Interior Designer Spotlight with Patricia McLean
Owner of Patricia McLean Interiors, Atlanta, GA
Born in Atlanta and growing up in High Point, North Carolina home of the largest furnishings trade show in the world, it was not hard for Patricia McLean to fall in love with interior design. As a child she was deeply influenced when her parents were building their house. Her mother would take her to the Otto Zenke decorating studio. At this time Otto Zenke and his brother Henry were the preeminent designers of the southeast with offices in Palm Beach, Florida, Greensboro, North Carolina, and London, England. Her mom let her help select the furniture, wallpaper, fabrics and chandelier for her room. A graduate of the University of Georgia’s renowned interior design program, Patricia established her business in 1985, two years after graduating. Her offices are in Buckhead, Atlanta. She has taken an active role in supporting her alma mater. She has received awards from the university including being recognized as one of the fastest growing businesses owned by an alumnus.
Join me as Patricia explains what it means to be a true traditionalist, clears up common misconceptions about traditional style, and asserts how Atlanta’s healthy economy has enhanced her business.
What is Your Opinion on the Current State of the Economy?
“Everybody is always worried about the economy but I have clients who want their whole house done. When I was younger, I had that happen every once in a blue moon. Right now people want the whole look. Some clients have wanted me to design and purchase everything—furniture, accessories, fabrics, wall coverings, soft furnishings, rugs, and lighting. It is really exciting. I also have long term clients who call and want things refurbished. I work for several generations in one family sometimes. Some clients want to go more slowly which is also fine. Good interior design is about the relationship you have with your client. I am fortunate to have many long term clients. I also am a really hard worker which they all know!”
How Do People Choose an Interior Designer in Atlanta?
“I always ask when clients call how they got my name. I have gained clients through show houses and from articles in the press. Real estate agents also refer me, since that is a natural progression. I believe for me it is also very much word of mouth. I have many clients that have seen a project I have done for a friend.”
What Are the Dangers of Not Hiring an Interior Designer?
“I can only speak form my own experience. I had a client who was building a beautiful house. I had helped her with a few things previously. After spending time trying to figure it out on her own, she called me and said she could not do it without my help. When she started she had no idea how many decisions she would have to make. The architect and builder were bombarding her with questions—things they needed to know from the owner. Much of the work involved in design is time management and meeting deadlines. The resources a designer has are invaluable. Things can even happen during the architectural stage. The designer’s input is integral to helping the client determine how they want to live in the house. You need someone to help you every step of the way. You must have an advocate who is at the project enough because there are so many questions asked everyday and you never want to leave any of them unanswered. So, an interior designer can really help make a project successful from start to finish.”
Which is Your Favorite Interior Design Magazine?
“Which ever is featuring me! This year so far nationally; Traditional Home, Victoria, Southern Style, and Southern Lady magazines. Traditional Home and Southern Lady featured my Atlanta Show House and Victoria and Southern Style featured two of my clients’ houses in their magazines and on their websites. It’s fun to see the numbers tick up on Facebook and Instagram when they are posted! Locally, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles and Atlanta Magazine HOME both give me great hometown support!”
Is Traditional Your Only Style?
“Yes! And you know what, I’m not ashamed of it either. So many people say they are not really traditional but transitional. I like the bones to be about classical architecture. I am educated in design. I have studied all the classics. I know who the modern furniture designers are from the beginning of modern design. I am trained in every genre. I can design equally well with contemporary furnishings. But I am drawn to antiques. I was brought up with antiques and have always traveled to visit and drink in the great country houses. I like the mix that takes place with incorporating antiques, and I like finding pieces that have their own story. I do tell my clients that the one thing that does trend is color. I don’t like to follow trends, but you cannot help it in fashion and design. Traditional to me means timeless design with a look of things being collected over time, and I hope to always convey that in my style.”
What Are Some Common Misconceptions About Traditional Design?
“A client years ago once told me he really did not like Victorian furniture. I told him, oh my goodness, my Traditional style is not Victorian. Some people used to come right out and say they did not want burgundy. It seems some people do not really know what good traditional is. Classic is a good term, but people should not get hung up on terminology. To me it is classic antiques, beautiful fabrics, and fabulous traditional rugs. I remember when we were in the St. Regis hotel designing a large traditional show house room. The architect working for me asked me what if people did not understand what we had done. Was it too elevated? I told him it did not matter; every designer is not for everyone. We aim for the one percent who do get it. We have fine antiques, the best fabrics, and we are so well edited. When it is done right, it will not be glaring or hit you over the head. People should feel wonderful, relaxed, and taken care of when they enter our rooms. There is a designer for every taste and plenty of work to go around.”
What is it Like Being an Interior Designer in Atlanta?
“Interior Designers are indeed fortunate in Atlanta. We have access to all aspects of design. We have the best design center in the country, The Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) and AmericasMart downtown and beautiful antique shops. The resources are inexhaustible. The antiques are of such quality and variety that the trade flocks to Atlanta. My workrooms are full of dedicated artisans. They lift me up and help me attain my goals with each project. It is a pleasurable city in which to flourish as a designer.”
Why Do You Start a Room Design with a Rug?
“So many times I start a room design with a rug. I love to select a rug and then build a pretty palette from it. I designed the living room in the Atlanta Symphony Associates’ Decorators Show House. The gray color of the walls specified by the architect was existing. The first thing I chose was an Oushak rug. I knew it would compliment the walls and also provide me the color palette for the room. All I had to begin with was the gray on the walls. The rug gave me the blues, golds and greens. I drew all the colors in the room from that rug. I revisited the rug with the fabrics which seemed like a hundred times to get the layers and placement of colors just right. It was magical to see the room spring to life from a beautiful foundation.”
For more on Patricia McLean visit: www.mcleaninteriors.com