By Hollie Deese
Photography by Ashton Paige
Maggie Sanger has been painting since she was a little girl, when she was always encouraged to be creative. Growing up, she would spend summers with her artist grandmother; they would paint together, creating treasured memories.
Instead of pursuing a career in art, though, the 2010 Hume-Fogg graduate enrolled at Eckerd College, a small liberal arts school in St. Petersburg, Florida. She studied visual arts and stayed in the Sunshine State for six years before moving back to Nashville in 2017.
She began working at the furniture store West Elm in Green Hills as their visual designer; she designed the window displays and did merchandising for them until January 2019. And it was there she began to see the connection between her art and interiors.
“I always thought of art being separate, as being an accessory to interior design. But what I learned at West Elm is that art is a more integral part of interior design than I had thought,” she says. “And that walls can be used as canvases and ceilings can be used as canvases.”
For commissioned walls and ceilings, she works with wall paint, and for her fine art pieces she uses the same, plus spray paint and acrylic.
Sanger says that through West Elm she met a lot of mid-century modern design fans who really loved white walls, so it has been fun getting creative with their spaces — making accent walls with a graphic punch. The concept can be nerve-wracking for people to commit to, even though it can easily be painted over.
“I think people are hesitant because it feels more permanent,” she says. “In reality, it’s one of the easiest ways to freshen up and add a design element, or a splash of color. Or just re-energize a space.”
She isn’t shy to practice on her own Hillsboro Village home, but she considers herself lucky when she gets to work with clients who have an affinity for the bold and the daring. And her accent surfaces aren’t limited to the walls and ceilings; she loves painting stairwells, trims, and doors as well.
“I like to challenge conventional approaches to wall painting,” Sanger says. “Often we think of paint as being used only on walls. And typically we think about a color that will pair well with a white matte ceiling and white trim. But I like to think about how else wall paint can be used — like what if the walls were left white and only the doors and trims were painted? I love creative uses of space that are outside the norm.”