put down some permanent roots. “We’re probably not the neighbors who can lend you a cup of sugar, but we always have a cup of bourbon on hand,” says Nixon, with a laugh.

“When we entertain, nothing is sacred, nothing is fussy, and it’s a mix of high and low. Nobody wants to be in an ivory tower where they fear they’ll be banished if they spill something.” — Jason Oliver Nixon

A little girl, who holds fresh flowers in each hand, sits on a pink upholstered bench beside a pug in Jason Oliver Nixon and John Loecke's home in High Point, North Carolina
W. C. Fields’ line about never working with children or animals definitely doesn’t apply in The House of Bedlam, where Loecke and Nixon’s beloved one-eyed pug, Amy Petunia, makes sure to greet even the littlest guest.

Now, the house serves as a calling card come to life and a laboratory for all that the Madcap Cottage brand embodies: an intrepid joie de vivre; a skillful blend of high style with down-to-earth accessibility (much of the furniture, fabrics, and accessories that Loecke and Nixon design can be found through retail rather than trade-only showrooms), and a sense that nothing about life or decorating should be taken too seriously.

Case in point: their new collection of hand-hooked rugs for Momeni includes a selection of Madcap-worthy bon mots such as “Children are wonderful, but dogs don’t have to go to college.”

“We’re all about the idea of fun, spirit, and whimsy. Bring the adventure home, and leave your cares at the front door,” says Nixon.

Come rain or come shine, that perfectly sums up their philosophy, whether it’s in the way they entertain the friends they gather today, or in the products they design for the rest of us. It’s a Madcap Cottage world, and Loecke and Nixon hope we’ll all soon be living in it.

14 More Scenes from the Party

Click the arrows (or swipe if on a mobile device) to see more

Bite-size tomato tarts garnished with fresh herbs are displayed on a blue-and-white patterned cloth
Madcap Cottage trays from Port 68 hold hors d’oeuvres such as tomato tarts.
John Loecke stands over the coffee table. The arrangement features colorful zinnias in a small white porcelain urn
Loecke tweaks a floral arrangement in the living room.
Anna Everidge Thrower works at a wooden kitchen island at John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon's home as she puts the finishing touches on a spread of summer party appetizers
Friend and caterer Anna Everidge Thrower brings her own magic to the event, creating fare that is colorful, eye-catching, and tasty, like the zucchini roll-ups with goat cheese.
Seasonal canapés featuring sweet-pea spread and radishes on toast
A simple arrangement of bright orange and pink flowers and greenery in a white urn, on a plant stands in front of a window between two orange curtains
A flower-filled urn on a plant stand between bright orange curtain panels make a sunny scene.
Guests drop in for a visit during this casual come-and-go affair.
A collection of framed vintage art gives the look of a home that has evolved over time.
Thin ribbons of zucchini are wrapped around goat cheese and stacks of matchstick vegetables. Fresh dillweed garnishes the roll-ups, and picks keep them together
Zucchini roll-ups with goat cheese and matchstick vegetables
An appetizer tray decorated with fresh flowers stands on a stack of books on a coffee table
Pimento cheese and red peppers on pumpernickel toast
The weather outside may be gray, but indoors every room is abloom with botanically inspired patterns, many designed by the homeowners themselves, including fabrics for Robert Allen in the sunroom.
A glass pitcher filled with the red-hued Gin Bramble cocktail and garnished with fresh herbs
Gin Brambles, with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and blackberry liqueur
glass of lemonade cocktail garnished with fresh herbs
Sparkling Lavender Lemonade, with vodka, lemonade, lavender simple syrup, and prosecco
A flower-garnished platter of shortbread bars topped with various fruit fillings in the center and drizzled with a sugary glaze
A taste of something sweet: ribbon shortbread
Three pugs stand in the home's doorway looking out
Pound-rescue pups reign supreme in this house, along with prints and patterns.

Planning a party of your own? Check out seven party planning tips from Nixon and Loecke.

By Karen Carroll | Photography by Anna Naphtali