Vincent Van Gogh famously said, “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”
For Ails McGee, businesswoman and mother of three, home interior design comes to her in a similar natural sense.
We speak with the co-director of According to McGee art gallery and the visual arts charity, New Visuality about her home design inspiration, love for sketchbooks and how ‘ripples’ are at the heart of everything she does.
How do you make interior decisions in your home?
It's funny, they’re not decisions, they’re more arrivals, a mixture of choices that come from an array of creative thoughts. I might be ripping magazines or mixing paint for my sketchbook, or starting or finishing a painting, or rearranging the pots on a shelf, and it's like the ripples spread. The goal is to find a sense of peace in my pastime, and once that’s achieved the interior choices arrive organically.
Do influencers influence you?
They don’t, in the sense that style is so much more important than fashion to me. We have all benefited from the opening up of the conversation, and it’s easier now than ever to put time aside and think and talk seriously about how life is simply made better by carefully thought out surroundings, credit must go to the trailblazers of Feng Shui for that, but the word ‘influence’ is too specific for me. Like I say, it is more about how the ripples spread.
How do ‘the ripples' manifest themselves?
I’m a mother of three and a businesswoman so I’m busy pretty much all of the time. I take my creative relaxation very seriously. That’s where I find the ripples. I love sketchbooks. I love making them, filling them, and collecting them. I sit with magazines and rip out colours or quotes, I incorporate them with my own artistic mark-making and constantly revisit them, so the pages have layers upon layers of visual stories.
I have them on a dresser in the dining room and I pick them up whenever I pass, I find that when it’s time for me to paint- I’m a professional painter and I always have work on the go in the studio - the ideas I have already collected slide effortlessly into making the first few marks on the canvas. I have a lot of my own art in the house and it’s easy to see how the ripples have spread from initially ripping out colour from magazines to making the final mark on a seascape or landscape.
Is it just visual art that informs your interior choices?
No, and it’s not just 2D art, I love pots as well. I collect pots. I have just finished hanging shelves in the kitchen to showcase them. It’s an obsession. What’s great is that my close friend, Devonshire based artist Jennifer Bennett, and I keep in touch with images and ideas several times a day.
We talk about palettes, surfaces, and ceramics, and we often see all of that captured in a pot that’s for sale in a charity shop window or in an artist’s studio. I buy the pot, add it to my collection, and it not only brings me inspiration for what it is, but it brings back happy memories of creative conversations with my friend Jenny. I like to think the warmth of a good friendship can help a homeowner with inspiration.
How is the house looking as we speak?
We have a dark house and it’s hard to light up, so I spend time getting the lamps right, and what the light reveals is generally bare wood, rubbed down surfaces and patterns from ceramics. Candles, fire, and cosiness seem to work all year round.
We live in York, a northern city, so there’s no shame in really embracing what it is to make everything simple and soothing, whether it’s through Danish Hygge or Scottish Coorie. I’m Scottish, and pre-pandemic I was visiting my parents in the Scottish Borders, painting for my sister, taking photos and sketching the bitter beauty of the border landscape, and revisiting my roots in my parents’ cottage in Kelso. In many ways, the house at the moment is a tribute to what it is to cherish the little things inspired by the people we love the most.
To end, it is obvious Ails has a natural knowing of what sinks and what swims when it comes to her interior design. For anyone struggling to find their own identifiable aesthetic, take Ails' own advice. Find your sense of peace and let the organically generated ripples lead the way. Let your home be a reminder of the good times shared, and those yet to come.
Article By: Brooke Murphy
I’m Brooke and I am currently in my final year of studying BA Hons Fashion Journalism at the University of Sunderland. I have always had a passion for writing about maximalism art and fashion and I am excited for this opportunity at 'The Connoisseur' to allow me to focus on and develop my skills further.