There is something very distinctive about interiors designed by Donna Grace McAlear. It is instantly apparent but it took me a while to define. Her rooms have a remarkable confidence; the space is balanced, comfortable and functions well. In her own words, Donna “allows space to breathe”. It is as if the furniture is set out like art exhibits in a very well thought out, user friendly gallery. And that makes sense because, before she became a design consultant and opened a business as New Mood Design Donna was, indeed, a fine art museum curator. The picture above is the family room of the Peak 8 Ski House – 6,000 square feet on three levels designed by Breckenridge architect Michael F. Gallagher.
Her art museum background is evident in the way in which she positions furniture and objects with open space around them, making each piece a statement piece. Another strength is the way in which her designs are ‘right’ for the building. Donna said to me in a recent conversation: “I want my designs to be in harmony so architecture is honored, emphasized appropriately. It is so important to pay attention to where the subtleties should be.” Donna is not the woman to come to if you want the interior of a modern building to feel like Ann Hathaway’s Cottage, or an Edwardian villa furnished with concrete and steel. That said, she’s very capable of making radical changes when necessary as her refurbishment of a 1939 cottage, described later, illustrates. But Donna’s approach is all about the architecture and interior design in harmony. This is a family room from the Peak 8 Ski House, an area for children and their friends. The Togo sofa, chair and ottoman are all by Ligne Roset, a collection that was originally designed by Michel Ducaroy in 1973. And iBride’s Junior Polar Bear is actually a shelving unit for DVDs, books and games. The doors on the left lead to both a powder room and a ski room which in turn opens up to the slopes. Photography of Peak 8 Ski House is by Darren Edwards.
One of the projects we talked about was the aforementioned’s refurbishment of a 1939 cottage. The owners wanted a contemporary style but with respect for the existing elements. New Mood Design transformed the small, dark spaces of three rooms; kitchen, dining and den, into an open-plan space for entertaining. Donna created a generous kitchen with an island, an adjacent sitting area and a brighter den with garden views. The color palette came from the French vintage wallpaper which Donna spotted and persuaded the owners to have restored. This view from the den shows the new kitchen and island, with a casual seating area to the left of the island. The coffee table is made from a New Orleans wrought iron gate. The majority of the new furnishings were sourced at Room and Board.
While Donna has a clear philosophy which anchors her approach she is flexible in its execution. “Most importantly”, she says “I start with the client’s wishes. My job is to listen, to understand and respond to their wishes”. I ask her about her ideal clients, “I love working with people who love their homes” she says. She also tells me that she loves working with architects both on new construction and remodels. It is, I suggest, refreshing to talk to a designer who sees the building and its interior as a whole. The cottage’s formal dining room showcases key pieces from the client’s art collection along with treasured antiques. Photography of Cottage refurbishment by David Humphreys.
Finally, our talk turns to dogs. I tell her that Modenus once seriously considered a series of photo portraits – Designers and their dogs. Well here’s Donna with her very handsome Carolina dog, also known as an American Dingo. And its name? ‘Dingo’. So here’s Donna, Dingo in a rather lovely mid century modern setting. Photo by JohnClemmer.net. It is a real pleasure to meet such an open and thoughtful designer. Modenus wishes Donna and New Mood Design every success.