Most of you who follow interior design would be familiar with Ginny Macdonald's work under the impressive design umbrella of Emily Henderson, but now the talented young designer has branched out on her own, and we're so glad she did. In fact, we think Macdonald is one of the best new interior designers to watch. She has perfected the art of the modern traditional mix, balancing the conventional with the uncommon and a youthful flair.
Case in point: this Valley Village home in Los Angeles. It has a contemporary approach with a traditional touch and a pinch of California cool without straying too far into boho territory. Perhaps it's Macdonald's British roots, but this 1929 home certainly evokes the style of a charming English cottage. "The clients wanted the house to feel charming and sensitive to the era it was built, but they also wanted it to feel modern, fresh and cool," she says. "They are a young family, so didn't want it to feel stuffy and closed-in as it previously was."
Macdonald tells us the house was completely remodeled in 2016, including the kitchen, two bathrooms, a bedroom, living room, dining room and loft space. Take the tour and discover her style notes along the way.
Macdonald main focus was the remodel, so she "didn't do too much work" in the living room. "They already had some good furniture from their old house, so we added new lighting, drapery, and styling accessories," she says. "All the shades and drapes (except for in the bedroom) are from Loom Décor."
The kitchen, dining room, and dining nook were originally separate rooms that Macdonald made into one open-plan space. "Within the dining room, there was an existing recess within one of the walls," she says. "We added a custom built-in bar and painted it blue to tie in with the dining nook wallpaper."
The dining room is the epitome of that modern traditional fusion that Macdonald does so well. The table and chairs are classic in style, but she mixed it with a bench seat and Scandinavian sheepskin throw. The light fixture anchors it in that traditional realm, but its simple and clean design keeps it modern.
Just off the kitchen, Mcdonald's team created a dining nook with a long custom built-in bench underneath the existing window. "The mirror was existing too, which I suggested keeping as I loved how it had naturally patinated over time," she says. "The walls were finished in an old-world plaster, so we had to decide where to smooth that out and add wallpaper. The dining nook seemed to be the perfect spot. With a nod to the era of the house, we chose this Art Deco–inspired wallpaper. The dark blue and black give this area a hint of moodiness amid all the bright whites and light tones."
In the kitchen, Macdonald took a lot of inspiration from Devol Kitchens in England "before they became super hot" she says. "We wanted traditional elements like the Shaker-style cabinets, marble countertops, and brass plumbing, which feels Old World. But we balanced out those traditional elements by opting for a modern version of them."
Macdonald has been back to the house several times since finishing it, and it's by far her favorite room in the house. "I just love the kitchen," she says. "It gets so much natural light, feels spacious, and above all happy. It has a zen-like quality, which I'm all about these days."
One of the clients pretty much had her mind set on the kitchen being "clean, white, and earthy with pops of blue and black," which also happens to be Macdonald's main color palette. "They originally wanted to do a white backsplash, but I convinced them to add a tone of color instead, so we used Fireclay’s French Linen subway tile, and it works beautifully without being too obvious."
Macdonald used remnant marble from the kitchen for the counter and sourced aged mirror for the backsplash that spoke to the patinated mirror in the nook. "I love the Calcutta gold marble countertops," she says. "Every client I work with I have the same conversation about marble versus quartz, and I’m all about team marble. Yes, it does have the ability to stain over time, especially if you don’t care for it, but that’s the beauty of it, patina. For some people, they don't love the aged look, but in my eyes it's timeless." We couldn't agree more.
With such an open space, Macdonald added open shelving for displaying various kitchenware and books.
Everything in the house is fairly new except for a few furniture pieces the client already had, including the dining table and some living room furniture. "For the build elements, I convinced the clients to go custom with their kitchen cabinets, bar and, bathroom vanity, and it really paid off because it allowed us to do more once we'd opened up the space," she says. "What I love about custom cabinetry is that you can always work around awkward nooks, which makes designing it challenging but also fun."
The bathroom floor tile was the first thing they secured for the remodel. "Despite having used it before, it's such a beautiful tile, and I love how different it feels in here," she says.
The primary bedroom was a collaboration with Lulu & Georgia. "I've been working with Sara Sugarman (Lulu & Georgia founder) for several years now," says Macdonald. "I designed her first baby's nursery while at Emily Henderson Design, and I'm currently helping design her new house."
The term "Primary Bedroom" is now widely used to describe the largest bedroom in the home, as it better reflects the space’s purpose. Many realtors, architects, interior designers, and the Real Estate Standards Association have recognized the potentially discriminatory connotations in the term "Master." Read more about our Diversity and Inclusion Pledge.
Macdonald used Sara Sherman Samuels's wallpaper, which really helps to finish the space. "I love a white wall as much as the next person, but wallpaper can really elevate a room," she explains. "I paired that with a navy blue linen platform bed, which helps to tie in with the primary bath floor tiles. I kept the bedding neutral and warm with shades of oatmeal and beige and small pops of rust to pull from the leather bench. And stripes—lots of stripes. I don't think you'll ever see a room I design where a stripe isn't featured."
As you can tell, Macdonald's personal style tends to err on the side of traditional. "My eye is drawn to simple, timeless, vintage pieces paired with modern furniture," she says. "I take inspiration from my English roots in the more rustic countryside style, but I'm also drawn to the simplicity of Scandinavian and Japanese design. I like a room to feel calm, cozy, and fresh—well put together without being stuffy."
Macdonald sees all her projects differently and approaches them according to her clients' personalities. "I pay close attention to their needs and work around that while still adding my own personal touch to the space," she says. "I also like to be sensitive to the era of the house by working with and enhancing the existing architecture. But in order to stop it feeling like a step back in time, I add in modern elements to bring it up to current day without it feeling too of the moment."
This is just about the dreamiest bedroom we've ever seen. That natural light pouring through the doors is perfect as a Sunday morning.
The client was set on using Alhambra Cle floor tile for the primary bathroom, which Macdonald admits she was slightly hesitant about at first. "I’ve used the bigger version (Big Al) before in a kitchen," she says. "So to amp it up, we mixed it with Calcutta gold marble tiles for the shower walls, a matching slab for the countertop, and a custom bleached oak vanity with black matte hardware."
The tricky part of this room was the window placement. "We wanted two sinks, but in order to make it work, we had to position those under the windows where you’d typically have mirrors." They opted to put the mirror in between the sinks, which allows for the client to use the counter space underneath when she’s putting her makeup on. "Functionally, she loves how it turned out," says Macdonald.
The blue of the tile works beautifully with the natural tones of the custom wooden cabinetry.
The window and the mirror are perfect partners. Who wouldn't want that natural light shining through while they're applying makeup? We think you nailed this one, Macdonald.