Tour this New York apartment decorated by interior designer Debra McQuin

Delight in some style from across the pond as designer Debra McQuin, who specialises in high-end residential projects around the world, shares her expertise on a beautiful brownstone New York home she recently decorated…

The fireplace here in this reception room makes a real statement. Can you talk us through what materials were used to create this look and what you wanted to achieve?

The fireplace needed to hold its own in a room full of “important” art, so I decided the best solution was to make it a piece of art itself.  The floor-to-ceiling surround is carved from limestone and is an intricate design of rectangles at three levels of relief. I think it turned out to be a beautiful piece of permanent sculpture.

We love the glamorous use of textures and mood lighting used in this sitting room – how did you get the look?

“While the whole house had been renovated before my clients bought it, the architectural details were heavy and a bit too traditional for their taste.  The room also had a northern exposure, so was very dark. I started by making the room visually lighter - streamlining the skirting boards and cornicing and removing extensive moulding on the walls and the sides of the staircase.

Next, I installed new recessed lighting designed specifically to highlight the client’s contemporary art collection. I also designed a new laser-cut brass ballustrade for the staircase and floor-to-ceiling limestone fireplace to create a clean, contemporary look. A taupe-coloured silk wallcovering adds texture but provides a neutral background for the art. There is a large silk rug to link the two seating areas and the furniture is a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces. Curtains are sheer to allow the maximum amount of natural light to penetrate the space.


The red and white rug really brings the cool, white room to life in this room (shown above). What was this area like before?

This is an alcove that sits off the side of one of the daughters’ bedrooms.  I decided to separate it from the rest of the room with a pair of billowy, sheer curtains to give her a small, cosy space inside what is a very generously sized room. The Eames chair and ottoman are not only classic-looking but supremely comfortable for reading or surfing on a laptop.  The rug echoes a larger, black-and-white version in the main part of the bedroom.

We love the colour used in this room. How did you make sure it was fun and fresh without being too overpowering?

This is the other teenage daughter’s bedroom, and again, a very large room.  The brief was pretty broad - to create a space that would allow her to sleep, work and hang out with friends. The rest was left to me. I wanted to give her something vibrant and fun, but I also wanted it to feel quite grown up. The rug is obviously the “wow” factor in the room.  But there is also a large, low-to-the-ground, L-shaped sofa that wraps around the back wall of the room that can comfortably seat a gaggle of teenage girls. The sofa upholstery, the feature wall behind the bed and the bedding pick up some of the paler tones in the rug and soften the overall impact of the room.

What was the kitchen space like before you took on the project and what is your top design tip for a great looking kitchen?

The existing kitchen was in good condition so the brief was to re-work rather than re-design it. The island was enlarged to add more storage and a breakfast bar; the rest of the kitchen just got a facelift with a new coat of paint and more interesting hardware. The thing that I think made the most difference to the look of the kitchen was the addition of the lighting fixture over the island. I think task lighting and decorative lighting are both important in a kitchen and in every one I design, I try to have both.

We love the sophisticated feel in this bedroom. What should every bedroom have to make it look super luxurious? 

I believe luxury in a bedroom is more about how it feels than how it looks. Every great bedroom should have high thread count sheets, good reading lights and a rug that you can sink your toes into. Bliss.


For beautiful furniture, accessories and daily design ideas for your home and lifestyle,
shop at ACHICA.

Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor