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Book Review -- Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style

Last week Mary McDonald came out with her first book Mary McDonald Interiors: The Allure of Style. I'm fairly picky about what design books to pick up because, not only can they often be on the pricey side, but they're often just...disappointing. Most interiors books are just picture books for adults -- all style and no substance (and sometimes even the style ain't that great). But, since I've been a fan of Mary's for several years now, I set aside my usual reservations and quickly snapped up a copy (actually, I preordered it on Fortunately, I'd argue that I more than got my money's worth.

If you already know and love Mary McDonald, then this book is a must have as it's exactly what you've come to expect from the Southern Californian. There are no surprises here, just page after page of glossy, high resolution photographs of her best work. In fact, in many ways this book reads like a greatest hits compilation. For the avowed McDonald fan (like me), there's a lot of what you've probably already seen, either on her website or in one of the many magazine spreads she's been featured in. But there's also a lot you probably haven't seen before, from designer show houses to the designer's own homes.

If you aren't familiar with McDonald, then this book would also serve as a great (and comprehensive) introduction to her work and Mary's text does a good (though perhaps not great) job of pointing out many of the milliner's details that set her work apart. (Mary was a hat designer prior to launching her successful career in interiors.) And perhaps that's what I like about McDonald's work the most: that strong reference to fashion. From the dressmaker details to the playful use of color, Mary's work often draws heavily from the runway. But there's also a level of timelessness and sophistication that keeps her rooms from feeling too trendy, and it's that balance that I find so refreshing (and so difficult to achieve in my own home).

So how do you know if you'll like this book? If you are a fan of at least three or more of the following, then my bet is that this book is for you:

Hollywood Regency
Color (especially aqua)
Bold Patterns
Strong Architectural Details
A "Decorated" Look

My one complaint? Mary's voice can sometimes come off as a wee bit bombastic, but I'd argue that her confidence is essential to her success as a designer. After all, you have to trust your instincts and your eye in order to take some of the risks that she routinely takes. Nevertheless, that same voice can grow a bit wearisome in print. Despite this criticism, however, I would still whole heartedly recommend this book to any design enthusiast.


As it's been a while since my last giveaway, I've decided to give away a copy of Mary McDonald's book this week. If you're interested in entering to win it, all you have to do is leave me a comment here (and include your name/email so I can contact you if you're the winner). I'll randomly select a winner this Friday and announce it here on the blog. Best of luck!

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