The Style Files: Ray Booth


Ray Booth  is an interior designer and partner at McAlpine, Booth & Ferrier, which has gained a reputation as one of the most highly sought-after and lauded design firms in the country, and in particular, the South. The firm is known for creating a very identifiable point of view– one that seamlessly blends old-world style and time honored materials with a modern sensibility. Opting for rich, saturated neutrals in favor of bright colors, their interiors imbue classic, comfortable settings with drama and glamour while their architecture features a distinct combination of reverence for the past and a modern sensibility. You can usually spot their architecture because the homes they design usually bear the hallmark of stunning, soaring windows.

Ray is a native of Alabama and a graduate of the Auburn University School of Architecture. Upon graduation, Ray headed to New York where he worked for the legendary John Saladino. Eventually, Ray returned to his southern roots, joining his former professor, Bobby McAlpine in the founding of McAlpine, Booth & Ferrier. Ray currently divides his time between the firm’s New York office and his home in Nashville. His dual-residency has informed his point of view and gives him a unique insight into the needs of his clients, regardless of their geographic location. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ray about his background, design philosophy, and his favorite things. I think you’ll find him as thoughtful and inspiring as I do. Enjoy!


Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Ray Booth: I strive for a sense of style that is composed of a wealth of players…it is a lot like casting a great party. Every guest is not the same age, from the same city, nor has the same demeanor, but together you know they will “click.” I hope to create something unexpected by composing an interior or house from things that are not of the same origin. I want my style to resonate and move people emotionally first. Moving them intellectually is not as important to me.

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PC: You split your time between New York and Nashville. How do the two cities differ in terms of design aesthetic? Do you find that clients have different needs in one city versus the other?

RB: On a pure need and functionality level the two cities do differ greatly… a house offers vastly different opportunities for accommodation… while a home in the city requires incredible efficiency. But underlying both is a human emotional need which we all share – the need to find balance and harmony, peace and grace in our homes. New York’s aesthetic asks of you to stand a little more on point, to have a little more awareness and elegance in your furnishings…. In Nashville (and indeed in many of the other cities in which we work work ),there is more of a relaxed posture that feels right. But in any event, the real “master” who determines the “ feel” of the aesthetic is our client. That’s why it’s most important for us to listen to them and understand their needs and wants.

Ray Booth FamilyRm2-000047B

PC: What does your home say about you?

RB: I hope it says that we have an open, soaring and graceful heart, that we are connected to our context and acknowledge a greater power in play, that we are exploring, searching and yet never lose awareness of where we have come from and all the great design that has come before us.

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PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

RB: I crave to understand what drives our clients. What is the small seed we can extract from our time with them that allows us to foster, cultivate and nurture some new design that is unique and meaningful to them.

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PC: Who are your personal style icons?

RB: I have to say I continue to be inspired by my partners… I feel so lucky to get to walk along with them and find inspiration in the small moments of time I have with them. I also will always be grateful to John Saladino for making me aware of the power and intrigue in interiors. Having been trained in architecture, my time working with John was like a master’s class. No one can paint with the palettes that he does.   Lately, I have also been moved deeply by seeing the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Victoria Albert in London. It was an amazing place to go and view the historical costumes (at the V&A) and dress collection there first, then to tour the McQueen exhibit and learn how this man was a master tailor first. He educated himself in how to technically master the way to dress a body and clearly was educated in historical style. From that platform he sprung into an incredible creativity… but the beauty to me lies in his knowledge of the craft. It’s a great lesson for me in the work I do.

mcqueen savage beauty victoria albert

{Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

RB: Planting ferns, mosses, well hell… planting anything makes me crazy. Also Chocolate cake with chocolate icing… real cake, not molten, flourless or ANY fancy cake just plain old moist chocolate CAKE! Kind of makes me a little crazy… and throw in Vanilla bean icing and I am done for.

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

RB: Kindness melts my heart for anyone.

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

RB: In truth I feel like I am so blessed in that I am living the sweet life at the moment. That is not to say that it is all sweet all the time. There is a GREAT deal of hard work and a continued quest to expand my own horizons (largely architecturally). But I am ever grateful for the life I have, the homes I have, the people I am blessed to travel my path with, and the work that I get to do.

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

RB: I will be working on big changes in our partnership and company as we all re-commit ourselves to each other and creating the most spectacular work we can together. I look forward to presenting my own book of work in the next year, as well as more and more projects in which I have authorship both architecturally as well as in terms of the interiors.

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Go-To Outfit: Hudson or Joe Jeans/ Paul Smith fitted shirt and blazer/ rag and Bone or Alexander McQueen tie

Style Mantra: Be who you are.

Piece of Jewelry: Tiffany wedding band/ My husbands cast off Tag Heuer Carrera watch

Color I Never Tire Of: Blue

Flower/Plant: Ferns

Indispensable Design Element: The found object… it is the untraceable magic.

Era for Design: Love Directoire / 1940’s French / Today

Dream Project: This has to be my own home… it is the only place you really are allowed to create without any constraints.

Fabric/Textile: You would be hard pressed to not find a Belgian Linen on one of my jobs.

Hostess Gift: An apology for not bringing a hostess gift ( so bad)

Drink: Tequila makes me happy. But most often a Vodka Martini.

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: Cocktails in the pool with my guy!

3 Things I Love About My City- Nashville: Hilltops/Graciousness/Music….. NYC-Diversity/energy/architecture


Weekend Destination: The beaches of Vieques

Hotel: La Mamounia – Morrocco / Hotel Montalembert- Paris

City: Love Madrid

Actor/Actress: Daniel Day Lewis

Prized Possession: my husband (although he’s not a possession)

Risk Worth Taking: stepping off the beaten path – the decision to move to Montgomery, Alabama was a risk but by making that choice everything I ever wanted came into my life.

Greatest Extravagance: weekends in Vieques

Go-To Color Palette: I’m guided by what I see outside of the window – I believe in context

Rule to Break: Don’t use draperies only on the windows

Movie Set Design: Anything Pedro Almodovar or Fellini

I can never have too many…chocolate chip cookies


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Tell Me What You Think! leave a comment...

  1. I went to his site and love the bedroom with the Rino wall photo. I love how he mixes a Masculine design and softens it. I have 3 adult boys and a husband and i find it hard to achieve or find design for men. Great talent thanks for posting.

  2. I love his work, amazing. I’m a fan of real chocolate cake with vanilla icing too! And any kindness melts my heart too. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Paloma:
    Thanks for the wonderful interview with Ray. I’ve known him since he was an architecture student. He’s as lovely as he is talented and its been great watching him blossom over the years.

  4. Ray is an amazingly talented designer and that he is part of one of the best architectural and design firms in the country says the world! Love your interview Paloma!!

    The Arts by Karena