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Catching Up with Our Favorite Mother-Daughter Design Duo

Catching Up with Our Favorite Mother-Daughter Design Duo
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For Suzanne and Lauren McGrath, design is a family affair. The mother-daughter duo—and partners behind design firm McGrath II—have developed a reputation for their beautifully balanced approach, crafting spaces that effortlessly blend the modern and the traditional, the refined and the relaxed. But when it comes to work and personal life, they reveal that achieving balance is an ongoing effort. Ahead of Mother’s Day, we caught up with the in-demand designers as they reflect on their unique partnership, their shared passion for interiors, and what it’s really like to run a business with your mom or your daughter.

 

A rich variety of materials and finishes lends character to a modern TriBeCa loft designed by Suzanne and Lauren McGrath.

A rich variety of materials and finishes lends character to a modern TriBeCa loft designed by Suzanne and Lauren McGrath.

The McGraths mixed open and closed storage in the kitchen for a clean and composed look. Cabinets in Benjamin Moore’s Cliffside Gray.

The McGraths mixed open and closed storage in the kitchen for a clean and composed look. Cabinets in Benjamin Moore’s Cliffside Gray.

Suzanne, what’s one design lesson that Lauren has taught you?

Lauren has taught me a lot about textiles. Her background in fashion influences our work tremendously. She has an ability to see pattern and color combinations that continue to impress me and make our work that much more sophisticated. It’s not just about choosing the fabrics that will best suit their purpose; it’s about having a mix of textiles using different materials that can make a home interesting.

What’s something you do design-wise in your own home that Lauren wouldn’t?

I’m a collector of objects: ironstone and other random white trays and pottery, yellowware, and straw baskets, to name a few. They’re scattered throughout my home. Lauren does not. Her apartment is very uncluttered, yet nearly every inch of wall space is covered in the art that she and her husband collect.

What’s most special about running a business with your daughter?

We are having so much fun! We challenge each other, and we also have each other’s back. We have developed a professional shorthand with each other that probably would have happened anyway in a relatively small business situation. I think our clients trust us, in part, because we’re family.

How do you separate work time from mother-daughter time?

We sometimes regret that we don’t have more mother-daughter time. Days can pass when we don’t have an opportunity to have a personal conversation. We’re both busy, and we often need to divide and conquer. We make a point of traveling together at least once a year, and we really look forward to that. For a week in August each year we all go to the beach, where we have an unwritten rule to not talk about work but to keep it just about enjoying the moment. We’re not always successful at that, but we try!

Where will we find you this Mother’s Day?

We’re planning a backyard barbecue with the entire family—I have two sons: Matt, a photographer, and Jack, a sophomore in high school—though rain is in the forecast. We may end up inside, but one thing you can be certain of is that there will be a strawberry shortcake.

We are having so much fun! We challenge each other, and we also have each other’s back.

— Suzanne McGrath
Layered patterns—a toile, a floral, and a geometric—harmonize in the master bedroom thanks to a serene color palette.

Layered patterns—a toile, a floral, and a geometric—harmonize in the master bedroom thanks to a serene color palette.

Lauren, what’s one design lesson you’ve learned from Suzanne?

That great relationships are what define a room. The collection of pieces, how they speak to one another, is not a formula.

Growing up, how did your mom shape your love of design?

My mom was constantly moving things around the house and rearranging furniture, and she would always enlist me to help. My stepdad would go out for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, and by the time he got home we would have moved the entire house around! I was lucky in that I got to see many of the projects that my mom was working on as a young girl, so I had early and steady exposure to beautiful places and things my whole life.

Statement wallpaper turns the loft’s guest bedroom into a cozy retreat.

Statement wallpaper turns the loft’s guest bedroom into a cozy retreat.

What’s something you do design-wise in your own home that Suzanne wouldn’t?

I love mixing and matching lots of different patterns, and my mom prefers a more clean and tailored palette with fewer prints.

What’s most special about running a business with your mom?

Getting to see her every day! How many adults get to see their parents every day? It’s truly a gift.

How do you separate work time from mother-daughter time?

Ha! We don’t really. We try, but we both live and breathe design; it’s such an extension of who we are and our relationship. On vacation you can find us scouring the local antiques stores wherever we are or reading a book or watching a movie that has something to do with design. It’s our passion!

We both live and breathe design; it’s such an extension of who we are and our relationship.

— Lauren McGrath

See more of McGrath II’s timeless rooms→

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