Living Color

A Designer Works Magic with Traditional Interiors
By Gary McBournie

Interior Design
September 2013
ISBN: 978-1-938461-08-8
252 Pages / Over 350 Illustrations

$75 USD

Located in a Beaux Arts building in the landmarked district known as Ladies’ Mile, the duplex, converted from a manufacturing loft to a residence in the late 1990s, retained a bare-bones, industrial feeling. My clients had wanted me to give their downtown place an uptown look, using New York in the 1930s as our inspiration. I incorporated details such as fluted columns, scalloped chair rails, deep crown moldings, ornamental ironwork, silver-leafed ceilings, and lots of mirrors.

In the master bedroom, a down-filled chaise covered in an angora mohair from Clarence House is the perfect spot for a late-afternoon nap. I draped the four-poster walnut-and-iron bed from Rose Tarlow Melrose House with an exotic blue and green design.

Rather than designing another white kitchen, I chose to paint the cabinets a deeper shade of the Palladian blue used in the living room. Aside from uniting both parts of thehouse, the color inspired a strong sense of familiarity, and reminded me of the many hours I spent with my grandmother when I was a child. A large tole tray behind the cooktop serves as a backsplash. Ample overhead lighting is provided by a large wind bowl, one of a pair in the room.

The lower-level media room had previously been a neglected area of the house, with exposed ductwork, black walls, and heavy leather furniture. It was so gloomy that there was a concern that anyone would ever want to spend time there. My goal was to connect the dungeon-like room to the rest of the house and make it as attractive as possible.

For the walls of the hallway to the master bedroom, left, I decided on a coral Venetian plaster that gave off a warm glow. The master bathroom, right, was oversized and had numerous windows on all its outside walls, but a wallpaper in a wide stripe of yellow, coral, and white overcame these infelicities.

The library, with its étagères filled with novels left behind by guests, as well as a collection of tropical shells, also serves as an informal office–a perfect spot to check emails and the latest stock market results. A cheerful landscape by a local artist hangs over the square-armed sofa, which has been covered in a pale blue-and-white stripe from Dek Tillett. Instead of a natural-fiber rug, I used a geometric-patterned kilim in shades of blue, turquoise, and white to give the smaller interior space some pop.

The kitchen was designed to resemble the galley of a boat. The open grates provide ventilation and also conceal the stored appliances. The marine blue floor has been spatter-painted in tans, white, and red. The weather-worn wooden-planked ceiling recalls Nantucket’s rich maritime history.

Draperies crafted from a hand-blocked linen floral from Lee Jofa, and a grass-green sofa, provide a nice foil to the golden yellow walls of the family room. A walnut-topped table has been paired with four mahogany Chippendale-style chairs to serve as a cozy spot for breakfast or lunch. The collection of paintings are by artist Joseph Barbieri, a family friend.

The family room, located in an interior space on the lower level, was fairly dark. My solution was to cover the walls in a slightly reflective grass cloth from Phillip Jeffries that brightened and added texture to the room. The collection of bird prints, random in size, but all framed in a similar manner, created a focus.

In the salmon-colored twin-bedded guest room, the headboards have been covered in a blue grid pattern and paired with duvet covers in a floral chintz, both from Rose Tarlow Melrose House. The contemporary horizontal geometric painting by Florida artist William Finlayson provides a colorful contrast and a sense of youthfulness.


With a penchant for painting and an appreciation for the well-designed home since he was a child, Gary McBournie has perfected the art of creating interior spaces with an impeccable eye for color. He established his design firm in Boston in 1993 and has since created warm, elegant, and timeless classic American homes, always with a twist on tradition. Finely attuned to his environment, McBournie develops each interior with a color palette that matches its surrounding exterior, splashing cool and restful hues for a cottage in New England, shades of lime and papaya in the tropics, and warm sunset tones for a ski house in Montana. Featuring personal photographs and the inspirations behind his color choices, Living Color is a must-have for anyone looking to be tickled pink by gorgeous, twenty-first-century renditions of the comfortably chic American home.

About the Author

Gary McBournie established the design firm Gary McBournie, Inc. in 1993, which now has offices in Boston and Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Palm Beach, Florida. His interiors have been featured in major publications, such as House Beautiful and Traditional Home. In 2009, he was inducted into the New England Design Hall of Fame.


See Also

Mark Epstein Designs
Holiday House
Curtain Up!
Comfort Zone
Tino Zervudachi
Outside the Box
The New Bespoke