Interior designer Jim Miller shows how to live in style in less space


PITTSBURGH — Jim Miller, former co-owner of the shops Toadflax and Boxwood, has downsized into sophisticated quarters in Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood.

“I wanted something more manageable, and this suits me at this point in my life,” he said.

His one-bedroom apartment offers him access to multiple restaurants within walking distance. If he chooses, he can dine alfresco in his garden once the landscaping is completed, which adds another 400-500 square feet of living space when the weather cooperates.

“I love being here, and I am just thrilled with the way the apartment turned out,” he said.

The space is expertly curated and meticulously edited by Miller, who still works with clients as an interior designer.

“I do enjoy what I do, but I miss retail,” he admitted. Adding, “I miss the people.”

Some would find it a challenge to let go of things acquired over more than four decades in the design business. Miller said he kept only the things he really enjoyed when he downsized.

“Actually, it wasn’t much of a challenge because I wanted to do it,” he insisted.

This charming space does not feel small even though it is filled with treasures, trinkets and furnishings. He arrived with at least 40 boxes, although most of them were filled with books.

“I am a bookaholic,” he confessed.

The books are neatly stacked on the floor, under a Restoration Hardware desk, atop a brass and glass coffee table, and on etageres that flank the deep blue sofa.

Drawing your eye up and giving the room an illusion of height are Scottish roebuck antlers wreathed in oak leaves and acorns. The woodsy theme carries through to the bedroom as well.

“I really like oak leaves and acorns and have four original Redoute prints from 1801 of North American oak leaves,” he said.

Pierre-Joseph Redoute was the official court artist for French royalty. More of his original prints appear in an antique book Miller bought from Arader Galleries in New York City.

“He is the man who did the wonderful roses and lilies for Marie Antoinette,” he noted.

The bedroom is painted in Farrow & Ball Card Room Green. “It is one of my favorite colors that they do. It gives the room some atmosphere, and it is calm and relaxing.”

Miller asked a friend, Anne Dickson, owner of Fox and the Fleur, to create a beautiful floral arrangement that sits on top of a shagreen chest next to two African masks and smooth lingam stones from the Narmada River in India.

“The stones are naturally formed and are supposed to be for good luck and fertility,” the designer explained.

Nearby is a Louis XV-style chair with a needlepoint back and suede seat that is comfortable, functional and attractive.

The living room walls are painted in Tyler Gray from Benjamin Moore’s Williamsburg collection. The floor is covered with a leopard-print area rug.

“Leopard print never goes out — C. Z. Guest had a leopard rug,” he noted.

“I met her years ago, twice. She had these big rabbit planters made in Italy, and I sold a bunch of them when I had Toadflax.”

Above the desk, Miller has artfully arranged several early 1800s mezzotints.

“I like that they are black and white, and the one in the middle is King George III, who lost the colonies to America.”

The desk is decorated with sterling silver-rimmed antique horn beakers, more books and two photographs of Miller. One shows him at 5 years old dressed as cowboy and another as a young man showing off his equestrian talents.

He grew up in the quiet little town of Brookville, Jefferson County, and continues to stay in touch with high school classmates and many longtime friends and colleagues.

“I have had a very interesting life for a boy from Brookville,” he said, laughing. “I did OK.”

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