In this gorgeous book Mary McDonald offers page after page of stunning rooms that take your breath away. They're one-of-a-kind rooms which you don't forget easily. None of her rooms look alike although there are common features such as use of chinoiserie, stripes, saturated color, global elements and animal prints. The book is designed around chapters titled Seductive, Curate, Glamour and Grand Tour. Then she teases out the elements of these. The Seductive chapter includes elements that are labeled flirty, dressy, charm and whimsy. You see how these descriptives play out in her rooms through the photos.
Room decor is a kind of chemistry, so what do you want to combine? Everything is created twice, first as an idea, then tangibly. Before talking furniture styles or colors, what mood or emotion do you want the room to evoke? If you begin with the ideas (or adjectives), then everything you choose for the room can exemplify those elements. McDonald shows how she has done that through the adjectives she employs: flirty, charming, seductive, whimsical, chic, dramatic, global and colorful.
McDonald explains some ways she plans rooms. After considering the needs and lifestyle of the client, assessing the bones of the home etc. she says: "...I filter the plan through my own reservoir of inspiration which comes from so many sources: fashion, textiles, period clothing, old fonts, drips of water, peaks in whipped cream, old gold bullion, buttons, teacups, machinery parts, grasshoppers, lizards, animal furs, jewelry, rocks, minerals, leaves, flowers, the grain on an old piece of wood, the ridges on shells, black sand, bright plastic cups, Lucite, baby vegetables, fancy candies... my list is endless.... Creativity is like breathing for me--it's my life force." Her rooms are evidence of this, although I didn't see any grasshoppers.
McDonald is talented in using fabric in rooms which gives the rooms extra romance and softness. One of my favorite rooms is a gray and white bathroom in which she has placed a banquette created out of a striped cotton that is tufted with buttons; the fabric on it floats to the floor. She used to work as a milliner which explains her virtuosity with fabric. If you like furniture that looks like clothes--or that furniture pieces are wearing them--with ties, tufting, smocking, welting, ruffles, borders, beads and ribbons, you'll enjoy seeing the original pieces that she creates. Her rooms include many dress-maker details; it's obvious she has a love for fabric which is used innovatively. Several of the rooms in this book I'd seen in magazines before and thought what fascinating, stand-out stylish rooms without realizing the same designer had conceived them.
If you like more neutral understated rooms, you may find some of these rooms quite colorful. There are some more sober-colored rooms sprinkled throughout the book, but McDonald clearly is not afraid of bright colors. Some describe her rooms as "over-the-top", which I like. However, there is a yellow and black room that reminds me of when my sister-in-law went to work in a bold yellow and black suit and a coworker with salty language said, "Well, well, if it isn't a flippin' bumble bee." That's the only room I'd need to wear sun glasses for.
It's fun to read about how McDonald approaches design and study the vibrant photos of these breathtaking and memorable rooms. It seems she's comfortable experimenting and taking some risks which is why perhaps her rooms are one-of-a-kind. It's going to be a treat to follow her career (with her new show on BRAVO) and design trajectory. I look forward to many more books by her. This is one of the most interesting design books I've seen recently, and will kindle your imagination on possibilities in decorating.