Ginny Macdonald's Styling Secrets
It's no secret that Ginny Macdonald is one of our all-time favorites. We've been working with Ginny for years on her projects and ours, and now she's designing our founder, Sara's, new home. If you follow Ginny on Instagram, you know her signature style just by a single photo. Ginny's spaces are polished and elevated yet always have a cozy, warm feeling. We sat down with her and talked design, vintage shopping, and business owning. Plus, we have something BIG in works with Ginny coming next year. Stay tuned!
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Tell us a little bit about how you got started in the design world.
I started my own company in 2017 after working for 4 years with a designer, stylist, and blogger Emily Henderson. Before then, my background was in retail design in the UK, which is where I grew up and studied interior design. I moved to the US in 2012 and transitioning from commercial to residential design ended up being a happy accident for me. I didn’t really know the commercial design world in the States and found it hard to find a comparable design firm to work for. That’s when I started to read a lot of design blogs and found Emily. I interned for her at first and by the time I left I was head of interior design working on residential projects and sponsored content for her blog. I now have a small team of 3 (including myself) and we primarily focus on residential and some commercial office spaces across Los Angeles. We also just got our first out-of-state project; a commercial event-space project in Colorado.
You are originally from the UK but now live in LA. What prompted you to move to the States?
My husband and I met at a wedding here in LA. It was the wedding of an English school friend that had recently relocated here, so I came out to celebrate. We immediately hit it off and ended up doing the long-distance thing for a while before I made the decision to relocate here full time. We now live in West Hollywood with our two dogs, Theo and Gatsby.
How would you best describe your creative process?
Since we focus on remodeling homes, we start by looking into the existing architecture of the building. We’re really lucky in LA that there are so many different styles, from Spanish Colonial to Craftsman to Mid Century and English Tudor. We take a tour of the space and see if there’s anything we can salvage or highlight and bring back to life. From there, we look into the specific styles by pinning inspiration images and sourcing fabrics and materials.
Your home is gorgeous and so well thought out. What is your favorite space and why?
Thank you! I love the open plan living and dining room the most, mainly because we have a lot of windows in there so they get a good amount of natural light. The colour palette is also really calming - whites, blues, greys and a lot of mix-toned wood case pieces tones. We have a lot of vintage furniture that’s mixed with new pieces and I have an ever-growing ceramics collections that are sourced from local artists and flea markets.
You have a knack for shopping vintage. What tips do you have for snagging the best vintage finds?
I’m the worst person to go shopping with because I’ll always end up convincing you to buy something! Therefore, I end up buying a lot of things myself which I mainly hoard for client projects and shoots. My first tip would be to go early and be prepared. In LA it gets really hot so I prefer to get there before the crowds. While the vendors might not be prepared to haggle as much as they would towards the end of the day, they have the best loot in the early hours. I always make sure to wear comfy shoes and a sunhat (my English skin doesn’t do well with sun exposure) and pack some snacks and water in fold-up tote bags (or a rolling Granny cart if you have one) and plenty of cash. Vendors prefer cash so will be more likely to negotiate. Tip number 2 would be to go with a plan but be open. If you only have one or two items on your list it will help to narrow down your search and stop it from feeling overwhelming. BUT don’t deny yourself something that’s not on your list if you spot it along the way. My last tip would be to do your homework and know roughly how much things should cost. When I first started sourcing vintage, I would pay over the odds for things not knowing if they were a bargain or not. That’s really the point of vintage in my eyes… getting a good deal! I’m actually not cheap with my money but I don’t love it when vendors are outright trying to rip you off. Always try to ask what the best price is and haggle a bit. If you’re at the flea market be prepared for someone to snag something up that you leave behind. So always ask yourself if you’ll be really sad if you don’t get it. There was once a vintage acrylic painting of a horse that I loved and I let it go… I still think about that guy.
Let’s talk trade secrets. What is one thing you always have up your sleeve to make a space perfect?
Good accessories are my go-to. I hoard a lot of vintage and locally made vases, bowls, trays, vessels, sculptures etc. which we take to installs and shoots. It’s those items that really help to add an extra layer in a home.
What is a project you are most proud of and why?
The project I’m most proud of is the 1929 English Cottage project which was my first side-gig project when I was still working with Emily. The clients found me through instagram and I feel like they kick-started my solo career. They’d bought a cute English Tudor-style house and were doing a complete gut renovation and wanted my help with drawings and selecting materials. We’ve since become friends and I’ve worked with many people they recommended me to which has been incredible for the growth of my business. Forever grateful to them!
What is the hardest business lesson you’ve had to learn and how did you deal with it?
The toughest lessons were in the first year where I essentially had to figure out how to run a proper design business. From setting up my contract to billing and invoicing, and understanding how to use ordering software and keep track of orders… The list goes on! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise but Interior design is 80% business 20% design. I had to do a ton of research and it became apparent that there’s no standard way of doing things and that each designer does things differently. Although it’s taken me time and I’m still evolving with each project, I run things how I see fit for my own business model. I do have an incredible group of designer friends that I can bounce ideas off and they do the same with me. We try to meet up every couple of months so we can talk business and help each other out. I also can’t go without saying that I do have 2 great employees that really helps to keep things going!
How has your style evolved since moving from England to the States?
I think I’ve become more into antiques and vintage pieces. I also think being away from the UK and its rich history, I now see vintage pieces that you’d find in either rural country homes or city townhouses and my eye immediately gets drawn to them. My old style tended to err on the more Scandinavian European edge and working in retail design enhanced that since we worked with more contemporary styles. I still have a love of that vibe which can be seen in some of our work.
In today’s world with social media it can be hard to be original. How do you create a design that is unique?
It really is hard to stay somewhat original when there’s so much exposure to design and photography these days. Clients often see things online and want us to create something similar, which is flattering to the designer they’re quoting but hard for us, as we’re not here to carbon copy other people’s designs. We tend not to have a specific ‘house style’ as we work with a lot of different styles. Starting with the architecture of the space and how we can combine materials and elements that are true to that style/era but add in newer elements to make it feel more modern. We also take into account the client’s own personal style, too, while guiding them out of their comfort zone.
What decor faux pas do you see all too often?
Too much stuff! I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a hoarder but as a designer, I can carefully curate my tschokies into collections and style them out properly. Often people have a lot of things that just end up gathering dust and while I don’t think people’s houses should be show homes, you can still get that lived-in feel without it looking cluttered.
What upcoming design trends are you loving right now?
I’m looking forward to people using more rich colour again. I personally prefer more colour and contrast for my interiors and over the last few years, we’ve seen so much of the California casual layered whites that I’m now excited for people to move on from that.
What’s next for you and your business?
Well… I have something exciting coming up with Lulu and Georgia that will be teased out over the next month or so! This is going to be a BIG deal for GMD and something I’ve wanted to do for a while. The business is continuing to grow with our design projects and I often stop and pinch myself that this is real.
We also might start a small online store for all my vintage hoards… my garage is exploding!
Photos by Tessa Neustadt, Amy Bartlam, Lauren Pressey, and Jessica Alexander