As far as we’re concerned, Ginny Macdonald is the authority on European-meets-Californian style. With a design career that began at just 16-years-old, Ginny’s work is deeply influenced by her English upbringing while embodying a certain West Coast sensibility she describes as California casual. That distinct point of view has earned her accolades from across the industry, not to mention a furniture collection with Lulu & Georgia—but she’s not stopping there.
We caught up with Ginny to discuss her career journey, favorite projects, and what led to starting her own business. Her advice strikes the perfect balance of inspiring yet relatable, and you might be surprised she admits to occasionally winging it along the way. Read on for our conversation with the one and only Ginny Macdonald.
We’d love to hear more about how you first got your start in the interior design industry and how your business was born.
I’ve been in design and architecture since I was 16-year-old. My career started after I graduated from high school, which is earlier than you do in the U.S. I worked for an architecture company in my hometown of Chorley and then went to Manchester Metropolitan University to study Interior Architectural Design. After finishing university, I worked for various companies in Manchester and London specializing in commercial design, specifically retail design.
When I moved to LA in 2013, I got a job with Emily Henderson as an intern. After several months, Emily took me on as her design assistant, and from there, I grew into the role of Design Director. In 2017, I started getting itchy feet and wanted a new challenge, so I decided to look around and got offered a job with Amber Interiors. After several people questioned me about why I wanted to work for someone else, I ultimately decided to go alone. We still had a large new build client project with Emily, so I told myself that if the client was happy to move forward with me (Emily was closing the interior design section of her company), I would set up on my own. From there, Ginny Macdonald Design was born. Funnily enough, that project never came to fruition due to the city causing havoc with the permits.
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How would you describe the GMD signature aesthetic? How do you tailor + adapt that to different clients and projects?
Our aesthetic is a mix of old-world England meets modern European with a hint of California casual. Our clients either fall into the old-world or the modern aspect, but we tend to fuse the two together. It’s funny because we’ve worked on some modern houses where everything has very clean lines with a Scandinavian/Japanese edge which I absolutely love, but then we’ve also worked on homes that are way more traditional with decorative detailing.
“A furniture line has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and this was born from me manifesting it along with seizing an opportunity. I guess you could say it was luck.”
Tell us how the #GMDxLG line first came about, and how you made the big leap into furniture design.
A furniture line has always been something I’ve wanted to do, and this was born from me manifesting it along with seizing an opportunity. I guess you could say it was luck. I’ve worked with the founder of Lulu & Georgia for years now, designing various spaces in her previous and current house. We wanted to create some custom pieces for her home, which consisted of 2 sofas and a bed. I casually asked her if we should turn this into a collection, and after some time and thinking, she agreed. We rounded out the collection to have two bed designs, three sofa designs with chaise options, benches, a chair, and ottomans.
We are adding to that collection in 2022 with new fabrics and styles. We have a chaise coming out that I’m especially excited about. We’re also finalizing the details on a case goods line that will include a nightstand, side table, console, credenza, and more. It’ll be a big year for the #GMDxLG line.
Do you have a favorite project thus far? Tell us about it!
This is a hard one to answer because each project has its positives. To me, a successful project is not only about the end result, but it’s also the relationship between myself and the client. We have been so fortunate to work with amazing people, and I truly cherish that every day. Like all designers, we’ve had our bad apples, as they say, but even those projects are ones to learn and grow from.
We have one project that I am dying to shoot —it’s an English cottage, and we remodeled the kitchen and two bathrooms. The kitchen might be my all-time favorite as we convinced the clients (who originally wanted an all-white kitchen) into dark green wall cabinets with a soft light green island topped with a walnut butcher block with an ogee edge. I have to put this on my 2022 to-do list!
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What business advice do you wish you’d received when you were just starting out?
Sooooo many things spring to mind! Even though I’d come from multiple companies, I didn’t have too much experience in the business side of design. It was also really hard to seek any information out online. I had to wing it a bit and learn along the way.
If I could go back, I would tell myself to get a good contract and stick to it when onboarding clients. Get a good accountant, and more importantly, a bookkeeper that knows the interior design industry. While it might look like we just pick out pretty fabrics all day, there are so many facets to interior design that need a lot of organization, and money management is one.
What’s the #1 practice that helps you thrive as a designer.
Switching off at the weekend. I don’t have my emails pop up on my phone, and I don’t communicate with clients via text. Maybe it’s more of a European way of working, but setting boundaries with clients has been key.
I had one client text me at 10pm on a Sunday evening and one on Thanksgiving morning. After that, I added communication details into my contract, and I made sure to let clients know at the initial consultation. It’s for the benefit of their project if we’re allowed to have our personal downtime.
Coffee or tea?
Damn, I have to say tea because I’m English! But coffee in the morning, tea at 3pm!
Book currently on your nightstand:
Living With Your Heart Wide Open by Steve Flowers. It’s all about being kinder to yourself and practicing mindfulness.
“I don’t have my emails pop up on my phone, and I don’t communicate with clients via text. Maybe it’s more of a European way of working, but setting boundaries with clients has been key.”
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
@prettylittlefawn for fashion and beautiful photography
Go-to inspiration source:
Going back to the UK, which doesn’t happen enough!
A recent trend you’re loving? How about a timeless one?
Even though trends are a thing, it gives me the icks. If you love something, then just go with it; the chances are it’ll come around again. That being said, I am loving the introduction of warmer colors versus the white wall. To me, that is not only timeless, but it adds so much depth to a space.
A timeless trend: florals. Give me allllll the florals! I just got new draperies in my living room with a bold floral print on one side and a striped lining on the other—that way, the neighbors have a happy view when they are closed. It’s sooooo not LA, but I blimmin’ love them!
What’s next for GMD?
Aside from the new furniture collection, which is already huge, I think the next thing for me is solidifying a team of people. 2021 saw some staff changes in my company when my dear assistant, who I love and adore, moved out of state. That hit me hard, and I’ve not found a proper replacement that is LA-based.
We also moved into a beautiful new office last year, and I really want to make better use of that and potentially do some pop-up shops with the vintage pieces I’ve been collecting over the years.
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