Mimi McMakin is one of Palm Beach’s most prodigious designers. Her company, Kemble Interiors, has styled some of the area’s iconic institutions, helping to define the classic Floridian style so beloved across the United States. Many of her designs can be seen in the beautiful neighbourhood surrounding The Chesterfield Palm Beach. Here, we catch up with the renowned designer, who tells us about her journey into interiors, what inspires her immaculate taste and how to achieve the Palm Beach style.
What first drew you to interior design?
“I was born in Palm Beach. My family has lived here for five generations: my great-grandfather brought his house down here by barge, and my grandfather built one of the early hotels here.
I moved to New York for my first big job to work as a stockbroker and quickly realised that I was not going to have much fun in the profession. So, I began working for a Boston-based interior designer. After a couple of years, I started my own company, Kemble Interiors. My first clients were all my old boyfriends. I gave them huge discounts along with great apartments sparing them from having their mothers or their current girlfriends try to help them.
After I married and had my first daughter, I moved back to Palm Beach and, in time, joined two well-known interior design companies, Smith Knudsen and Jessup Incorporated. At Jessup, we had to draw everything by hand, from valances to floor plans to furniture designs. Anything we designed had to be made in a sample form first. Furnishings were costly, everything had to be well thought out, so mistakes were rare. After 10 years, I resurrected Kemble Interiors and jumped off the cliff—as an old business partner of mine put it.”
What has had the largest influence on your style?
“My style has always been to listen to my clients’ wishes and give them a warm, friendly, comfortable and considered environment. I’ve been influenced by numerous designers over the course of 50 years. I’ve also been privileged to see many of the great homes in America and Europe first-hand—either as a house guest, tourist or design professional. Currently, I am influenced by my designer daughter Celerie Kemble, who runs our New York office. She is quick and has great taste. She keeps me current, all the while sharing, and following, the great lessons I learned from working with Polly Jessup.”
Palm Beach has long been associated with gorgeous interiors. What defines the Palm Beach style?
“Palm Beach style seems to be a timeless combination of soft colors, linen fabrics, pickled wood floors, area rugs, glazed walls, pecky cypress ceilings, deep sofas and down pillows. The style also recognises the need for easy use by children and doggies.”
What are your favorite interiors within Palm Beach?
“My favorite interiors are those of my own house: a 125-year-old wooden church, filled with memorabilia, behind huge, un-curtained, sun-filled, arched windows, the abundant light gently fading my old chintz fabric.”
What interiors have you enjoyed working on the most?
“Every project we have worked on has become a favorite at one point or another. From country clubs to hotels, to island residences, as long as our clients are pleasant to work with, the process becomes joyful and the finished product beautiful.”
Can you take us through your creative process?
“Our design process begins with conversations about what a client would like the finished product to feel like. Photographs, torn-out clippings or a Pinterest board are all a great help. The next step is to determine their budget. No one likes to discuss this, but, in all fairness, it is critical for the designer and the client to be open about the costs of their desires. The next steps involve architectural ideas, floor plans, furniture layout and fabric selection. All of this is great fun for our clients: meetings have, on many occasions, gone on all day with clients amazed that the time has passed so quickly.”
Lastly, do you have any pet hates when it comes to interiors?
“Interiors that are overly decorated, colorless, and filled with uncomfortable, stiff furniture make me feel sad for their owners. Good, long-lasting design is so much more than just picking out pretty fabrics.”
See some of Palm Beach’s world-famous interiors and get a taste for its unique style at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Chesterfield Palm Beach. Pups and children, too, will benefit from the considered Palm Beach style, thanks to The Chesterfield’s child and dog-friendly policies.