Which rules did MaryMcDonald, Suzanne Ksler and Thomas O'Brien break to create an extra ordinary new design?

For one of the first opportunities Mary McDonald had to design the interior of a show house, she painted a room orange. The organizers demanded she change it after being shown a sample of the color prior to its use. She agreed, but forged ahead with it anyway, which worked out perfectly to her advantage because her design was ultimately featured on the cover of House Beautiful. In another example, she painted a powder room pink, contrasting it with black furniture to create a dramatic effect. Both cases are about breaking the same rule: using bold colors. This rule is meant to be broken… as long as you can find the right color for the space. Alternately, using bold colors in small spaces could definitely be considered a new rule! 

Suzanne Kasler loves color too. She once painted the ceiling of a dining room—the principle room used by the owners of the home—blue while leaving the walls white. This turned the dining room into something utterly unique, especially since she’d painted the rest of the house in neutral whites. Another time, she painted an entire house a high-gloss blue. The concept was so daring that she told the owners she would repaint the whole thing if they didn’t like it. However, they were extremely pleased with it, and the effect was so stunning that it was featured on the cover of Veranda. Bold colors work if they are part of an overall vision. 

If you can balance out a design, it is definitely worth breaking the existing rules. For example, back in 2007, Mary McDonald’s imagination was captivated by an image of a geometrical figure that she ultimately wanted to use on a tiled floor. So she blew it up in scale, creating an incredibly contemporary—and highly mathematically challenging—design. Nobody had ever done anything as ‘frightening’ as this before, with critics claiming it wouldn’t work, but she stood her ground and installed it. The design became an instant icon that went on to be copied by numerous other designers.

Anna Demuylder—Inspired by ‘Are rules meant to be broken in design?’, a panel discussion with leading designers Mary McDonald, Suzanne Kasler and Thomas O’Brien, moderated by Jo Saltz at ‘Legends of Design 2019’ (organized by La Cienega Design Quarter).