Ever since I can remember, I have always been drawn to beautiful things and my memories have been very visual. My earliest childhood recollection is of being placed in the drawer of a white chest with brass handles, with my great-aunt’s bulldog looking down at me. I think most people would remember the imposing face of the dog, but I chose to focus on the white paint and handles.
As a young boy, I was never a great athlete. I loved nothing better than to spend an afternoon with the latest issue of National Geographic, daydreaming about foreign places and adventures. I also loved to watch the movies of the Thirties and Forties, not only for the elegant and glamorous lifestyles they depicted, but also for the fanciful and imaginative set designs.
School was always a challenge for me, as I had difficulty reading, and was later diagnosed with dyslexia. The series of Classic Comics that depicted the stories that I was supposed to be reading, but which were shown in a visual form, became both a lifesaver and an addiction.
It was during this period that my parents took notice of my struggles and interests. One night, my father came home with a big stack of art supplies. That’s when I started to draw and paint. Working with pastels and watercolors while I was still in fifth and sixth grade, I especially loved using the cardboards from my father’s freshly laundered and folded shirts.
That was about the same time I saw the movie Auntie Mame for the first time. After Auntie Mame, nothing was ever the same for me. One of the things I remember most clearly was the way the décor of the rooms changed, the way they became one thing after another in a growing, organic, almost magical way.
After graduating from high school, I went to the New England School of Art in Boston to study graphic design, painting and art history. During this period, I had a chance encounter with the well-known interior designer Richard Fitzgerald. I soon found myself working as a design assistant at his firm, feeling like the luckiest guy on earth. My first week there, I helped hang a large Modigliani portrait and saw the first of hundreds of beautifully traditionally decorated rooms that would have a lasting influence for me. Mr. Fitzgerald also sent me on my first European trip, during which I discovered England with the classical architecture of the Adam brothers, and the enchanting gardens, and France, with Paris, Chartres, and Versailles becoming powerful muses in my life and work. Absorbing and learning as well as traveling, became essential to my personal and design growth.
In 1992, I decided to establish my own firm, Gary McBournie Inc. I continue to absorb, feel, and learn, and with input from my clients, strive to create warm, inviting homes for them to enjoy for years to come.