Fine Print: Mary McDonald’s New Book – The Allure of Style

Mary McDonald has finally published a book, Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style, and it is amazing. Many of the pages feature her Beverly Hills estate,  but there’s also a Bill Blass inspired bachelor pad, as well as the favorites we know from Domino, like the green and pink striped King’s Road media room,  the bedroom with the pagoda-shaped headboard and orange pillows, and the pink entry adorned with gilded Chinoiserie mirror and zebra skin rug. There are plenty of photos of Mary too, who is as elegant and beautiful as her rooms. I had no idea she started out as a milliner after attending Parsons. She’s based in L.A. now, which is where she grew up. I’ve been corresponding with her via email, and she’s as gracious and lovely as she looks.

Rizzoli (October 2010)

The always helpful folks at Rizzoli have allowed me to publish ten photographs from the book.

I love the boldness of this room, and the symmetry. I assumed it was a guest room, but no . . . it’s a room for twin girls. Mary designed the twin beds. The finials on the footboards and valance are an interesting detail. Toys? Apparently in baskets on floor-to-ceiling shelves on the other side of the room.

I hadn’t seen this photo before. It’s a detail of either the foyer or dining room of Harkham House in Beverly Hills. I love the stenciled wood floor and the black-and-white photographs (by designer Vicente Wolf) of bamboo, a fun riff on Mary’s usual, more ornate faux bamboo details.

Oh, to have this dressing room, those dresses, and that life. (Though it is the Veranda Greystone Mansion Show House.) The walls are panelled in gray suede, and the rear wall is draped with pleated charcoal faille. She added a velvet inset to the top of the fabulous acrylic Allan Knight vanity. The gilded mirror, which looks like it’s floating, hangs from ruched-fabric-covered chains. The ceiling is covered in silver paper from Phillip Jeffries, and the pagoda chandelier, which looks like wicker, is actually crystal. The dresses? From Mary’s personal collection of vintage couture.

A room in the Veranda Greystone Mansion Show House. Mary aimed for the aura of an haute couture salon in Paris. The trim is painted a creamy semi-gloss and the wall panels are covered in a Phillip Jeffries ultrasuede. The daybed is a low tuxedo sofa hung with a Zoffany fabric. I thought the back wall was covered in wallpaper, but it’s actually a hand-painted chinoiserie screen. Loving the acrylic Allan Knight coffee table and the painted striped ceiling. The large photos are interior images of Moscow’s Ostankino Museum, by Miguel Flores-Vianna, who shot many of the photos in this book.

The original black-and-white marble floors in Mary’s breakfast room reminded her of Laudrée, a Paris bakery, and was the starting point for the design.  The faux French vintage chairs came with the house. She had them lacquered the same gray-flannel color as the tablecloth. The layered window treatment included shell-pink, cotton faille curtains with a pleated valance, a striped under curtain, and black-and-white damask Roman shades. Recognize the chandelier? It’s similar to (or maybe the same  plus lampshades) the beaded crystal one in the room above. Mary found it in Paris. So lovely and tres français.

Mary’s aqua and white bedroom with millwork, which she had made for the room, reminds her of a fondant cake. She based the design of the bed on a Thomas Chippendale cabinet she spotted in a book. The supports are faux bamboo; the fretwork and carved pagodas are fabulous. The klismos leg coffee table was custom made;  the graphic upholstery of the footstool adds a dash of ’70s style.

A detail in the room shows part of Mary’s collection of blanc de Chine and Quan Yin figurines.

Her sitting room is very symmetrical – apparently her friends tease her that it looks like she’s about to hold a board meeting here. The color scheme is based on a bolt of vintage 1950s brown and aqua striped fabric, now the square pillows on the sofa. The drapes are matelassé from Ralph Lauren, trimmed with carved wooden bells and gauffrage ribbon.

Mary’s beyond wonderful dressing table, a restored mirrored piece from the 1926 Buster Keaton estate in Beverly Hills, a home she helped to remodel. The fanciful hardware is original. The top is covered with Mary’s collection of jewelry-filled pink Murano glass ashtrays which she inherited from her grandmother. I absolutely love, love, love the flame-stitch wallpaper, which I believe is Osborne & Little. She writes that the contemporary pattern keeps the room from feeling too “old ladyish.” Note the fun feathers Mary tucked at hte top of the gilded mirror to hide some damage. She calls it a “tad showgirly” but “amusing for a closet.” Heavenly.

And finally, an overview of the dressing room. I could live in here happily. Mary says she wanted the “closet” to have a lounging area as if it were an elegant dress salon from a bygone era. It has 18th century chairs and a rock-crystal chandelier.

The wardrobe does not have doors so that she could enjoy the sweeping view of her dresses, handbags, and shoes. (Note the sweaters folded on the left, and the pink wicker baskets, likely from Pottery Barn Kids.) Here’s how she organizes her stuff: The evening bags are hung on hooks and arranged by color, beginning with pink and gold and then moving to silver and gray, black, green, and brown. The shoes are color-coded, too.

Author: StyleCarrot

Marni Elyse Katz is a design writer and editor who lives in Boston and Cape Cod with her husband, two sons, and a cat. She blogs about design at

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