Monday, November 1, 2010


Photos courtesy of Rizzoli
Ravishing! Orange and yellow taffeta curtains frame a grand entrance on the cover. Her work has a distinctly European sensibility

Bold, brave, and full of bravado are just a few ways to describe Mary McDonald's fashionable, theatrical interiors. The LA - based glam girl knows how to elevate a sumptuous interior to camera ready status by using broad strokes of color, Chinoiserie details, accessories en masse and powerful patterns. The impact of her rooms is enormous -- they make her clients feel like Hollywood stars bound for greatness.

In her just launched book, Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style with Rizzoli, over 250 lush photos draw us into her world of glamour, which she describes as "a je ne sais quoi that can only come from scale and placement." Unlike the usual layout of a design book, her whimsy comes through in the thematic sections, entitled Seduction, Curated, Glamour, Grand Tour, and Theatre. I had a chance to sit down with Mary at her recent book party hosted by Catherine Malandrino, and she shared her take on the tome.

A fantastical Chinoiserie tester and elaborate striped bed hangings make for a girly retreat.

Chocolate brown and hot pink converge in a sitting room. Pops of color are used with an exacting hand.

In her pale blue and white office, Mary filled the back wall with black and white photos over painted climbing vines. Closet doors with memo boards hold invitations and conceal her fabric samples. Blanc de Chine porcelains are grouped together on her large desk. You may remember this shot from Domino. Miguel Flores Vianna shot many of the projects that are published in the book for the first time.

Stark black and white make this vignette a strong statement. Mary's accessorizing talents really come across here -- every shelf is styled beautifully, mixing old and new accessories.

What does glamour mean to you?

Glamour is a level of style so perfectly combined with an extra sparkle, that you are drawn to visually want more. It is a carefully orchestrated sum of parts much more powerful as a whole, whether it regards a person, an outfit or a room.

Why is glamour elusive?

Glamour is elusive, because you cannot really put your finger on one exact element or cause. You are drawn to study the person, place or thing because it seduces you with its elan.

You have an incredible sense of style. How do fashion and interiors converge?

For one thing, most people usually have a similar crossover style in how they dress and the style of decor they like. Look at fashion designer's homes. Ralph lives as he dresses. Calvin, Donna and Oscar too. Style translates from one to the other in your choice of color schemes, modernity, layering, and patterns.

What inspired you to become a milliner?

I had gone to Parson's for clothing and this was just one of my artistic hobbies that took off rather unintentionally. I found myself in the Maxfield's and Bazaar's of the world, so I just kept going.

When did you know you just had to start doing interiors?

I always loved all forms of design from fashion to interiors and everything in between. I even decorated my half of my freshman college dorm room. Then, while living in New York, the PR woman from Robert Clergerie asked me to do her penthouse because she liked mine so much. I was still a milliner, but I gave it a whirl, which turned out to be my first actual "job" in decorating.

What is your favorite color combination right now?

I have a new love for grays and ivory right now. I am also sort of hot on eggplant, but having trouble with takers for now.

You seem so organized and neat. Is this really true?

For clients and what is in front of the camera lens, yes! For myself, not really. I am more of an artist -- collecting always. I find myself creating and living in a constant transition by choice.

How do you design a room, what comes first and what do you save till last?

If it is a truly blank canvas, then the floor plan and the color scheme come first. If I have to work with something existing such as a family rug, that might force me to address this area first but then move back to the furniture and floor plan.

What does every room need to be comfortable as well as have impact?

For comfort, good upholstered seating spatially placed makes sense in creating interactive groupings. Impact is another story. I personally like at least one major focal point. A piece of art, a great wall color, a fantastic pattern, a glamorous statement like a screen or chandelier can create at least one wow factor.

Where do you shop for design inspiration?

Everywhere-- on every street corner in every cafe and shop in any city. I own thousands of design books and shop everywhere. If I want shop names, I hop on the computer and shop a global network of dealers.

What is the chicest city you have been to?

There are so many beautiful, fascinating and sophisticated cities in the world from Fez and Buenos Aires, to Istanbul and Gstaad. All beautiful on their own, but the most consistently chic place per square foot is still Paris.

What are your fave, secret LA haunts for design/fashion/food?

I an not sure I have haunts that are secrets but I will never tire of JF Chen and the range of sophistication in his furniture choices. I still like to poke around the Silver Lake area for funky stores, like Rubbish and Lawson Fenning. Decades has the best vintage fashion and American Rag for funky stuff. I still love the Hari Krishna store, Govinda's for saris. My foodie haunt is the famous Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills which is no secret. But my new love is The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. The food is out of this world.

What is the most affordable item you love to add to a room that no one would ever guess is cheap and cheerful?

High gloss paint instead of lacquer. Second to that would be pre-made cashmere or embroidered pillows from Williams Sonoma Home.

What is the most glamorous thing you have ever designed?

Well first off, my Leopold Collection Sconces for Robert Abbey. It is beyond glamorous.
Then, there was an all black and oyster duchesse satin gown in the style of a Sargent painting I designed while I was at Parsons. It was very "Age of Innocence meets Galliano." Of course, I somehow lost the gown over the years. I also have some unbelievable coquillage pelmets and consoles reminiscent of Cecil Beaton that I customized for a client. I can never pick just one anything!


quintessence said...

I absolutely adore this book - her designs are so elegant and layered that you can go back time and time again to find new elements. Terrific interview - fun to read!

Karena said...

Marisa I cannot get enough of Mary McDonalds atyle, her color palettes are always divine!!

Art by Karena

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Love every single room you've shown! Great to read her interview as well.