17 March, 2020

"Designer Blackjack - Denise McGaha . . . "


We have a new player here at the Designer Blackjack Club this afternoon.  Please welcome my good friend Denise McGaha (MacGayHay!) from Dallas, Texas.  We have both been friends for so long - I'm not quite certain that either one of us remembers how or where we met!  Her style is incredibly chic - and like any good Texas girl . . . she can add that little sparkle (whether it's a hint of lucite or the perfect cabinet hardware!) to any home!  

Let get to know her better . . . 

1.  Tell me about the house where you grew up?  
I grew up in a typical ranch, built in the mid-70s.  What made it different was that we lived in a rural area of Texas with cattle, horses, chickens and many other animals.  My room was yellow and white gingham check with an antique bed and dressing table.  Mom had our drapery made by JC Penney as this was all that was available at the time.  I loved my bedroom and furniture and the wall of butterfly paintings and pressed flowers created by an artist friend of the family.

2)  When did you realized that your future was in the interior design business?    
Design is a second career for me, but it was something that was always discouraged by my parents and others.  Being a “business person” had much  more potential so I followed that path in corporate America for almost 10 years before finally switching to design after 9/11.  We had built our first home and it was truly all I thought about.  I loved it so much and when it was time for a career shift design was a natural plan.
Denise McGaha - Southlake, Texas
3)  How and where did you learn about the interior design?  
I am self-taught and say that my education came from the mistakes I made, the craftsmen and builders I worked with, and years of experience working with our clients.  

4)  How did you start your business?  
I fell into design after the Dallas office of the telecom company I was placed in was closed after 9/11.  My new job (with a 2 month old baby) was now in Kansas City and it was the perfect time to make a life and career change.  I began consulting for a builder/developer on their design and marketing operations and before I knew it, I was managing their design selections with clients and needed a staff to keep up with the volume of business.
Denise McGaha - Breakfast Nook
5)  Tell me about your ideal client.  
They trust me.  They are involved in the process and provide great vision and communication, but they let me bring the ideas to the table and execute them within our design process.  They believe in paying for our firms experience and service and they are kind and respectful to my team.
6)  How do you begin designing one of your projects?  What's the first step in your process?  
DISCOVERY:: We start with a vision and work with our clients to develop mood boards and design vision from the start.  Once we are on the same page, we set forth a design scope, a design proposal for our services and specific budgets for the project.  Then, and only then, do we begin the work of designing their project.

7) What was you best client feedback . . . and maybe your worst client feedback - lol?   
Best client feedback was just last week when a client was asked by her friend why she was working with a designer?  She has access to the same buying power that we have and she told her friend this:: 
“I have purchased maybe 5 sofas in my life.  My designer completed 30 projects last year.  Do you know how many sofas that includes?  She knows scale, has buying power, understands how to put a room together and handles all of the details.  Why would I want to spend that much time purchasing one item when she can manage an entire home for me?  It lets me travel, go to the gym, spend time with my family and truly enjoy the process.”
8)  What one piece of advice would you give any new designer?  
Don’t be afraid to take on one or two room projects at first.  These are where you develop trust with clients, learn how to develop your design process and create one of a kind rooms without feeling overwhelmed with a whole home or large project.  Some of my best clients have come from small projects we started when they were young and just buying properties.  Now we do large projects together and their trust in me is a given. 
9)  Tell me a bit about your favourite project!   
My favorite project is one we completed last year.  The client was in her 70s, owned properties all over the country and was ready for a modern design and a simplification of life.  We completed a ground-up new construction home and furniture installation in 11 months.  She was decisive, appreciated high quality, had great ideas and was fun.  She saw life differently and didn’t sweat the small stuff.  She was generous with her time and her feedback and we always knew where we stood.  She liked quick answers but also gave them in return.  It helped that we had a great architect and builder on the team and healthy budgets to achieve beautiful results.

Denise McGaha Interiors

10)  Tell me about that one mistake that you will NEVER make again . . . ?  
 I think mistakes are a good thing because they let us get used to failing and failure is such a wonderful opportunity to learn.  I don’t know if there will ever be a time that I won’t make a mistake again.  We work hard to create processes to prevent the same mistakes from being made over and over again, but mistakes are inevitable in this business.  It’s how you handle them that matters to me.
11)  What are you working on right now?  What new projects are in the pipeline?  
We are actually in the middle of moving our design studios.  Our current location, which has been home for us for over 5 years has been sold and is undergoing a historical renovation that will last over 5 years.  As a result, we have found a new home and are currently retro fitting it to provide not only a space for our team to work, but a space where we can showcase our licensed product designs for Materials Marketing, Currey & Co. and Design Legacy.  We also have several other product categories we are exploring for product design and hope to announce those in late 2020.
We have projects ranging from a new construction home in Ft Worth, Texas with a Moroccan flair, a new construction home with a European style including a Great Hall with 24 ft ceilings, the renovation and re-furnishing of a home that was hit hard by the tornados in Dallas last Fall (right after we completed the original design work) and a full renovation of a home in Cottonwood Valley in Las Colinas.  Peppered in there are various other design projects with furnishings and decoration.

Denise McGaha Interiors - Home Office

Lightning Round . . . 
1)  Favourite Wallpaper?  De Gournay
2)  Favourite Movie?  Who watches movies?
3)  Favourite Iconic Room?  any bedroom by Bunny Williams
4)  Favourite Podcast or YouTube Channel?  Business of Home
5)  Favourite Textile?  Scalamandre Le Tigre Velvet
6)  Favourite Car?  Land Rover Defender 110  - Right Hand Drive
7)  Favourite Movie Star (past or present)  - again, who watches movies??
8)  Favourite Meal? Charcuterie Board – I prefer snacking to meals
9)  Favourite International Destination?  Anywhere with a Beach
10) Favourite Piece of Furniture? The vintage 70s lucite cocktail table in my living room

Keep up with Denise

Follow her on Instagram
Check out her Website


13 March, 2020

"Am I Blue . . . ?"


Well hell y'all . . . it certainly has been a hell of a week.  To call it an emotional roller-coaster would easily be considered an understatement.  Firstly - and most importantly - I hope you are doing well in the midst of an enormous amount of micro and macro changes to our everyday lives.  We here at our home - and at SMW Home - have been very proactive and seem to be well-prepared to face the next few weeks.  And honestly, I think no more than two or three weeks could very easily see us getting to the other side of this situation.

Am I hyper aware of my surroundings?  Yes.  Am I nervous?  No.   Am I keeping more to myself than usual?  Yes.  Am I retreating from society?  No.  

Here are a few things that I'm doing in my own life to keep myself on an even keel . . . 

1)  Call friends.  Though we might need to keep ourselves a bit more separated physically - that does not mean that we need to lose our connections with each other.  I've likely spent more time on my phone in the last six days than in the last six years.  Call.  Text.  FaceTime.  Hell . . . write letters - how lovely would a letter in the mail be these days!

2)  Practice some serious self-care.  We all know those things that bring us joy - and I recommend that you really LEAN into them.  Personally, I'm watching "The Sound of Music" tonight when I get home from the office.  It has never not made me smile.  I've been much more diligent about meditating each morning - and getting in a bit of yoga when I can.

3)  Find the balance between being well-informed and overwhelming yourself with information.  Be certain (as best you can) that you are getting recommendations from legitimate news and medical sources - and do your best to not spread misinformation with random internet memes.  In social media, you cannot 'read the room' . . . so be aware of what you are contributing.

4)  It might still get a bit worse . . . but, it indeed will get better.  "The sun'll come out tomorrow . . . and all that jazz!"  We as a nation and a society are incredibly resilient - and we just should lean into helping each other and being responsible about our own lives.

So . . . am I blue?  No.  I am prepared and focused.  And excited to see what our future is going to bring.  

Stay safe - and wash your hands.


06 March, 2020

"Hats Off . . . "

Good times with Christine Kohut


Here at SMW Home, we always love a good party - and what better reason to celebrate than the conclusion of The Design Influencers Conference here in San Francisco.  Purcell Murray was our host along with California Home + Design - and myself and several other designers competed to host the best cocktail!  As usual, we were inspired by a glorious British Summer and served an Earl Grey Martini . . . 

But, let's get to the question that is likely burning a hole in your brain.  Possible the very reason that you've clicked on my post.  The thing that inquiring minds clearly need to know . . .

What the hell am I wearing on my head . . . ?

Well, it's actually a lovely British tradition. During Eton College's "4th June Celebrations" each summer, members of the rowing team process down the river.  At a certain point in the procession, the crews of each boat stand and raise their flower adorned boaters to cheers the Monarch, the school, and the memory of George III whilst shaking the flowers from their boaters into the river.

And just in case you think I'm kidding . . .  

 A big thank you to Rowing Blazers for the incredible patchwork madras blazer . . . the perfect accompaniment!


03 March, 2020

"Designer Blackjack - Kristen McCory . . . "

As promised, I want to ask 21 of my favourite designers 21 questions about their lives and businesses and highlight some of the amazingly creative people in our industry.  Today, we start with my friend Kristen McCory from Connecticut.  She is an amazing designer - a GREAT mom - and deeply hilarious . . . especially whilst we were both toiling madly to install the High Point Showcase House!  
Let's deal out 21 questions and find out a bit more . . .
1)  Tell me about the house where you grew up?  
It was your typical colonial in a "Wonder Years" type neighborhood.

2)  When did you realized that your future was in the interior design business?  
I would say about 13 years old. Whenever I was sent to room for punishment or to do homework (haha)  I can remember rearranging all the furniture. I would shift the furniture an inch at a time to be sure I created no noise or reason for my parents to come check on me.  I can also remember begging my mom to pick me up copies of Architectural Digest and Southern Accents along with a Tiger Beat magazine when she went to the grocery store.  

Kristen McCory Interiors
3)  How and where did you learn about the interior design?  
I started by reading everything I could that was design related. Later I attended Syracuse University for Interior Design and Surface Pattern Design. I worked at Stark Wallcovering and Old World Weavers in the city to get an understanding for the back end and other side of the business, and later worked for some local CT designers. 

4)  How did you start your business?   
I actually began by doing decorative painting for designers. With my pattern design background, an understanding and love for patterns and wallpaper,  I began to create and design through decorative painting. I later put down the brush and began McCory Interiors.
Kristen McCory Interiors
5)  Tell me about your ideal client.   
I love energetic families, that are willing to step their box and expand their comfort zones in their homes.  Also, a client who is honest and communicates openly. 

6)  How do you begin designing one of your projects?  What's the first step in your process?   
The interview. I get to know my clients on a deep level.  It's not just what they like or colors they are drawn to, but also, how they live. Their schedules, their quirky routines, their habits, things they hate, things they love,  how they entertain, do they entertain... the list goes on and on. 
Then there is always a floor plan/ furniture layout and traffic patterns and I always have a color story in mind. 

7) What was your best client feedback . . . and maybe your worst client feedback - lol?   
Best -  I hear it often, which is wonderful.  I am told, I am comfortable to be around.  Easy to talk to, and that I articulate well.  That I also give my clients the time and space needed sometimes takes to come to terms with thinking outside the box. 
Worst- This is a tough one, mainly because is it all really realistic feedback? Always consider the source. Am I perfect. Obviously not, none of us are.  Apparently, I do not respond quick enough to text messages. (Said the client with no boundaries, who texts me at 10pm at night or 6am on a Sunday morning. The client who places the order, but hasn't paid. But, the "check is in the mail" and they want to know when or why the piece has not arrived 48 hours later)  Yes, this is a real thing. Hence, the interview process. wink wink.

8)  What one piece of advice would you give any new designer?   
Pre-Qualify your clients and KNOW YOUR WORTH.
Kristen McCory - Grandmother's Pink Lipstick Project
9)  Tell me a bit about your favourite project!  
Grandmother's Pink Lipstick. It was an incredibly personal project where everyone was just thrilled with the results in the end.  The clients were excited about the opportunity to explore color and juxtapose the history of the house with modern life.

10)  Tell me about that one mistake that you will NEVER make again . . . ?   
I have learned not to ignore the Red Flags.  When someone shows you who they are, especially on a job, believe them. 

11)  What are you working on right now?  What new projects are in the pipeline?   
I am currently finishing up a Pre-War Classic 7 in Carnegie Hill NYC.   And beginning a full remodel of a beautiful Cape Cod Style home that over looks the CT River.  And then there is my wall paper collection... 

Kristen McCory, Dalton Square Wallpaper
Lightning Round . . . 

12)  Favourite Wallpaper?  Is it OK to plug myself?  "Dalton Square" from Kristen McCory 
13)  Favourite Movie? Any 80's Comedy Flick, I just want to laugh.
14)  Favourite Iconic Room?  Good Gracious there are so many?  How can you pick one? 
15)  Favourite Podcast or YouTube Channel?   Totally TV  (Disney Princess Parody, I have a 4 year old.) 
16)  Favourite Textile?  Velvet.
17)  Favourite Car?  I would like the Porsche Cayenne Turbo please.
18)  Favourite Movie Star (past or present)?  Emma Stone.
19)  Favourite Meal?  Chicken Teriyaki (on the grill) with grilled pineapple.
20)  Favourite International Destination Have I mentioned my 4 year old?  Sadly, I have not traveled in a long time. But, I lived in multiple countries and I love Finland. 
21) Favourite Piece of Furniture?  Anything from Alfonso Marino.

Keep up with Kristen -
follow her on Instagram

Stay tuned for more designers coming up in the next few weeks - 


25 February, 2020

"Designer Blackjack . . . "


Let's play a game.  I'm going to deal out 21 questions to 21 of my favourite interior designers . . . and together we're going to explore the 'highs of lows' - the 'challenges and celebrations' - and an all-aces 'why we love to do this' - with many of today's best and brightest designers.

Watch this space . . . 


18 February, 2020

"Fresh from the Garden . . . "


Though we are world-renowned for our endless love of Scottish highland textiles . . . one does not live by tartan alone.  Here at SMW Home, we love a vibrant palette - and sometimes those fabrics DO arrive on our shores from Scotland - but, we also print amazing floral and botanical fabrics here in the US.
SMW Home's Brogue Floral in Tartan Navy

Camille Floral - in Midnight

 Here is our Camille Floral wrapping the windows
and settee at the High Point Showcase House last Autumn.

Many of our textile patterns are based on vintage textiles that my mother and I collected - or in some cases, samples of my mother's needlework from when I was a child . . . 

Frances Crewelwork in Lake District Blue.
We used a small collection of my mother's
crewelwork as inspiration for this pattern.

SMW Home's Harrison Floral in Thyme

I was even inspired by the antique china that Mother and I would collect at each and every antique shop we would visit.  

Staveley Park Trellis in Summer Palace

We used Staveley Park Trellis for our own home for
a little party over the Christmas holidays!

Have a look at our entire collection of floral and botanical textiles - and let us know if we should send samples!


11 February, 2020

"Royal-Tea . . . "


A proper tea service is equal parts ceremony, tradition, and much-needed hydration.  And sometimes a snack.  And sometimes a meal.  Let's examine a few facts . . . a few legends . . . and a few of my personal preferences and rituals.

Let's talk tea . . . 


High Tea or Afternoon Tea?

Many fine folks use these terms as though they were interchangeable - though, in fact, each has a very specific meaning.  The term 'afternoon tea' refers to a mid-afternoon snack comprised of tea and light nibbles.  It is usually served at 4pm and serves as a snack between proper lunch and usually mid-evening dinner.  Scones are the perfect fit for afternoon tea - as well as simple sandwiches and cakes.    Now 'high tea' was traditionally used a substitute for the evening meal - and thus usually had a selection of much heartier dishes for the meal.  So though 'high tea' sounds like a fancier version - usually 'afternoon tea' was used as a snack by the upper class - and 'high tea' by the working class as their evening meal.

English Breakfast or Earl Grey?

English Breakfast.  Stop, the end.  Only and forever.  Seriously.  With some Scottish Breakfast for
a wee bit of variety.

Milk First or Tea First?
Now this one gets serious.  In our household, it is ALWAYS tea first - whether I'm brewing a cup or a pot.  The tale I was told was that as tea became a tradition in English society during the Victorian era, tea service began to be produced for working-class households . . . and those service pieces were mass-produced and usually of a lower quality.  For that reason, the milk was added first - to temper the tea and keep the cups from breaking.  I also (personally) find that adding the milk to tea helps manage both the colour and temperature of my tea. 

Pot or Cup?

This really depends on my day.  My usual tradition is to make a huge pot of tea if I'm going to be at the house all day - and I'll work my way through it in a hour or so.  But, a quick turnaround almost always mean a cup (or frankly, more likely a mug) of tea with breakfast. 

What are your rituals around making or serving tea?  What's your favourite brand and flavor?


06 February, 2020

“In Praise of the Old . . . “

The combination of an almost hundred-year old
house with modern lighting and a late 18th century chest can
sit happily next to contemporary artwork and a mirrored inset.


People often comment on the warmth and history in many of the rooms I design.  That my rooms feel lived in.  That my spaces have soul. It is always a remarkable compliment that our projects feel collected and acquired - more than purchased.  Even though, quite often, the entire contents of the home arrived on the same truck on the same day.

From our Showcase House is High Point
last autumn, modern floor coverings from Stark
and some of our newest textiles and wallpapers
from SMW Home marry beautifully with
antique dining chairs and sideboard.

So . . . you might very well ask - what’s your secret?  Well usually, it's a healthy dose of antiques!  

 Loving this combination of an antique settee
with the modern artwork and accessories.
The original woodwork from the house is
glorious - and the restrained sisal runner
is another marvelous contrast.

First of all, we love when we are able to use existing pieces that our clients own to use in their newly designed space.  I really get excited when we're able to take an existing family heirloom and reupholster it to become part of a newly-designed space.   

Is there anything more iconic than an antique Enhlish
desk and armchair to bring some depth to this modern
condo here in San Francisco? 

A bit of Tartanware furniture - dating from the late 1800's
makes the perfect addition to this guest bedroom
at our project in Colorado.
We also shop for antiques as well.  Antiques create 'soul' in a new home . . . and we use everything from high-end antique shops to online resources and flea markets!  

 Loving the mixture of the modern artwork and
seating - with this marvelous antique Spanish
table in a library space.

Do you use antiques in your home?  Tell me what you have found that works for you!


09 January, 2020

"Sussex International . . . "


Well, good heavens.  This week has been a bit of a hectic one indeed.  On the good side, SMW Home launched a huge warehouse sale . . . and it continues today - check it out.

On the down side, it was announced from London that TRH The Duke of Sussex and The Duchess of Sussex are re-imagining their roles within the British Royal Family and likely spending half the year as private citizens to balance their public roles supporting HM The Queen and The Crown. Honestly, I'm not certain how this is going to all work - but even in the current family, there are more heavily scheduled royals and lesser-scheduled royals.  Since this is all new territory - I'm fairly certain that no one really knows what the next steps will look like.  We'll need to wait and see.

All facts and speculation aside though, the outpouring of vitriol and condemnation on social media was sadly disheartening - and almost exclusively aimed at Meghan (as though HRH Prince Harry has no agency within his own life!).  Numerous people seemed to think they know the private thoughts of Harry and Meghan - and a few bold folks decided that they could also speak for HM The Queen.  Whilst my head was cooler - I just decided it was best to just block people incapable of civility and adult interaction.  

I certainly wish the family well . . . both the Royal Family and the Sussex family.  The British Royal Family has survived much greater crisis than this . . . and I expect it will all sort itself out in the end.

Good luck to all!


08 January, 2020

"SMW Home - Sale . . . "


2020 is bringing some BIG things to SMW Home. So big, in fact, we need to make room for them, which presents the perfect opportunity for you to save up to 65% on items from sofas to settees, and from pillows to pepper shakers! You'll have to act fast, though, as we all know - "opportunity waits for no one!"
Click HERE to start saving . . . 
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