Mary McDonald’s Home Decor Shopping Tips

The vivacious Los Angeles–based designer shares her current decorating likes and dislikes — plus advice on how to buy home furnishings.

Mary McDonald shopping in Los Angeles’s La Cienega Design Quarter. Photo by Manfredi Gioacchini

What’s trending with clients:

“Most people are wanting to be cool and modern, even the traditionalists, so mid-century-inspired seating along the lines of Vladimir Kagan or Gigi Radice, as well as organic stone and crystal tables and lighting.”

McDonald filled this Laguna Beach house with mid-century and contemporary pieces, along with organic stone elements. Photo by Karyn Millet

What turns her off:

“I’m really arty deep down, so even the weirdest, ugliest stuff gets me thinking, ‘How could you make that work?’ That said, gold spray-painted anything pretending it’s doré bronze. Or kitschy ’50s things with pictures of poodles on it and pretentious salespeople who make you wade through a sea of it.”

How to shop with a designer eye:

“Pretend your room is a cityscape with varying buildings to create that visual landscape when you walk in a room. You want to see relief in heights with your eye so it moves and the room has smooth punctuations as well. When shopping, ask yourself, ‘What part of the cityscape is this piece fulfilling?’ ”

This Beverly Hills estate contains objects of multiple heights, giving it the visual depth and variety of a cityscape. Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna

How to avoid buyer’s remorse:

“Don’t buy things that are the latest ‘It’ thing for no reason or have no cohesion to your interior. Also, stay away from pieces that are not thought out for scale. It’s so easy to fall in love with a chandelier that looks like a single hanging bulb once it’s installed.”

McDonald’s former home office reveals her affection for the color pink. Photo by Miguel Flores-Vianna

Her shopping weakness:

“Eccentric chairs, pink Opaline boxes, vintage jewelry, glamorous stools. I have a lot of weaknesses.”

See Mary McDonald’s 1stdibs Picks

Plus, Read about Her Recent L.A. Shopping Spree in Introspective


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