Denise McGaha, principal of Denise McGaha Interiors, presents a signature look that encompasses classic tradition with contemporary sensibility. Her incomparable style and supremely functional design has earned her accolades from loyal clients and the interior design industry, itself.
How did you discover your passion for design?
I have always had the ability to scale a room and know the measurements of a space without using a measuring tape. This came in helpful when rearranging my bedroom and our family room furniture, as a child. When my husband and I decided to build our first home in 1999, I found that I was much more interested in that project than my day job. I spent hours online and tearing out magazine pages. Once my son was born, I decided that pursuing a design career would be the best way to fuel my passion.
What is your favorite decorative object at home?
Two life-size white plaster lions my husband owned when we married. They have been everywhere with us, and are often dressed up and decorated for holidays and dinner parties.
Can you pick your five favorite items you are consigning and tell a little bit about what makes them special?
Scroll Base Coffee Table: I love how this table is perfect for small spaces and illuminates a room. The antique mirror makes it timeless, and it is the perfect spot for resting a cocktail after work.
3-Seat Skirted Sofa: I love the comfort and beauty of this sofa. The perfect blue fabric that goes with everything. It is the perfect living room piece because it looks great from every angle.
Gazelles Artwork: These large-scale pieces are perfect for a long hallway, a man’s study or even a game room. I love their beautiful frames and the beauty of wildlife captured by the artist.
Wooly Armchair: I adore this chair for its comfort, for the texture of the fabric and for the fact that the arms are open. This chair is perfect for any guest room, living room or home office.
Fluted Table Lamps: I adore the soft light that emits from these lamps through the custom shades. They are the perfect neutral punch of pattern that every room needs. These lamps work anywhere.
Is design an art or a science?
Definitely an art.
Do you have any go-to color or pattern combinations?
I prefer to combine off colors in a space, and work hard not to make everything match. I love a stripe mixed in with florals and solids.
When do you consider a completed project a success?
When I can bring the photographer in to photograph it for our portfolio. If it is not ready for the lens, it is not complete.
Share your biggest design secret.
Relax and do not be worried about the rules so much. If you love it, it will work in a space. You may need to mix up the formula and move things around to accept a new piece, but isn’t that the fun of it all?
What is the most common design mistake you see?
Matchy-matchy interiors. A room with every color being the exact same shade falls flat.
How do you balance style, comfort and functionality?
By making sure every sofa is deep enough to seat a 6′ tall person, has enough pillows for someone that is 5’2″, has a mix of down filler in the cushions and is upholstered in a performance fabric with a soft hand. Once that exists, everything else in the room can stand alone.
Is there a specific item you typically use as a starting point? (ex: rug, artwork, statement piece, furniture)
I start with a rug to set the tone for a space. Fabrics come next, and then we decide which frames, artwork and antiques will play supporting roles.
What do you think about Sotheby’s Home?
It is the height of elegance and special finds. I am so excited to find one-of-a-kind items there to make our projects feel special and collected.