clos-ette case: Brian J. McCarthy

Posted on October 03, 2011 by Melanie Charlton

If and when you find yourself in possession of a large ambassador’s residence, Park Avenue penthouse, or Bel Air estate, Clos-ette has some advice for you.  First, invite us over for drinks and let us convince you to turn the ballroom and/or staff quarters into the world’s largest closet. Then, get designer Brian J. McCarthy on the phone, stat.  Known for versatile, antique-studded interiors, McCarthy has a knack for blending the classic grandeur that most stately homes deserve with the personal styles of his clients. The New Yorker –and former Albert Hadley protégé –thus ensures that each of his stunning projects feels fresh and unique. Even better: he’s an utter joy to work with. (And we’re saying this from experience, not just because his impeccable organizational skills rival our own.)

clos-ette case: Brian J. McCarthy 

Here, the celebrated decorator tells us about his love for bespoke clothing, his “type triple A personality,” and how he’d deck out his dream closet.

How would you describe your personal style?

Kind of edited, and modern traditional.

What’s your daily uniform?

Really, it varies day to day. Today, I’m in jeans, a Charvet shirt with French cuffs, and nice shoes. And I would say that’s very often how I dress nowadays. I put on a coat and tie when it’s required, but that’s certainly not every day. So many of my clients nowadays are quite casual in their approach to dressing, so I adopt the same idea. It makes it quite easy.

A Bel Air living room McCarthy designed.

How is your personal style reflected in your approach to interiors?

I would say it’s equally edited, and specific to [the situation]. In the case of working with clients, it would be specific to the client’s lifestyle, and their personal taste. I’m very much a kind of chameleon that way. I definitely have a very strong point of view when I approach all jobs that I do, but it’s very much about getting into the mindset of the client and interpreting it. So at the end of the day, when they walk in the door, it’s their door they’re walking through, into their home, which belongs to them, and not a reflection of me as their decorator.

What designers can’t you live without?

For shoes, it’s John Lobb. For clothing it’s Oxxford, it’s Kiton. There’s a shop in Paris called Hartwood, and I have a lot things made by them. They’re kind of my de facto for a lot of things, including jackets and pants. Also, Paul Smith. I’ve done some bespoke things with him, and it’s fabulous because they have these wonderful antique and new saris that you can line jackets with. It’s fantastic as man because how fashionable can you really be, especially at my age, without looking stupid? So it’s kind of fun when you can open up a jacket and have a crazy lining. [Our Signature Coat Hangers are the only suitable home for beautiful bespoke coats].

Another look from McCarthy's portfolio. 

How would you design a no-expense-spared dream closet?

I would do it in oak, probably very Jean-Michel Frank inspired. It might even be chiseled oak, and I might combine that with leather. It could have leather tabs, and the rods could be wrapped in leather. It would be very kind of chic, masculine, super-organized for everything, down to drawers for pocket squares and cufflinks and watches. I love that kind of organization.

How do you stay so organized?

It’s easy. That’s my nature. I’m a Virgo. If everything has a home, you put it back in its home at the end of every day. When I take my shoes out, I take the shoe trees, and those go in place of the shoe. I get home, I take my shoes off, I put the shoe tree back in. I mean, everything goes back to where it belongs. [Neat freaks love our Scented Folding Boards for creating the ultimate streamlined closet.]

tie storage   shoe shelves, shoe storage, shoe trees

Inside McCarthy's own closet. 

What are the most cherished items in your closet?

Pocket squares I bought in Paris probably 25 years ago. They are these wonderful Indian-print silks that are the most beautiful things. Every time I wear them, somebody comments. At the time I probably bought about eight of them. They’re just the most beautiful colors, and they swing with so many different types of things. Like the jacket linings, they become such a great accessory.

What would never find in your closet?


Whose closet would you raid if you could?

I would have to say Alexander McQueen –but it wouldn’t be for me to raid a closet for things I would want to wear. I would want to get in to see the archives of things that he had, because it’s so extraordinary.

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