Living in Color -Fall 2016

by: Leslie Linsley

photography by: Terry Pommett

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been drawn to beautiful things,” writes Gary McBournie in the introduction to “Gary McBournie Living In Color:

A Designer Works Magic With Traditional Interiors,” written by William Richards. “Gary is a happy guy,” Richards said when describing interior designer McBournie, his partner in life and in business. Indeed, this couple seems to have found their sweet spot.

Gary McBournie Inc. is a residential interior-design firm established in 1992. Based in Boston with home offices in Palm Beach, Fla., New York City and Nantucket, the firm employs eight people, including Richards' daughter Paige, an assistant designer. But their projects might be anywhere in the world. This month they are working in Los Angeles, London and New York City.

McBournie's clients appreciate his ability and confidence to personalize a home with a style that clearly expresses their tastes and how they live. A graduate of the New England School of Art in Boston, he studied graphic design, painting and art history, later furthering his studies of art history at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, then back to the New England School of Art to study interior design. His first job, during that time, was as a design assistant to well-known interior designer Richard Fitzgerald, who sent him on his first European trip.

"Absorbing and learning, as well as traveling, became essential to my personal and design growth," he said.

"Connecting with my clients is a key element. I need to feel I'm in a relationship with them, that there’s a strong link between us. It’s really like a love affair,” McBournie said, describing how he works.

“Being intimately involved in their lives makes it possible to reflect them in their interiors. Spending time and listening is what makes successful interiors


While visiting Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1990s,

McBournie took a day trip to Nantucket.

“I fell in love and rented a vacation house here. Then another and another until finally I bought my first island home on Beaver Street. It had been owned by preservationist Clay Lancaster, author of ‘The Architecture of Nantucket,’ published in 1972,” he said. “The Historic District Commission was concerned that I would do something to ruin its historic qualities and scrutinized everything I did. But I’m a preserva-

tionist at heart and that didn’t bother me at all.” McBournie and Richards are now on the fifth Nantucket house for themselves, and it probably won’t be

their last. They’re having too much fun.

“We love to shop,” Richards said. “It’s a disease. The

good thing about designing and selling a house on Nantucket is we’ve sold them completely furnished, which gives us a chance to keep buying. When we do a house for ourselves, we have the freedom to experiment a bit. It adds a dimension to what we can bring to other projects.”

Richards and McBournie met 15 years ago in private life. Richards’ background is in the financial world of biotech and the two men worked separately for years.

“We both had very demanding jobs and never enough time to be together,” Richards said. “For five or six years we shopped together for Gary’s clients and ourselves and I was able to absorb Gary’s discerning ability to identify worthwhile objects of style and good design.”

As McBournie’s business grew, and with it, more pressure on their time, they decided it made sense for Richards to leave his job and join McBournie’s firm full-time as chief marketing officer and public-relations director.

“Now we travel more and, as head designer, Gary is freer to concentrate on what he does best: create beautiful interiors. When I wrote the book two years ago, I learned volumes just by asking Gary why he did this or that and basically immersing myself in the world of interior design through Gary’s eyes.”

“We’ve been in this house for five years, but a house is never done. Traveling always gives us new ideas,“ McBournie said.

“We’re like two kids in a candy store when we’re shopping, especially in places like Marrakesh and the flea

markets of Paris,” Richards added.

Their Nantucket H-shaped, ranch-style cottage is set in the middle of an acre of land just past Moors End

Farm in Shimmo. The approach to the house is the first inkling that something special is beyond the welltrimmed hedges that flank a bright, blue door. The door opens onto a brick path that leads through a breathtaking garden that might easily be found in the countryside of England or the south of France, areas that influenced the planning of the garden. Like a separate room it literally stops you in your tracks and allows you to decompress from wherever you’ve been. Like everything about the house, the garden looks as though it’s always been here, lovingly taken care of over the years.

Some places make you feel instantly at home, as if you’d always belonged there. Sometimes you walk into a house and some part of you responds in a way that awakens your senses. This one-story house is like that. It exudes Nantucket cottage style, simply nestled into the landscape.

“We like the scale of the rooms. Houses with large rooms and an open floor plan aren’t as appealing to us. We like the idea that rooms invite different activities that don’t intrude on each other. If someone is reading in one room and someone else is watching television in

another, each has privacy. This is how early cottages

were built,” McBournie said.

“My grandmother raised a large family in a modest, turn-of-the-century-house in Boston and she was my earliest design influence. She wasn’t wealthy, but she brought a style and graciousness into her home. To this day, a down-filled cushion is a requisite of every room I design.”

The house is only 2,000 square feet, but feels spacious due to the high ceiling in the living room, lots of light from many windows, all with garden views, and the exuberant color palette McBournie is known for. His approach to color and patterns is with confidence, marrying the unexpected with surprisingly original results.

“Orange is my favorite ‘neutral,’ " he said. “I’m simply not a beige person and as much as I’ve tried to create all-white, monochromatic rooms, they just don’t work for me.”

Richards said their painted-white living room is a concession in this house, but works with the colors and textures of the furniture, rugs and artwork. Overall there is a traditional approach to the furnishings that is at once comfortable, like a family home that has been reinterpreted with an eye for sophistication. Vibrant blues, lime green, and of course orange, mix well with the mid-century modern furnishings and local art. Some walls are upholstered with fabric, others are given texture with faux finishes.

The property was owned originally by Al Silva, who had a car dealership on the way to Jetties Beach.

“It was a mess,” Richards said. “After Al’s death his family rented to workers for a long time. We turned a workshop into a guest cottage where our parents occasionally stay and we totally made over the main house. Despite its rundown condition, when we first saw the place we knew instantly, this was for us.”

The sprawling low building has the classic appeal of the 1930s and 1940s, instantly inviting and unpretentious. It sits, not regal or imposing, but nestled into the landscape.

Inside, the house unfolds little by little, an accumulation of rooms with nooks and hallways that you uncover as you go through it. The interior design is proof that this designer embraces the present, as well as the past, and the best results are achieved when being open to both.

“Gary designed a home in the Hudson Valley for a client who wanted it to be like a country inn. It spurred our interest in designing small hotels,” Richards said when asked what they might consider the ideal project for the future. ///

Leslie Linsley is a nationally-known author of design and decorating books. She writes regularly for The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s weekly newspaper, and Nantucket Today.

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