Welcome back to Curbed Interviews, wherein Raina Cox (of If the Lamp Shade Fits and Curbed's Moonlighting series) interviews major players in shelter media and interior design. Have a suggestion for someone whose voice should be heard? Send it here.
Los Angeles interior designer Mary McDonald once declared, "I try to force everyone to be more glamorous," and her signature Hollywood Regency/glam look is definitely not for shrinking violets. As the sharpest-tongued member of Bravo's Million Dollar Decorators, McDonald had some of the show's most memorable lines along the vein of “I think she thinks it looks chic, but it’s kinda like a glittery toilet seat.” The femme fatale recently spoke with us about upcoming projects (real and imaginary) and how working with design flash-sales site One Kings Lane—her Tastemaker tag sale ends tomorrow at 8 a.m. EST—has allowed her to shed old decorating skins.
Your fellow Million Dollar Decorators castmates traveled to far-flung locales—Martyn Lawrence-Bullard to the markets of London and Kathryn Ireland to Morocco—to find their One Kings Lane Container Sale selections. Yours is a little bit different in that you are actually selling items from your personal collection. What will we see?
Well, actually this is more truly in line with [One Kings Lane's] Tastemaker "Tag" Sale label, so to speak, [and the items are] from my warehouses of inventory. This particular type of sale both Martyn and Nathan, as well as Kathryn, have also had—just not on the show. We all have purchased items over the years throughout Europe, America, and the Far East, for not only clients but ourselves as well. It is a mélange of everything ranging from antiques a client replaced something better with, to designer curtains from an old Beverly Hills estate where I lived. We all have warehouses of inventory that gathers over the years from our world shopping, initially with a job in mind, and somehow these things get changed and it accumulates—as well as our past lives which I have many. I have things I just don't feel I want to design with from past homes here too, so I am letting them go.
How did you go about making your One Kings Lane choices? Do you have any favorites?
I am a real design hoarder, so my staff really has to slap my hand. No sooner would we catalog 10 items to sell would I think about taking them back. I love it all, so it's hard. Basically, we had to decide if we have a job for it right now. If so, it stays; if not, it had to go. We shop all over the world constantly, so we will find what we need again. My personal favorites are the leopard sofa (sold out for $2,799) and curtains (still available for $399), because I loved that old room in my house. But I have nowhere for them, so I am selling a piece of me. There are lots of famous people that sat on that sofa. I also loved the French twin beds (still available for $6,899) that I bought in Paris and kept intending to use them for my god children, but they never seem to find a home so my staff forced me!
You began your design career as a milliner and then moved into interiors. What other job do you think you'd be great at?
Hmmm... shoe designer, cake designer (Silvia Weinstock type), evening gown designer, talk show host, actress, therapist (I can listen to people's problems for hours), and maybe a floral designer. I can't decide here, but I could give those a shot.
Last year saw the release of your first book Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style and a lamp collection for Robert Abbey. What new projects are you working on?
I am currently working on a fabric and trim line for Schumacher, a rug line for Patterson Flynn and Martin, two more lines I can't quite discuss yet, as well as a second book.
If you and Nathan Turner—your "gay son/little brother," as you've described him—were to collaborate on a product, what would it look like?
Something food-related because he loves to cook, and he comes over and makes me dinner all the time. Or it could be baby bedding, and we could have Nathan's face in a bonnet as the drop tag. Boy, he will kill me for that! He and I do always joke that I am going to put him in a stroller with a bonnet and wheel him around like a Saturday Night Live skit. He wants to, by the way. So let's say: hip baby bedding with matching bottles. And men's ties.
Fess up—was the whole Dru storyline in episode 6 of MDD staged?
Everyone keeps asking me that! I wish it were! Funny thing is [a client like] Dru is not an uncommon experience. Look, Dru was really nice and I was edited meaner than any of my conversations with her [actually were], but the Drus of the world call me all the time with even bigger homes and driveways than that, so I am not sure why people are shocked. I know more people with money and questionable taste than not, so nothing shocks me. There are people reasoning this, thinking they have great taste, and it's just as bad as hers. In the end, everyone should have a house that makes them happy. I can tell some people are never going to appreciate where my strengths lie, and they should have a designer that can give them what they want. That just won't be me, so it's better to set each other free in the beginning. It's just another day in the life of Mary McDonald to me.
· Mary McDonald, Inc. [official site]
· Mary McDonald's Bold and Theatrical Design [House Beautiful]
· Episode Six: Mary Brings the Bitchy and Jeffrey Tears It Up [Curbed National]
· Mary McDonald Tastemaker Tag Sale [One Kings Lane]
· Mary McDonald's MDD blog: "Just Say No" [Bravo TV]
· If the Lamp Shade Fits [official site]