6 Style Lessons from Mary McDonald

Award-winning interior designer and bestselling author Mary McDonald recently spoke to a crowd of more than 200 at Studio 882’s showroom in Glen Mills, PA. She opined about all things design - from her favorite sources for antiques to her biggest design challenges.  

As many of you know, award winning interior designer Mary McDonald will be the guest of honor at our September showroom party. We are beyond thrilled and grateful. Her designs are glamorous, captivating and always inspiring. In honor of our evening with Mary, we’re revisiting her first book, Interiors: The Allure of Style, and the top 6 life and design lessons we learned.

Be Fearless. In her books, Interiors: The Allure of Style, McDonald reminds us that we all deserve to feel like a star in our own home. “I like rooms that resonate wit and self-assurance and unapologetically say, This is who I am – take it or leave it,” she explains. So McDonald advises her clients not to hide their personality and style behind current trends. 

Don’t save your best pieces for special occasions. Life is busy, unpredictable and, frankly, messy, but McDonald reassures clients that we can still add an element of ‘fancy’ to our everyday routine. For example, in her home office McDonald uses silver for everyday items like paper clips and rubber bands to dress up the space.

“Comfort and chic should be synonymous,” declares McDonald. After all, a well-designed room is one you want to spend a lot of time in. While Mary has earned a reputation for glamour and drama, at the heart of her designs is the principle that form follows function. Her rooms are just as inviting and luscious as they are dramatic.

Alway be curating. You’ll never be dazzled by your home unless you display the things you love. The key, say McDonald, is not to arrange your room and then leave things to collect dust. “You must begin with wonderful things, but the magic happens when you arrange and rearrange…and then curate it again,” she explains.

“Restraint is the sister of chic. It should feel like you’re pulling the reins on a bridle when the horse wants to gallop,” explains McDonald. This tension between drama and restraint is what creates allure. It’s what draws you into a great room design design.

Have fun. “Design is like theater. The better the sets, the better the play. As in life, if the play isn’t good, you might as well like the set,” according to McDonald. She advises all of her clients not to take design and fashion so seriously that they forget to enjoy the process.

Katie Groves