As soon as the lift doors to the Ivy Sunroom opened, we knew we were in for a special event.
Mary McDonald, award-winning Los Angeles-based designer was in the building and the room was a buzz.
There could not have been a more appropriate venue for the event — apple green and white candy stripe wall, different seating arrangements around the room, oversized white rattan light shades in pairs, and a collection of mirrors across the far wall all seemed perfectly placed for Mary’s arrival.
Mary kicked off her lecture by sharing how she got into the interior design industry.
“I always took an interest in my home,” said Mary.
“How I ended up in interiors is people asked me to style their homes. It sort of came to me. I never did formal training. I love style.”
Her career actually started in the fashion industry. Mary was a successful milliner in her 20s, selling in major department stores and even appearing in iconic fashion magazines like Bazaar. She picked fashion for no other good reason than needing to pick a career in design. The room erupted in laughter as she said that, with many young designers there empathising with that challenge.
She told funny stories from her college days about splitting the dorm room right down the centre — her side completely over styled in a black, white and red colour scheme, while the other side looked like any typical dorm room.
Throughout the lecture, she shared many examples of her previous work and explained how they’ve influenced her collection of fabrics and trims for Schumacher & Co, rug line for Patterson, Flynn and Martin, and lighting collection for Robert Abbey.
“Chinoiserie”, “Neapolitan ice-cream” and “premeditated whimsy” are just some of the phrases Mary regularly used to describe her style.
“I don’t just like one thing [style] but I don’t like them all at once,” said Mary.
We were surprised by Mary’s honesty and ability to not take her self too seriously. She even opened up about some #fails like having a $100,000 custom dining table made in Paris only to have it arrive damaged and needing to be completely rebuilt.
“These things happen.”
When she said things like “I do love a bit of animal print, you just have to be careful not to come off super tacky. I like an all-leopard room.” we knew we had an affinity.
Her lecture was a series of hilarious one liners that had the room in hysterics. Whether it was about her clients “In LA they want to tear everything down that’s more than three years old because they’re worried it might be too much history” or her luxurious style “This bed only had a bed head; Usually they’re a bit more come hither with four posts”, she wasn’t afraid to make fun.
Amongst the comedy she also shared some of her top styling tips:
– pick a colour for the room and make it pop with white (she used this trick in a blue and white tent playroom, pink and white master bedroom and green and white dining room)
– create a collection of something, anything, and make it a wall feature (crocket sets, assorted mirrors and wooden fish bowls were just some of the examples she showed)
– paint the back of bookshelves with a dark colour and don’t just fill them with books to create a library feel, use them to also display special objects
– can’t afford marble flooring? No bother. Painted stencil directly to concrete flooring or on seagrass wall-to-wall rugs offer affordable alternatives
– use different seating groups to make a space warm and inviting
– create a focus for your eye to go to, and
– most importantly pick a style and commit to it!
The event was a fantastic opportunity to learn from Mary’s experiences and rub shoulders with others in the industry while we sipped on fresh lemonade after the lecture. Greg Natale and Diane Bergon were just some of the big names who attended (and yes, we got snaps with them too!).
Keep an eye on the Mercer School of Interior Design for future events as this is the first in a series of international speakers they’re organising.
PS – huge thanks to Monika from My Pad Property Styling for the wonderful company and kindly introducing us to so many talented people, xx