photographs by Melanie Acevedo text by Deanna Kizis
Interior designer Mary McDonald’s L.A. office
is a micro-model for giving a simple space
serious retro-Hollywood glamour. She
downloads her flair for drama.
Last spring, when a friend moving to New York offered McDonald his one-bedroom 1930s cottage to use as an office, she jumped. A high-end residential decorator, McDonald can’t stand business-y furniture, so she mentally conjured up a ’50s Christian Dior dress salon for her main work area, where ladylike powder-blue slipper chairs worthy of a master bedroom sit across from a chinoiserie desk. The room’s powder-blue, silver and white color scheme could have been too girly, but crisp details prevent that. McDonald paid careful attention to symmetry, placing her silver-plated desk lamps and the slipper chairs in near-perfect alignment. The fashion-photo display behind the desk also provides geometric precision.
A blown-up photocopy of a beloved wallpaper, cut and glued on!
A former milliner, McDonald loves fashion references. The theatrical drapes are “like a dress for my windows,” she says, while the mirrored mantelpiece feels more appropriate for a boudoir than a conference room. So does the palette: her formula of black and white, plus one color—here, it's a grown-up Barbie pink. (The pastels throughout the office are based on a box of Jordan almonds!) Two IKEA dressers have a new purpose—holding fabric swatches—and stand in stark relief on glossy black floorboards, as does the other white furniture.
Matelassè cutouts, sewn on by a seamstress, give custom black curtains optical texture.
McDonald likes to say that deep inside she’s always wearing a gown. So it’s no surprise that she transformed the office kitchen (left) into a cocktail party-worthy room. She painted black and cream stripes—to give the small room zip and an intriguing horizon—and glued on grosgrain ribbon trim for extra-clean edges. An old countertop looks more like a hip, mod sideboard with a coat of high-gloss white paint. And then there is the room’s red lipstick, so to speak: faux-coral lamps with silver-paper-lined shades, crimson lacquer stools from China and antique cinnabar jars and boxes (used to store sugar, teas and condiments). Carrying on the kitchen’s ribbon theme, a grosgrain-trimmed stairway features thick strips of black ribbon nailed beneath ceiling medallions mounted on the walls. These form an elegant backdrop for framed sketches.
Black trim is the ultimate finishing touch for walls and doors.