Gary McBournie decorates with pops of colour the perfect amount of pattern and classic charm. After studying graphic design, painting and art history at the New England School of Art in Boston, he by virtue of a chance encounter began working as a design assistant for Richard Fitzgerald, who swiftly sent Gary on his first European trip, starting a long love affair with Paris. In 1992 he established his own firm and has been creating warm and inviting homes for his clients ever since. We were lucky enough to give Gary (and Bill) a gentle grilling while working on their current project in Paris
Your Career high so far
I can’t name just one. I have had the privilege of working on a number of grand historic homes, both at home abroad, with a fabulous client. The projects have addressed infrastructure issues as well as decoration and it gives me great pleasure to know they will survive long into the future.
Biggest design no-no?
Working without a designer, lol! Seriously though, there has to be a well thought out vision or the project will end up looking like a stall at a street fair, and a lot of money will have been wasted.
What is the one thing you have found for a clients house you wish you had kept for yourself?
Between projects that I do for myself and the ones that I do for clients, there are a lot of items! That said, every once in a while, there will be that one thing that tugs at me. In this case, it is an English armillary on an antique pedestal that I bought at Balsamo Antiques in NYC for my own home on Nantucket. When it was time to sell the house, I could no longer use it but I could not part with it either. Rather than take it to storage I gave it to a client where it became a centerpiece in her garden, and I am free to enjoy whenever I visit.
Your house is on fire what one thing do you save?
My father died when I was twelve and I keep a photo of him on my bedside table that means a great deal to me. In the event of a fire, it would be the first (and maybe only) possession that I would try to save.
Has your style changed over your career, or has it been constant?
I have always been a traditional designer, floating somewhere between the minimalists and the maximalists. I have also always loved colour and pattern and a mix of styles. Over the years, I have had an opportunity to travel the world which has provided a great deal of inspiration, and which has added a certain degree of sophistication to my work.
Top three religiously followed Instagram accounts
I like to look at Paul Bert Serpette because I am a Paris flea market junkie. From there I generally follow several hashtags, #travel and #interiordesign being two. I like the hashtags because I am likely to encounter something I may not have seen before.
Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
The best advice I received as a young designer was to travel and it was given to me by first employer, Richard Fitzgerald. He felt so strongly about this that he sent me to England and France with a directive to see as much architecture, art, gardens, and design as possible. The experience stays with me to this day.
Favourite room in your house?
My spouse and I are real estate junkies so our “home” is constantly changing. However, no matter where we may be, our favourite room is the bedroom. Seriously, it is. I believe that bedrooms are for more than sleeping and outfit them accordingly. We tend to start each day in our robes working from a pair of down-filled lounge chairs with an oversized nightstand or end table nearby for a laptop or cup of coffee. Day end usually finds us back in those chairs or under a cashmere throw on the bed propped up with pillows where we may still be answering emails or (hopefully) otherwise engaged in reading a book or magazine or watching the latest Netflix or Amazon Prime series on our iPads.
You seem to love to travel, where is the place you could go to over and over?
I am very fortunate to be able to travel quite often and I do visit some spectacular places. My heart, however, resides in Paris. The romance of the city,- so rich in history, architecture, art and design- is undeniable. One of my dreams has always been to shop the antique district on the left bank and to carry my treasures back to a local project that I would be working on. Somehow wine and flowers were also involved in the fantasy. Well, we are now working on a large project in a historic building in Paris and I am shopping away- enjoying every moment. As for the “carrying” part of the fantasy, I have brought wine, flowers, and some delicious cheeses to the apartment but, truth be told, Hedley’s has delivered everything else.
Favourite project to date (if you can pick) and why?
I suppose I am somewhat fickle in that something I just finished always becomes my favourite and I look forward to having it photographed. At the moment, we recently completed a project in northern California on the top of a mountain. It is a historic structure and resembles an Italian villa. The project took over seven years to complete as there were many infrastructure issues. The delays, while frustrating at times, provided more time and opportunities to source unique items. The finished product really does seem like it is a boutique hotel somewhere in Italy and the client is very happy. The opportunity to breathe life into such a neglected property was extremely satisfying.
Gary’s selection of favourite items;