Alfalfa House, Ulster County, New York - Brian J McCarthy. As featured in Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century

The Interiors Monologues - Brian J McCarthy

The greatest designers of the century talk about Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century

This Greek Revival home in Ulster County is Brian J McCarthy and his partner Daniel Sagar’s weekend retreat. The luminous, eclectic interiors are decorated in what McCarthy calls “scrapbook” style: a layering of objects that tells the story of his and Sagar’s life together.

The house is featured in our new book, Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century, which highlights 400 of the world's best living spaces created by over 300 of the most influential people in interior design. (In keeping with such a mammoth and ground breaking undertaking we decided to make it available in four different color cover choices.)

McCarthy’s classical-meets-modern style was learned at legendary decorating firm Parish-Hadley, where he apprenticed after studies at New York’s Pratt Institute. Rising to the position of partner, he eventually set up his own practice in 1991. His clients include Robert Tuttle, former US ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Hadley’s influence, he says, can be seen in the home. “There’s a kind of looseness to the way things are put together,” he says. “I started with the classical structure—the architecture—but then softened the edges.”

In the living room, the focal point is a monumental Kati Heck painting called Spring Cleaning, in front of which is a Directoire daybed. McCarthy collects late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century furniture and recruits many craftspeople from France to handmake pieces. A backgammon table from New York’s Rubin Museum of Art and a standard lamp made of natural sponge and ironwork by Hélène de Saint Lager are two exquisitely selected pieces that finish off the ensemble.

We asked McCarthy about the interior in our book that inspired him the most; what it means to be featured in Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century and about the most important aspect of a room that aesthetically-minded buyers of the book can focus on. And, of course, we obviously had to ask him where in his own home he'll be placing his personal copy.

"It’s impossible to choose just one decorator (yes I use decorator rather than designer) but for the sake of answering your question I would have to say that I was most influenced by my mentor and boss Albert Hadley. His influences were among the greatest for me and they played into our everyday life in the office as he continued my education as well as allowed me to collaborate with him. Throughout my time with Albert, we inevitably discussed and referenced the work of others like Jean Michel Frank, Billy Baldwin, Elsie de Wolfe, Syrie Maugham, Van Day Truex, Renzo Mongiardino, Pauline de Rothschild, Yves St. Laurent, Beistegui, Emilio Terry and so many more."


Hadley Residence, New York - Albert Hadley. As featured in Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century
Hadley Residence, New York - Albert Hadley. As featured in Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century

"It’s truly a tremendous honor to be recognized alongside so many of my peers but even more so to be in the company of so many whom I’ve always considered to be the pinnacle of architects and designers. I never could have imagined 35 (gasp) years ago when I was graduating from Pratt that I would one day make a mark on this industry let alone be included in a book of the greatest rooms of the century."

"Most important area of a room? I didn’t know some areas are more important than others! But the most important thing is the room's functionality, no matter what room it is. Rooms must be welcoming, comfortable, carefully crafted and serve a purpose. A room that doesn’t beckon you isn’t doing its job.

Oversized and available in four collectable velvet covers to decorate any space in style, we wondered what color cover of Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century Brian and Daniel wil choose.


Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century
Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century

"This book will absolutely not end up on our coffee table because it is more than just that. It will join the other great reference books we have in our office library and will undoubtedly be referred to a great deal by myself as well as the members of my design team. We chose the yellow version of the book and the only reason I can think of is that it was a gloomy winter day when we pre-ordered it and the sunny color just seduced us. That said,  I think we now need one in each of the other colors!"

Take a look for yourself and choose your own version of Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of the Century here. And check back in the coming days for our next interview with a designer from the book. Meanwhile, you can see more of Brian J McCarthy's beautiful and eclectic interior design work on his website.