It took Drew McGukin 10 years in real estate to finally accept that he was meant to be a designer. Obsessed with the renovating part of houses, he left his cushy job selling property in Atlanta for the New York School of Interior Design. He graduated in 2010 and that same year—after a stint at Matthew Yee Interiors—started his namesake firm with just two clients, hoping two would become three, three would become four, and so on.
Today, McGukin has clients that spread from coast to coast. Reed-thin, witty and a fireball of energy, McGukin is known for his unexpected, sophisticated combinations, layer upon layer of texture and bold patterns. "I get a lot of comments on my use of color and fabric selection. I spend a lot of time on figuring that out. It's a big part of what I do and what makes rooms so special. It's perfecting that combination of elegant and modern with warmth," says the designer.
Just last year, McGukin was selected by The New York Design Center as one of 30 designers to launch Access to Design, a concierge service that connects consumers to design professionals. This year, in between projects, he's working on prototyping chairs for a future Drew McGukin furniture line and exploring the possibility of doing a textile line.
McGukin's effortless elegance almost literally shines in an Upper West Side apartment. "This is a rental apartment and not a permanent home for a family with small children, so we needed to work from that point-of-view on both design and budget while keeping it sophisticated," he says.
The designer took cues from the clients' existing art, pulling in a lot of blues and reds juxtaposed against a warm neutral base. Metallics are weaved in without being over-the-top and flashy: a slight sheen on the wallpaper in the foyer, a vintage chair refinished in a French gray and covered in a shiny snakeskin, upholstered pieces with a metallic thread woven through. McGukin loves a good sculptural light for "zest," and here he uses a massive fixture that is bold but still clean and simple enough to not scream for attention.
Custom furniture plays a big role as well, grounding the space stylistically and creating less of a "rental" feel. And, bonus: it can easily move to another home. "The apartment really needed to be kid-friendly and somewhat casual, but we still wanted it to feel grown-up and put together," says McGukin. "It's the perfect example of how living in a rental—with kids—does not need to be cookie-cutter or chaotic."
· [Drew McGukin Interiors]