Clos-ette Case: Mary McDonald

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Linley Taber

If uber-designer Mary McDonald were running for president, her platform would be glamour. The Los Angeles resident is all about glamorous rooms (think Chinoiserie and floor-sweeping drapes), glamorous products (like her gorgeous lighting collection), and glamorous get-ups (a crisp white button-down and big baubles are a must). Even her trademark dry humor on full display in past seasons of Bravo's Million Dollar Decorators has a distinctly glamorous edge.  In short, the Los Angeles designer is on a mission to bring a little classic-but-fun razzle dazzle to everything she touches. (Hey, she has our vote.)

Here, the  decorator dishes on her trademark approach to design and dressing –and shares the details of her fantasy closet plan. 

(Photographer: Ninelle Efremova)

How would you describe your personal style?

Hmm. It’s a little WASPy-whimsy, a little bit sweater-set meets "Auntie Mame". It’s basically pretty classic, then there’s always something a little more whimsical. I never met a feather I didn’t like. It’s generally a little more formal than ‘super-hippie jeans’. I don’t really look that ‘California’, even though I grew up here. I didn’t grow up around blonde actresses –I grew up around people who were kind of uptight.

What's your daily uniform?

Black pants with a white shirt, a mid-heel pump, and some kind of big, chunky jewelry. It’s easier for me to wear my jewelry with a clean silhouette –that way I can kind of dress it up or dress it down, or make it much more whimsical. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t wear pretty much anything if there was a complete mood –I’ve been known to have a Spanish dancer’s outfit on, and ruffles and feathers and things like that. If there’s a theme going on, I commit. But on a daily basis, it’s really about how I’m accessorizing something clean and classic.

(Photographer: Melanie Acevedo)

How does the way you dress inform or inspire the rooms that you design?

Even interior-wise, I tend to start with a sense of balance, straight lines, and classicism, and then I will depart from there, once I know there is a basic sense of balance and simplicity. That’s where I might kick it up a notch. A room might have a bold, overscale patterned floor and  a jewel-toned ceiling, but all the sort of basic pieces, like the blocking of the furniture plan and the color scheme, are truly very balanced out. That way it seems like a moment of whimsy or a little surprise, and not a whole lot of craziness. 

What's the most cherished item in your closet?

I have so many strange, weird things  in my closet that I cherish. I have so many vintage evening bags, like a stone-studded evening purse I bought in India that I just love because it’s so authentic and nobody else has it.  I have a couple of vintage evening dresses , like one that was my grandmother’s and another that is vintage Bergdorf Goodman that looks like it’s from Dior. I like the whole costume aspect of fashion.

And what would we never find in your closet?

Birkenstocks. I don’t get it. I don’t care if they’re comfortable – I don’t get it.

(Photographer: Melanie Acevedo)

Are you more of a hoarder or a ruthless self-editor when it comes to your closet?

‘Hoarder’ sounds so negative, so  I almost want to say I’m more of a high-end, costume/stylist hoarder. Everything is super organized, but there’s tons of it. I have boxes of feathers and silk flowers and vintage pins, and evening bags in every single color you could imagine.

If you could design a no-holds-barred, no-budget dream closet for yourself, what would it look like?

It would probably look like the floor of Bergdorf's or Neiman’s. I love the idea of space, and I would want to be able see everything: You would be able to see every single purse lined up – no double rows of anything –and  it would have room for a thousand pairs of shoes, a section for evening wraps, a section for day wraps, cotton beach wraps. I like things by category, and within that category I like them by color. It would be like a cross between a drycleaners and a costume house, but with beautiful shelves and suede-lined drawers for every single thing. And it would have to be the size of my whole house!

Whose closet would you love to raid?

I would probably raid Daphne Guinness’ closet –she’s cool and she’s always got on a bunch of weird stuff that I like. That, or John Galliano’s archives from all the years gone by.

Posted in clos-ette case