The Style Files: Mary McDonald

Mary McDonald Cropped

 The “Style Files” series is my favorite series on La Dolce Vita because it allows me the opportunity to get to know some of my favorite interior designers and tastemakers a little better and in turn, share that with you. These posts are so fun for me because I am inevitably surprised by the subject’s answers. In this case, the fabulous Mary McDonald shares a surprising guilty pleasure and style icon or two. Mary really doesn’t need an introduction. Like me, you have probably been following her career for years and came to love her even more during her time on Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators. I’ve met Mary on a few occasions and we share some mutual friends and I can attest to the fact that she really is refreshingly down to earth and does not take herself too seriously in spite of her tremendous talent and impressive client roster. Mary has been one of the most influential modern-day designers in terms of my own style and approach to design. I love that she embraces elegance, symmetry, classicism, and Chinoiserie spinning these elements together in a way that feels modern and effortless. Mary loves graphic patterns, classic silhouettes, and bold statement jewelry– she is definitely a girl after my own heart!

In 2010, Mary released her first design tome, Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style with Rizzoli and has since designed a collection of lighting for Robert Abbey, fabric and wallpaper for Schumacher, and rugs for Patterson, Flynn, Martin. This past April, Mary debuted her new collection of furniture for Chaddock at High Point Market. The collection is stunning and completely speaks to Mary’s style. Each piece is decidedly glamorous and offers timeless appeal thanks to the fact that the collection is rooted in classic silhouettes modeled after Louis XVI and Greco-Roman styles. In a recent conversation with Mary, we talked about what is on the horizon for her, her signature style, and her favorite things.


Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Mary McDonald: Old School Modern

Mary McDonald Chaddock AD3

{A Vignette from Mary McDonald’s Beautiful New Line of Furniture for Chaddock as Editorialized in Architectural Digest | Image Credit: Kenton Robertson}

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

MM: The present, past, and future.

mary mcdonald chaddock AD2

{A Beautiful Bedroom Moment featuring Mary’s Furniture Collection for Chaddock | Image Credit: Kenton Robertson}

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

MM: Hmmm, the first ten that come to mind are Diana Vreeland, Millicent Rogers, Beatrice Wood, Maharani Gayatri Devi, Edward Scissorhands, Cristobal Balenciaga, Madeleine Castaing, CZ Guest, Lady Gaga and good old Auntie Mame. Try to make sense of that line up!

millicent rogers

{Millicent Rogers in a Charles James Gown}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

MM: Potato chips and lots and lots of them.

mary mcdonald painted floor

{This stunning dining room, with Mary’s signature painted floors is surely a great place to snack on potato chips!}

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

MM: Thick and thin loyalty.

mary and nathan

{Mary McDonald and Dear Friend, Nathan Turner in a Scene from Million Dollar Decorators}

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

MM: Every single job, client, charity event, licensing deal or television program. Nothing teaches you like the reality of actually doing something…nothing. No lessons are better learned than the triumphs and pitfalls of the actual “doing”.

mary mcdonald book cover

{Mary’s Book: Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style is a Personal Favorite of Mine}

PC: What three things are you currently obsessed with?

MM: Floral fabric, aubergine with blue and my Greek inspired Demetria chaise.

Mary McDonald Chaddock AD1

{Mary’s Demetria Chaise with Greek Key Detail for Chaddock | Image Credit: Kenton Robertson}

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

MM: Truly doing what makes you happy whether others accept it or not. As a laundry list of my own loves I think traveling somewhere new and truly different once or twice a year, being able to create and see your vision come to fruition and have truly loving family and friends in your life every year culminates to “la dole vita” for me.


{Mary on Vacation in Bali via her Instagram}

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

MM: I just came out with my first furniture collection for Chaddock seen in AD this month and High Point next month. My wallpaper just came out for Schumacher as well this year and I am working on a completely new collection of fabric for Schumacher to launch next Spring with a whole new twist. I have some new lighting this Fall for Robert Abbey and am trying to finalize projects for my next Rizzoli book as well as a new TV program.

mary mcdonald schumacher

{Mary’s Current Collection of Fabric and Trim for Schumacher shown with a Rug from her Collection for Patterson, Flynn, Martin}



Go-To Outfit: Black Pants or Skirt/ White Blouse/ Gold Chunky Jewelry/ Leopard Shoes

Style Mantra: Keep it classic and layer after that if you need to get kooky.

Scent: Chanel 5

Piece of Jewelry: heavy link gold bracelets or chunky semi precious stone necklaces.

Color I Never Tire Of:  Pink

Flower: Peony

Indispensable Design Element: One dramatic lighting element

Era for Design: Don’t have one, just people of design over multiple eras…

Dream Project: Princess Kate and William. Youthful but classic..

Fabric/Textile: My Chinois Palais for Schumacher. It’s very “me”

Hostess Gift: I always like hand towels to give and receive then soaps. Not too personal and needed by all.


Meal: Steak Frites

Drink: Vodka Soda with a Splash of Cranberry and Lime

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: With A Glass of Pinot Grigio and No Phone

Weekend Destination: I really love to lock the door and get cozy at home but when I do venture outside the city Palm Springs, La Jolla, Santa Barbara, Big Sur or Ojai are all good and equally available and appealing to me depending on whom I am with.. Oh and I LOVE Sedona, Arizona.

Hotel: Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodpur. It’s out of time. I also LOVE L’hotel in Paris and have stayed there even before Jacques Garcia redid it. Something is so Parisian magical about that staircase.

City: Capri or Paris or how about both. Then there is Fez because it is practically biblical.

Museum: The Louvre is still one of my favs.

Artist: John Singer Sargent

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: I can’t admit them– they are so top 40.

Actress: Cate Blanchett

Prized Possession: I love most of my junk, good and bad, but if I had to choose, I would say a large emerald ring from my mother.

Risk Worth Taking: Love

Greatest Extravagance: Buying evening dresses I don’t need at the time and seem to be not my thing anymore by the time I do need them.



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  1. Love Mary Mcdonald! So nice to have some insight into her world. I really miss Million Dollar Decorators and am so excited to hear she has a new show in the works. 🙂

  2. A great interview, thanks for sharing. I just met Mary McDonald in Melbourne in July and also loved how refreshingly down to earth she is. She also has a great sense of humour!