Creating Strong Spaces Through Contrast

Marie-Christine McNally

Marie-Christine McNally

Marie-Christine Design appeals to the modern enthusiast whilst giving homage to mid-century vintage fans. McNally’s stunning portfolio is somehow incredibly neo while utilizing retro with contemporary pieces, and uniquely combined textures. It’s hard to pin down a distinct “style.” One might say it’s mid-century redux because the overall aesthetic seems right out of a Dwell feature, while traditionalists would love how the rooms fit in their classic Hamptons home with its wall moldings and cedar shingles.

Indy caught up with McNally to find out how she found her style and started her business in 2005.

Marie-Christine, before we jump into your beautiful work, how did you come to interior design?

I studied communications in college, and started my professional life in advertising, in New York City. Design was never even on my radar until I purchased my first New York City home, which was two apartments that had to be combined. I hired a contractor and did the design myself. I loved every minute.

A year later, I quit my job and went back to school for a two-year post-graduate degree from New York School of Interior Design. Ultimately, my time spent in advertising was amazing, and so beneficial. It taught me so much about how to be a professional, best practices and processes, and how to manage a project, a budget, a client, and a team.

Independent/Joshua McHugh

You are based in New York City. Why did you open a division on the East End?

My personal life took me out east. My husband, who is a landscape designer, has lived and worked in the Hamptons for over 25 years. We now have two young children and are settled in Sag Harbor full-time. We are both so grateful to live and work in this beautiful place. Initially, I just had a satellite office here, in Sag Harbor. But, now, with the recent opening of my design shop in East Hampton, my business has real roots here, which makes me very happy.

The design business continues to operate out of both locations, and in the Hamptons, we also focus our energy on creating a beautiful design shop with unique furniture, art, and accessories that serves as a snapshot of our design sensibility. I commute into New York every week, as needed, for site visits, client meetings, etc.

How would you describe your interior design style?

Aesthetically speaking, I love contrast . . . old and new, light and dark, contrast in materials and textures . . .I think the tension of these opposing elements create strong and interesting spaces. I think you see this exemplified in our design shop. We have contemporary pieces designed by us sitting alongside French antiques and mid-century vintage pieces.

Do you offer other services other than interior design, such as staging?

I don’t. I love the process of interior design — getting to know the clients, gaining a deep understanding of how they want to live, and the challenge of delivering something that really impacts their lives and brings them joy every day. It’s a long and arduous process, but I find it deeply rewarding.

My only other focus is the design shop, which really works hand-in-hand with our design services. When we are hunting for shop merchandise, we are also hunting for our clients. It allows us to collect the pieces we find and love, and have them available when the right client comes along.

Was there a favorite project?

There really isn’t. We are small design studio, which limits the number of projects we can take. So, I really get the luxury of selecting clients and projects that will be rewarding, both personally and professionally. I love all of our projects, all for different reasons!

Your background is in modern interior design but your work is quite classic or eclectic. What are some different methodologies between modern and classic interior design?

There are certainly elements I like from both, as you can see in our work, and in the shop. Personally, as the daughter of a European antique dealer, I grew up surrounded by antique pieces made with beautiful materials like fruit woods and marble, featuring beautiful and ornate details. I also grew up spending my summers with my grandparents in France, where I was surrounded by old architecture. All of this obviously had an impact, and helped me develop a passion for antiques and age and imperfection and patina.

But, my time in the New York design world, primarily the time I spent working for Julie Hillman, exposed me to contemporary design and the power of clean lines and clean spaces. I think that the contrast between those two vernaculars creates a real, arresting, and appealing aesthetic. I wouldn’t call my work traditional, and I wouldn’t call my work modern. I land somewhere in the middle. I appreciate classical details, and age and patina, but I like to pair these things with clean and contemporary spaces. Or vice versa. Age and patina and imperfect architecture paired with clean, modern design pieces.

Are there any trends that our readers need to know about? What are you excited about?

I don’t follow trends. The design process is lengthy and costly. We strive to design and deliver interiors that are timeless, which clients will love as much 20 years from now as they do today.

Who was your interior design hero?

Ironically, the designers that inspire me the most are all close to home. First and foremost, I love the work of Julie Hillman, for whom I worked for 3.5 years before launching my own business. She is an incredible designer, with a style rooted in classical European style, influenced by modern design, and impacted by her deep knowledge of, and love for, art and collectible design.

I also love the warm, layered, and masculine style of Robert Stilin. And, Lisa Bowles, who owns Roark, an absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful design shop featuring classical antiques, modern design pieces and contemporary art, which all sit together in a beautiful and powerful way.

If money were no object, what would you like to design?

My dream job would be a hotel in Paris, particularly in the 16th arrondissement with a stylish and trusting client!

What are some of your favorite go-to magazines, websites, and/or books for design inspiration?

Instagram is my favorite source of inspiration at the moment. I get to pick and choose who I follow, and wake up every morning to millions of gorgeous interior images! I still prefer paper magazines over digital, and subscribe to all of them and devour them every month. My favorite magazines, however, are in Europe. I love French AD. In the online universe, I like D Pages and 1st Dibs’ Introspective Magazine.

How do you enjoy your downtime?

With a growing business and young kids, I don’t get much downtime! But, when I do, nothing beats spending time with my family — at home, just hanging out.

To reach Marie-Christine Design or inquire about her interior design services, visit, call 631-238-7370 or email