Timothy Macdonald, CEO of Timothy Macdonald Incorporated, today and tomorrow
MANY DESIGNERS HAVE AESTHETIC CRITERIA THAT EMBODY THEIR VISION OF DESIGN. ONE IMPORTANT 20th CENTURY INFLUENCE ON TIMOTHY MACDONALD WAS THE EXCEPTIONAL FRENCH MODERNIST DESIGNER AND FURNITURE MAKER, JEAN-MICHEL FRANK.
Jean-Michel Frank was not a minimalist. This statement will shock admirers who view the most influential designer of the 1930s as the maître of understatement: walls of rye-straw marquetry, sofas of creamy glove leather, screens dressed in mica. But as enduring as those hallmarks remain, echoed by designers from Jacques Grange to the late Jed Johnson, Frank was surprisingly multidimensional.
To study Frank interiors published between 1928 and 1941—when the forty-six-year-old designer jumped from a Manhattan building, a refugee desolated by the Nazi occupation of France and a love affair gone awry—is to be amazed by his confectionary palette and catholic furnishings. “White was his favorite color,” says the designer’s niece, Alice, who recalls her uncle’s apartment at 7 rue de Verneuil as a suave composition of travertine, sanded oak, vellum and blanched leather. But the rooms of his clients embraced the glitter of Boulle as well as the glamour of the silver screen.
TODAY, THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO WELCOME BACK TIM MACDONALD. TIMOTHY MACDONALD INCORPORATED IS A LONG ESTABLISHED RESIDENTIAL DESIGN FIRM BASED IN NEW YORK THAT HAS REALIZED SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS IN AMERICA, SOUTH AMERICA AND EUROPE FOR A GENERATION OF CONTENTED CLIENTS WHOSE CHILDREN RETAIN HIS DESIGN SERVICES NOW AS WELL.
HIS PHILOSOPHY EMBRACES THE AESTHETICS OF THE DESIGNERS HE ADMIRES SUCH AS JEAN-MICHEL FRANK AND AXEL VERVOORDT AND OF THOSE WITH WHOM HE WORKED, ANGELO DONGHIA AND VAL ARNOLD. THE FIRM DOES NOT OFFER A “MACDONALD LOOK” BUT RATHER REALIZES A PROJECT THAT BEST SERVES THE CLIENT AND ARCHITECT AND FULFILLS THE FIRM’S DEDICATION TO QUALITY.
TIM, WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIALS FOR RUNNING AN EFFICIENT FIRM? THERE ARE DESIGNERS WITH TALENT BUT WHO NEVER MEET A DEADLINE OR STAY WTIHIN A BUDGET. HOW DO YOU ALWAYS MANAGE TO DO BOTH?
When working out of town, or out of the country, a “team” becomes more important than ever. A good, professional general contractor is essential to keeping the project on track in terms of cost, time and quality. We rely on the contractor to identify the best local craftsmen and artisans. The architect is also a key player. Often the architect has already worked with the contractor or in the area, so they are always critical to a good result.
Recently, we have been doing an unusual amount of work out of town; in Florida (both coasts and in the middle), Arizona, Nassau and the Caribbean.
DO YOU HAVE A GENERAL CLIENT PROFILE? DO MOST OF YOUR CLIENTS COME FROM THE WORLDS OF REAL ESTATE, FINANCE, POLITICS?
Many of my early clients followed me from Donghia and today I would say most of my clients are from the world of finance. For several years, I have begun working for the children of my clients. In one case I finished a loft in Chelsea for a lovely young woman, who was so pleased with the results, she referred me to her parents who have engaged me to help with their country home and two apartments in New York City.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROJECTS THAT INCLUDE GREAT ART COLLECTIONS THAT CLIENTS BROUGHT WITH THEM?
Nearly all of my clients have an appreciation for art. It makes sense that if one is interested in interior design, they would be interested in how art fits into the completion of the interior design. Some clients arrive with little art and a thirst to learn and create a collection.
HOW DID YOU INTEGRATE THE ART INTO THE CONTEXT OF THE DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE? DID THE ART COME FIRST AND YOU CREATED A BEAUTIFUL BACKDROP OR VICE VERSA?
I am lucky to have several who already had assembled collections and we had the great pleasure of designing the interiors with an eye towards creating a suitable background for their art. We will sometimes print elevation drawings of each space with the art shown on the wall, in color and to scale. This is also very helpful when designing the appropriate lighting for an important collection.
WHO ARE SOME OF THE DESIGNERS OF THE PAST THAT YOU INSPIRE YOUR WORK THE MOST?
I have always had an affinity for the work of Jean Michel Frank. The simplicity of his furniture designs and interiors, together with the richness of the materials he used, informs much of the best contemporary furniture design. Today, someone who’s work I admire (and furniture I often use) is Christian Liagre. Axel Vervoordt is also a great inspiration.
HOW DO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY CHOOSE TO LIVE?
I have created some wonderful homes for me and my family. We had a grand 19th century apartment in the Osborn House apartment building in New York which was featured in Architectural Digest and a wonderful early 19th century bank barn country home in New Jersey. They were both extensive restorations; gratifying challenges with terrific results.
WHAT IS THE DREAM PROJECT THAT YOU HAVEN’T REALIZED YET?
I look forward to designing a house (not a restoration) for my wife and me, for our children and grandchildren to visit.
THANK YOU, TIM, FOR SHARING YOUR HISTORY, PRESENT AND FUTURE WITH THE LRFA BLOG. IT IS ALWAYS A SPECIAL TREAT TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU.
IN OUR NEXT LRFA POST, WE LOOK FORWARD TO INTRODUCING AMBER BERGER, ENTREPRENEUR, INFLUENCER, WELLNESS EXPERT, MOTHER OF TWO, AND YOUNG COLLECTOR.
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