The Style Files: Mary McGee

I have admired the work of designer, Mary McGee for almost as long as I have written this blog. She has a wonderful way of creating beautiful, glamorous environments that maintain a sense of effortless ease and has a great talent for mixing antiques with modern pieces. Mary has an innate ability to juxtapose the most refined pieces with relaxed, unexpected elements for a look that is entirely her own. Born in Tennessee, Mary’s upbringing fostered an appreciation for classic, traditional design and a love of color in her work. In addition to designing chic interiors from coast to coast which have graced the pages of House Beautiful, Vogue, and Metropolitan Home, Mary is launching a unique collection of textiles later this fall. Mary McGee x Africa is the culmination of Mary’s love of exotic, high-quality textiles which will be executed in rich, unexpected color palettes for a completely unique look, all through a socially-conscious, sustainable practice. I hope that you will enjoy this in-depth look at Mary’s elegant, polished interiors as well as getting to know more about this talented designer.

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Mary McGee: My design aesthetic can be described as classic and feminine, balanced by the casual elegance of modern inspired elements. I like to create spaces that are eclectic with unexpected juxtapositions, like pairing contemporary art with historical periods of furniture.

PC: How has splitting your time from coast to coast influenced your aesthetic?

MM: I go back and forth between L.A., Boston, and Tennessee. I was exposed to so much beauty growing up in the South– historical homes, gorgeous antiques, and relatives that had impeccable taste. I would have to say that I always borrow design ideas from my Tennessee roots to give all my projects a taste of Southern style and charm.

PC: What does your home say about you?

MM: I am a classicist who loves timelessness despite the modern twist I put on  many projects.

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

MM: My family, Deeda Blair, and design legends such as Billy Baldwin, Henri Samuel, and David Hicks. My clients are also a source of inspiration.

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

MM: I don’t really have a style icon, but I would say my mother, grandmother, and Catherine Deneuve.

{Mary’s Beautiful Grandmother and Mother}

PC: What trait do you most admire in a person?

MM: Humility. It is so rare these days.

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

MM: Krispy Kreme

PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

MM: My grandmother, Talulah. She was an intellectual southern woman who had beautiful style. She had such flair and good taste. She always arranged the most spectacular flowers from her garden, hosted great dinner parties, was a fantastic cook, and loved decorating. However, more than anything, she valued a good education and was concerned about the achievements of her grandchildren. She wanted us to be current and well-versed in global affairs, politics, and business. To have a sense of style and art was just the icing on the cake. Deeda Blair has also been a great source of inspiration. She has been so supportive and encouraging of my career right from the beginning. For many years, Deeda made me scrapbooks and we would sit in her living room in Georgetown and go over fabrics and design ideas.

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

MM: I think living a meaningful life is as good as it gets. Life is not about being rich, popular, or highly educated. Those are superficial things. For me, life is about being REAL, being HUMBLE, and touching the lives of others.

PC: What can we look forward to next from you? 

MM: In late November, simultaneously, I will introduce my brand’s first-ever fabric collection and its charitable initiative born out of the desire to do more than just send beautiful interiors out into the world. The initiative connects Africa’s most marginalized, but talented artisans to the design industry’s top talents, bringing the rarest of skills to the world of high-end decoration. The textiles are a continuation of my refined and glamorous design aesthetic, mixing exotic patterns with alluring colors and intriguing graphics. I believe that art, in any form, is a powerful platform for positive global change. I’m really going to be moving the needle in the world of high-end decoration, transforming the way we produce products and decorate into an environmentally and socially conscious vision.

Go To Outfit: A knee-length camel or black skirt paired with a white Anne Fontaine blouse or a black t-shirt style cashmere sweater

Style Mantra: Classic is always in good taste.

Scent: Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb

Piece of Jewelry: Emerald Chandelier Earrings

Color I Never Tire of: Celadon Green

Flower: White Peonies and Sweet Peas

Indispensable Design Element: Beautiful Vases

Era for Design: I love 18th century French furnishings paired with modern elements of today.

Dream Project: I’m decorating Hogarcito, the historic home built by Marjorie Merriweather Post in Palm Beach. I think it is pretty dreamy.

Fabric/ Textile: Anything from my new collection

Hostess Gift:A bouquet of fresh cut flowers

Meal: Grato in Palm Beach

Drink: Diet Coke 

Way to Unwind: 45 minutes on the elliptical

What I Love Most About My City: In Los Angeles, I love the design resources. In Boston, I love the charm of Back Bay. In Tennessee, I love the land and the Southern way of life.

Weekend Destination: Sea Island, Georgia

Hotel: Hotel de la Tremoille in Paris. Best kept secret in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

Museum: National Gallery of Art

City: Washington, D.C.– I think it is the most beautiful city in America. It is where I went to college.

Artist: Cy Twombly and Mark Rothko

Actor/Actress: Robert Redford– not for his celebrity but for his commitment to the environment and land conservation.

Risk Worth Taking: Starting your own venture

Greatest Extravagance: Vacations and free time

Go-To Color Palette: I love all colors, but I think cream, black, and lavender together are so chic.

Rule to Break: In decorating there are no rules. If you need rules to follow, you lack real creativity.

Movie Set Design: The Sound of Music

I can never have too many… coffee table books

{Photography Courtesy of Mary McGee}

3 thoughts on “The Style Files: Mary McGee

  1. I am a HUGE fan of Mary! This was the best thing to wake up to in my inbox as an aspiring design student! Thanks for sharing Paloma!

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