Design: Gary McBournie
The Reigning King of Boston Design
Gary McBournie enters a room with sophisticated elegance and a Cheshire cat grin. The reigning king of New England design and celebrated author of Living Color unabashedly declares. "Orange is my favorite neutral." McBournie also created a boldly graphic and vibrantly colored line of punchy fabrics inspired by his love of the islands, aptly called Antilles Designs. Though Boston is home, Nantucket looms large.
A student of art and an inveterate traveller. McBournie attended The New England School of Art in Boston before going to work for the highly regarded Richard Fitzgerald. As a young apprentice, his work took him to Europe where he fell under the spell of architecture created by the Adam brothers in England, and the magical interiors and gardens of Chartres and Versailles in France. In 1992 he branched out on his own by starting Gary McBournie Inc., where these iconic destinations continue to act as muses and inspire his enviable portfolio of work.
As a child, McBournie pored through the pages of National Geographic magazine, dreaming of far away places and adventures. He also spent hours watching movies from the 1930s and '40s admiring them for the elegant lifestyles they portrayed and the fancifully designed sets. Dyslexic, he gravitated toward images rather than words, and had a father with the prescience to realize that a big box of art supplies would serve hime better than a stack of books.
Here we look at three recent projects that illustrate McBournie's singular style. In the print edition, Gary also opens up his black book to share his preferred resources at the Boston Design Center and around Boston, as well as his favorite haunts on Nantucket.
Project One - Beacon Hill
The living area of Gary's Beacon Hill apartment features a linen-wrapped coffee table from ICON Group and cowhide rug by Stark. Custom-upholstered chairs encircle an antique library table.
Cabinets that extend to the ceiling, integrated appliances, and a creamy Vermont marble countertop combine to make a petite galley kitchen appear larger. A mirrored backsplash completes the illusion, and adds light to the room. Decorative accessories from the Marché aux Puces in Paris soften the space and create a butler's pantry aesthetic.
An abstract painting of Dutch tulips by Kevin Paulsen hangs over a 19th-century buffet purchased in Paris. A collection of mercury glass candlesticks, wooden boxes, and other treasured objects invite guests to take a closer look. Lounge chairs, upholstered in Venetian Satin by Classic Cloth, provide a convenient spot for quiet conversation or reading.
In the master bedroom, chocolate brown walls are juxtaposed with white Frette linens and an orange throw. The headboard and bed skirt feature a David Hicks weave from Lee Jofa adding visual interest and sophistication. A sepia watercolor by Boston-born artist Wendy Artin, represented by Gurari Collections, is surrounded by a collection of intaglios framed by Lussier Lajoie.
Project Two - Nantucket
Industrial-style light fixtures and apple green cabinet interiors spice up a classic white Nantucket kitchen. The large commercial hood announces to all who enter that a serious cook rules this galley!
An antique Biedermeier butler's chest lends an air of sophistication and elegance to the entry foyer of this gracious summer home. A custom runner from Stark invites houseguests to their bedrooms on the upper level.
Off the kitchen, an oil painting by Nantucket artist Mike Butler hangs above the fireplace in an informal seating area. A tufted rolled-arm sofa covered in a striped Jane Shelton fabric faces a slatted coffee table, custom crafted by Boston-based woodworker Abbas Shah. Embroidered pillows and a geometric hooked rug from Stark inject the room with moments of color and pattern.
Project Three - Back Bay
This Back Bay apartment's vibrant library is highlighted with an antique Hepplewhite chair upholstered in fuchsia silk moiré from Brunschwig & Fils and sofa pillows covered in an assortment of Manuel Canovas fabrics. A custom-made bronze coffee table with "animal legs" adds a bit of whimsy.
In the guest bedroom, an extravagant display of magenta and orange toile from Manuel Canovas complements a coordinating stripe from Schumacher and a geometric print from Lee Jofa. Fresh white bedding from Matouk introduces a crispness to the ensemble.
The master bedroom celebrates a love of color and pattern. Lacquered raspberry walls create a perfect backdrop for the headboard covered in a chinoiserie print by Manuel Canovas and bed skirt fabric in a custom stripe. To ground the scheme, Gary designed the Tibetan carpet in a geometric pattern similar to the Greek frieze motif on the bed linens.