The Style Files: Elizabeth Pyne of McMillen, Inc.

Elizabeth Pyne is part of the team at the legendary design firm, McMillen Inc. which was founded in 1924 by Mrs. Drury McMillen. It is the oldest, continuously-run design firm in the United States. Over the years, McMillen has designed residences for high profile clientele including legendary socialite and style icon Babe Paley and has been where some of the best designers of the last century, such as Albert Hadley and Mark Hampton began their design careers. While McMillen has a storied past, it is a modern firm that looks to the future and is on the pulse of what is happening now.

Elizabeth Pyne is part of the younger generation of designers at the firm. She joined McMillen in 2009 after working at Sotheby’s as a specialist in the Old Master Paintings department in an effort to make the firm more accessible to younger design clients. In the years since, Elizabeth has completed projects in Chicago, New York City, and Long Island and her work has been featured in House and Garden, Traditional Home, and House Beautiful which named her to their list of “Next Wave” Designers in 2015. It is wonderful to see the reverence for the past that Elizabeth and the McMillen team hold dear, while looking to the future as they design fresh, beautiful, and timeless spaces.

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Elizabeth Pyne: Carefully thought-out, deliberate, tailored, and timeless.

PC: How has living in New York influenced your aesthetic?

EP: Because I was born and raised in New York City I was exposed to many different aesthetic styles and periods of architecture from a very young age.  I remember as a little girl looking out my bedroom window (day dreaming instead of doing my homework!) and making mental notes of which buildings I liked and didn’t like.  (I remember I had a distinct aversion to a post-war apartment building on Madison Avenue… the exterior was clad in baby blue colored brick…!)  And because my grandmother, Betty Sherrill, was a decorator, I spent my childhood going with her and my mother to NYC antique shops and to the art fairs that come to New York City every season.  All of this exposure has made me comfortable working in a variety of vernaculars.  I am just as confident in my ability to use 18th century furniture as I am using 20th century furniture.

PC: What does your home say about you?

EP: That I love color, patterns, texture, furniture with whimsical details, and beautiful objects.

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

EP: McMillen’s vast archives, which go back to the 1920s, my mother, Ann Pyne’s, projects, Instagram, and shelter magazines.

{A Watercolor Rendering of a McMillen Project from 1961}

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

EP: Marella Agnelli and Jacqueline de Ribes.

{Marella Agnelli’s Bedroom in Marrakech}

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

EP: Honesty and humor.

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

EP: Ice Cream

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

EP: My first boss, George Wachter, Chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America and Co-Chairman of Old Master Paintings Worldwide.  George taught me how to set professional boundaries, not to be too impulsive, and to be confident in my opinions.

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

EP: Traveling with my husband, hosting summer dinner parties on our lawn in Southampton, and swimming in the ocean.

Go-To Outfit– A dress and flats.

Style Mantra– Be yourself

Scent –If you mean perfume, I haven’t worn it since I was thirteen and I doused myself in Calvin Klein’s ck one. My mother and brother teased me so much that I’ve avoided perfume ever since.

Piece of Jewelry –my CVC stone necklace. My husband gave it to me for my 36th

Color I Never Tire Of – Blue

Flower –Gardenias and Daffodils

Indispensable Design Element –A good furniture plan

Era for Design –The present

Dream Project –An apartment in one of the following Rosario Candela designed Park Avenue co-ops: 740 Park Avenue, 770 Park Avenue, 1220 Park Avenue, or One Sutton Place South.

Hostess Gift – In New York City, flowers (always given after the party, never before. The hostess has likely already planned her flowers and will feel obliged to display yours.) Out of town, I like to send a set of linen cocktail napkins, but after I’ve seen the design of their house.  The first time I stayed with my in-laws at their house in Biarritz I made the mistake of bringing a set of hand-painted water glasses as a present. Off they went into the dishwasher, most of the paint came off, and in order to not hurt my feelings, my amazing in-laws have the flaking water glasses out at every meal!

Meal – In the late fall and winter, The Mark hotel’s Fettuccine with Meyer lemon, parmesan, and black pepper is my favorite. In the summer, I love everything The Canal Café in Hampton Bays.

Drink – Bundaberg Ginger Beer

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work – Taking our schnauzer Clementine to Central Park.

Weekend Destination – Our family house in Southampton, New York

Hotel – Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Cap d’Antibes, France, and The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, Japan

City –Rome and Venice

Museum – The Prado, Madrid

Artist – At the moment, Wayne Thiebaud

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood – “Spirit in the Sky,” by Norman Greenbaum

Prized Possession –Inanimate object: my 6” high Lynn Chadwick sculpture.It sits on a side table in our living room.  But I would trade it and everything else I own for our teacup schnauzer Clementine.  She is the light of my life.

Risk Worth Taking –Giving a client your honest opinion

Greatest Extravagance– Buying and decorating our new apartment. We paid for light, layout and proportion – for me the ultimate luxuries – but we sacrificed square footage.  (Incidentally our new apartment building is also Candela-designed, albeit much humbler than one of my “dream project” buildings.)

Go-To Color Palette – Teal and gray

Movie Set Design– I Am Love

I can never have too many… Objects

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  1. Still laughing a bout the comments Re the hand painted glaSs , sweet belle mere bad house keeper ! Fun bold use of colours for shoes and walls