Designing a venue often involves relying on a great brand identity. A beautiful hand-painted de Gournay wall covering or a pair of Pierre Frey–clad pillows (très chic, always) adds a quality halo that makes design selections easier. However, designer Gary McBournie—who recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his Boston-based firm, which he runs with his partner in life and work.
McBournie tells ELLE DECOR that when a person becomes affluent, they purchase the first large trophy property and fill it with all the stuff they believe rich people should have. I avoid the obvious. I try to combine high and low so it doesn’t appear like a museum or a wealthy person’s house.
The 1932 mansion is surrounded by Hollywood classics. Perennials-upholstered McKinnon and Harris daybed and club chairs are beside the pool.
A French chateau-style mansion on the Westside of Los Angeles would demonstrate McBournie’s dedication to a collected aesthetic. The 1932 house is one of many famous Hollywood mansions from the 1920s that McBournie calls these little fantasies.
The grand-scale gathering mansion, with floor-to-ceiling windows, a marble entryway, and 1.3 acres of groomed lawns, shines brightly amid those properties. Three years after buying the property in 2014, a Los Angeles couple—a former business executive and a businesswoman—asked McBournie to revitalise it.
His customers intended to maintain their century-old house with as minimum structural alterations as possible, against the neighbourhood tendency to tear them down and erect tasteless behemoths. McBournie feels the home was too charming. This house was like most 1930s houses—well thought out.
However, a major interior refurbishment took almost a year to design. Richards says there is no record of who lived in the house when it was built, but by the 1960s it had been divided up for various residents, and the house had lost its center. The house’s rear staircase was spectacular. We wanted an entrance hall and front door again. Working with Vincent E. Gormally Architecture, Inc., they removed the existing stairs, knocked out one wall in the front house’s enormous library, and built a switchback staircase to land steps from the front entrance. McBournie claims it’s always been there.
Jim Thompson’s floor-length rose-red silk drapes touch the entry’s classic checkerboard carpeting. The customers own the mirror and gilded wood armchair, Hindman Auctions sells the gilt Rococo seat, and Gedas Paskauskas created the elaborate painting on a Benjamin Moore Ivory White base.
Moving the stairs gave the two-story space new options. They added an upper-floor office for the wife. The entrance ceiling might be raised and connected to a guest room. Originally, there was a hole in a wardrobe that you had to pass through to get to a stairway that went to the guest bedroom’, McBournie chuckles. To reach these bedrooms, you had to navigate this maze of halls. Totally bizarre.
McBournie and Richards eagerly brought in furniture, patterned linens, and paint samples after clarifying the floor layouts. A warm-hued dreamscape embraces pattern and colour. Jim Thompson’s floor-length rose-red silk drapes touch the entry’s classic checkerboard carpeting. There is a linen-wrapped cocktail table in a celery-colored alcove in the dining room on three cream-colored Brazilian cowhide chairs. In the main bath, bucolic de Gournay panels frame a tub and a majestic chaise longue. The main suite might be any of the nine bedrooms, with surprises like the wool and silk diamond area rug in the master bedroom. We wanted it to be so unexpectedly inviting that you can’t help but plop down on some floral upholstered chair, McBournie adds.
SEE INSIDE THIS PAINTERLY BEVERLY HILLS HOME
McBournie was always visual. His first memory is being put in a white dresser drawer with brass pulls and his great-aunt’s bulldog staring down at him. He recalls the intimidating dog face. I focused on the white paint and handles.
Six years and two degrees later, McBournie found interiors. He says he always noticed colour while painting. I tried white, but it seemed too blank. Orange is my favourite neutral in my homes, where I love colour.
A linen-wrapped cocktail table painted Benjamin Moore’s Blue Lake sits on three cream-colored Brazilian cowhide from Forsyth in a celery-hued dining room alcove. The couch is Scalamandré light green and the walls Hazelton House floral.
McBournie’s speciality is painting. In the 1980s, when faux painting was popular, he taught himself marbelize, strié, and faux bois, and the customers of this Los Angeles home allowed him a lot of creative freedom to employ those techniques. A transitional, panelled gallery area, formerly packed floor to ceiling with artwork by its prior tenants, now immortalises McBournie’s skilled painting with a multidimensional teal-and-blue fake finish that changes colour in changing lighting. It was painted a bright green, glazed in a medium aqua blue, then combed to seem like grain. The customer likes the property’s originality.
Orange is my favourite neutral in my interiors, where I love color.
The home is full with artist’s fortunate accidents. White Venetian plaster walls were initially planned for the foyer. McBournie believes the wax coloured it shell pink when polished. Wow, that’s beautiful with the red curtains’ warm hues, we said. They glow.
Bucolic de Gournay panels decorate the main bathroom. Jonas, Epoca, and Rearview Modern provide the chaise longue, Murano chandelier, and 1920s French provincial vanity seats.
The meticulously picked works, each with a narrative, show Annie Schlechter McBournie’s art competence. The colour-driven abstract artwork in the breakfast area was purchased from a Palm Beach boutique by McBournie and Richards, who were assured by the vendor that it was by an unsigned Swedish artist. The pair doubled over at the Guggenheim’s Hilma af Klint show years later. Oh my God, this looks like ours! McBournie adds. After submitting a photo of the artwork to the Hilma af Klint Foundation, they were informed it looked like a Klint and they would be pleased to investigate. We said no, Richards says. It was a dream they enjoyed, like those who established this neighbourhood over a century ago.