As an artist turned self-taught decorator, Whitney McGregor has always had a passion for beautiful spaces and inspiring environments that nurture the soul.
Known for her love of antiquities and playful take on traditional design, Whitney works closely with families across the Unites States, translating their visions into warm and layered interiors that can stand the test of time. Since founding her eponymous South Carolina based design firm in 2010, Whitney has been featured in leading publications such as Southern Living, House Beautiful, and Country Living, and recently named a “grand millennial” by The Wall Street Journal, a label she has proudly adopted. Whether working on a 1,400 square foot cottage or large scale residential project, Whitney seeks to honor tradition, geography, and the existing bones of each home she touches…creating whimsical spaces that delight the senses!
We couldn’t be more excited to sit down with one of our favorite decorators (and recent Expert), whose style and beautifully layered interiors we adore, to talk about what Living Beautifully means to her, where she turns to for inspiration, and more.
Where did you grow up and how has your past shaped your design aesthetic?
I was born in a small town called Lima. Following my parents’ divorce, my mother took my siblings I, and moved us to Columbus. It was honestly the best thing that could have happened because Columbus had an exploding art and cultural scene, not to mention ample opportunity for nature and outdoor activities. We wouldn’t have experienced any of those things had we not moved. We spent weekends at museums, galleries, conservatories, botanical gardens. We would see theatrical performances, ballets, small theater group performances. Growing up with my mom in Columbus was like an immersive arts program! That is all aside from the fact that my mom was extremely creative (her grandmother was a sculptor, uncle who was a famous fashion designer) and she was always dabbling in interiors. I joke that she was the original coastal grandma. She looked and dressed like Diane Keaton in the 90s and her interiors were always so chic but ultra comfortable.
How would you describe your style?
A new Instagram follower recently reached out and said she loved my work because it reminded her of what she saw in the original Domino magazine mixed with old school decorators. And that basically sums it up. I’m so influenced by the classics and I really strive for my projects to look unique and look like the clients! The original Domino was a huge influence on me because it was so expressive and individual. Each of the homes were different and special, ultra chic but not imitations. They were original and authentic and I still strive for that.
Who are some of your style icons?
How much time do we have? I have so many style icons – I’m a design fan girl. In keeping with the Domino theme, I still look to Deborah Needleman and Michelle Adams, Dara Caponigro – they are still staying authentic and doing amazing things. I love Rita Konig too and Jeffrey Bilhuber is probably my forever favorite. Tori Mellot also has the best taste ever. Bunny Mellon, Lee Radziwill, Madeleine Castaing and Sister Parish are all ladies I would like to lunch with if I had a time capsule!
How did you start your company and what do you love most about what you do?
My company was founded around 2010 and it was, in a way, something I stumbled upon. I’d always been interested in interiors and was constantly dabbling alongside my mom, but I never realized people did it for a living. I come from farmers and soldiers – and a couple of artists- we had means but did things ourselves so I didn’t know anyone who hired decorators until I got to Columbus. After high school, my parents discouraged an art degree in favor of “something more stable” so I went to Clemson and studied French and International Trade. When I graduated in 2009 from Clemson into the worst economy in my lifetime, I couldn’t find a job in my field, nor did I really want to! My, then fiancé, and I decided to buy a house – not sure how we made that happen, but we did! And I started chipping away and blogging about it. It was mostly IKEA and estate sale stuff but people started asking me to help them do what I had done in my own house and one thing led to another. It was and still is a long road and a learning process. I wish that I had worked for someone because there is so much more than just having the talent and the grit- there are a lot of trade secrets that I’m still figuring out! BUT I bootstrapped and here I am! It is still sometimes surreal that I made it this far. I feel so fortunate to get to do this every day. I love working closely with people in their homes – their sacred spaces. I truly think that making beautiful habitats that nurture and inspire is life changing.
Where do you turn to for inspiration when you begin a new project?
I have an extensive library that I love referring back to when I feel that I have lost my way or my vision is “blurry”. But mostly, I take cues from my clients. They show me what they love, what inspires them, how they want the spaces to feel and look and be experienced. I follow their lead and listen closely. I pay attention to what they’re drawn to or what excites them and then I look for common threads. It’s sort of an intuitive process that I think I’ve done for much of my life because I’m an empath. But in the end, I am inspired by them and their vision for the space!
What would your dream project be?
I feel like I have several dream projects right now. Really it’s anytime I get a great client with a special house and a healthy budget. I’m such a house nerd and I get excited and inspired by the space itself and the area/town. I love taking cues from geography plus the existing bones of the house and letting that inspire decisions. I suppose I should be specific so I can call this project into existence but maybe a sprawling Hamptons estate. Old property but well kept. Wood shingled, lots of hedges recently purchased by a fun young family with almost unlimited resources and an affinity for the classics. 1, 2, 3 Go!
Which decorators from the past do you most often turn to for inspiration?
Sister Parish and Albert Hadley for sure. David Hicks, Bunny Mellon (not a decorator but style icon), Mario Buatta any and every Gloria Vanderbilt space, Jean-Michel Frank, I still have a soft spot for Dorothy Draper and always love Elsie de Wolfe – what she did, almost 100 years ago has informed so much of what we are seeing right now.
If you could hire any designer from the past to decorate your home, who would it be?
His is not a household name but Lorenzo Mongiardino. Italians do it best! And I would learn so much from the experience.
If you could invite any three individuals from the past, who would they be and what would you serve for dinner?
What a fun question! I would invite Robin Williams, Oscar de la Renta and my great uncle Paul Whitney. He was a fashion designer and I never got to know him well. Would love to spend an evening with those three. Surely a lot of laughter would ensue! In that make believe world, I would also not be gluten intolerant and I’d serve one of my most favorite dishes – Anchovy Pasta! Served with red wine and mille-feuille for dessert.
What are some of your indispensable items when entertaining and how do you ensure a memorable dinner party?
This is going to sound cheesy, but a relaxed hostess is the most important thing when entertaining. We lived in a small but charming house when we first moved to Greenville. It was decorated from head to toe and featured in Southern Living in 2019. I was so obsessed with making it “perfect” that I never entertained because it was “never ready”. In hindsight, what a waste! It was so lovely and hardly anyone got to enjoy it!
Fast-forward to now, we have since moved from out 1400-sq-ft charmer to a 5000-sq-ft fixer upper. We are plus one kid and one dog. Our careers are much busier, kids are in sports, theater, music etc. Life is full. And my house is so neglected because, cobblers children, but my mindset has changed. We entertain more than ever, and I just don’t care that it’s not perfect. It actually puts people more at ease, I think. I would say, aside from a good attitude, to keep ample drinks and snacks. Once things start to run out, the party’s over!
Which tabletop items do you invest in, and save on?
I am really a no fuss hostess. I love to cook, eat good food and drink good wine. I have great staple; simple white platters and serveware – probably from Crate & Barrell – but I would rather spend on exquisite food and drinks.
What does living beautifully mean to you?
I feel fortunate to have grown up surrounded by people to whom living beautifully was important. For me, it means doing all things with care and intention. It doesn’t have to be over the top, fancy or expensive. It is simply taking care and doing on purpose. When I lived in France, it solidified my understanding of this as a way of life. The French do it so effortlessly and really have a less is more mentality, which I find so inspiring.
How do you make every day feel special in your home?
I work from home so I am here a lot! But I think creating small moments of luxury, comfort, drama, playfulness and peacefulness within my spaces keeps it special. I don’t want my home to be just one thing – I want it to be multi-faceted, interesting and inspiring. I want my kids to be challenged and influenced by the art we have or a piece of sculptural lighting, an interesting chair or fabric or a funky sofa.
What is your typical morning routine?
I’m not a morning person! So, I’m usually up late, fire drill to get dressed and get the kids off to school and then, on a good day, it’s off to tennis for a morning workout. I’d say the only constant for mornings, because they are rarely predictable, is hot water with honey and apple cider vinegar. I’d love to say I wake with the sun, have a latte while I journal and then yoga on the veranda. But I have to keep it real. Mornings are a bit hairy over here!
How do you like to unwind after a busy day?
Usually, it’s 10:00PM before any unwinding happens at our house. But I love to lay in bed and watch a movie or show with my husband. We generally last about 15 minutes before we’re both snoring, but I do love some Netflix and chill!
What do you love most about living in South Carolina?
South Carolina has it all. We are a few hours from the beach and an hour and some change from the mountains. I can play tennis all year round but we still have seasons. The leaves change in the Fall and Spring is perfection. We occasionally have snow but it usually melts in a day. South Carolina is pretty much perfect in my book. We live in Greenville and it’s such a good size. We have good restaurants and lots happening but don’t have big city problems like excessive crime or traffic.
While traveling, are there any objects you enjoy collecting?
My kids know I love plants and, specifically, flowers. And because I am always yaking about that plant or flower or tree, they have also started noticing and appreciating beauty in nature. My girls are always picking small flowers or finding cool leaves everywhere we go so I started pressing them in a checkbook in my purse. My plan is to frame them and remember each trip by the little bloom or heart shaped leaf.
What is at the top of your bucket list?
Returning to Provence with my children and spending a summer there. I want them to understand French culture and the French countryside in the same way I did.
What are some of the greatest lessons you learned from your parents?
My mom would always say “don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” She lived this philosophy. Not much got her worked up and I learned to be easy and not take myself too seriously!
What can we expect to see from your eponymous firm in the near future?
I hope to continue to put out original work and inspire others. I also have three exciting projects near completion now and I can’t wait to finally share those in their entirety.
Favorite Travel Destination?
Favorite historic house museum?
The Breakers in Newport
Favorite interior of all time?
Brooke Astor’s bedroom in New York
Favorite design era?
Favorite wallpaper pattern?
Favorite piece of furniture in your home?
An old lattice pedestal that I purchased from an antique dealer friend.
Favorite design book(s) you most often turn to for inspiration?
The Way Home: Reflections on American Beuty by Jeffrey Bilhuber
Favorite movie(s) every design lover should watch at least once?
The original Parent Trap!
Favorite home scent?
Holy Basil by Tatine
Favorite tabletop shop?
Favorite family tradition?
Visiting Miami. We go at least once a year and always have the best time.
Favorite piece of advice from your mother?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”