Designer Spotlight: Mary McDonald

I first came across interior designer Mary McDonald’s work on the television show Million Dollar Decorators (a guilty pleasure that was, tragically, cancelled only after 2 seasons). Out of all the designers featured on the show, her work stood out to me the most for its consistent vision, striking patterns, and eye-catching color schemes, all the while maintaining a sort of elegance “with a backbone.”


Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna

Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna

I love her distinctly feminine glamour in this room. The carefully chosen pieces of pink pop against deep navy blues and velvets. Everything in this entire room is balanced, elegant, and tasteful.


Photo by Tim Street-Porter

Photo by Tim Street-Porter

Based in LA, McDonald has a distinctly Old World glamour to her looks. She injects a richness into the colors and fabrics of her rooms that injects a sense of energy into the stabilizing symmetry of her schemes. She herself has designed a line of lamps, fabrics, and other furniture pieces. I believe the two yellow pillows in this picture are from her collection.

I love how the symmetry in this room is thrown off just slightly by the daybed and the couch, but pulled together by their common color schemes. The collection of small pictures frames hanging on the wall echo the scale of the oval detailing on the bookcases.

One of the most daring and admirable design moves that McDonald will do is to paint the floors. Now, I don’t know that I would ever be able to bring myself to paint over hardwood floors, but it certainly makes a statement here. In a good way. I also love the use of the yellow lamps in the niches. I normally shy away from yellow, but the shade here is a rich sort of marigold-yellow.


Photo by Tim Street-Porter

Photo by Tim Street-Porter

Zigzags on the floor and marble on the counters? Somehow it works. The soft drapery adds a dreamy overcast to the entire room. I’m pretty sure this would be my ideal bathtub to sink into on the weekends.

Her book Interiors: The Allure of Style has many more of these incredible food-for-the-eyes schemes. She’s also given a rather engaging lecture at Telfair Museums which has been made available online here.

Are there any designers you go to for inspiration? Let me know in the comments below.

August 22, 2016
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