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MA Allen Interiors: Eclectic Visions

Unexpected, eclectic, maximalist: that’s what MA Allen’s alluring style is all about. Culling from her appreciation for history and antique gems, she masterfully taps into the past to craft rich, layered, lived-in environments with a modern, colorful twist.

MA Allen is a celebrated designer and tastemaker based in Raleigh, North Carolina, who established her eponymous design firm back in 2011.

Classically-trained interior designer and well-traveled mother of four, Allen successfully brings people’s personal stories to life in their homes in unexpected and bold ways. “Almost like an anthropologist, I learn everything I can about my clients, their families, and how they live,” she says. By first enhancing the usability of a home, Allen is able to translate her client’s needs into exceptionally bold yet comfortable spaces.

Manifesting in all Allen’s creations, her signature maximalist style has captivated the design community, earning her several features in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Flower Magazine, and The Washington Post.

Picked by MA Allen Interiors

The Interview

How did you first become involved in the world of design? Tell us your story.

From the moment I was born, I was encircled by the Interior Design industry, with parents in the furniture and design world, as well as my grandmother, a Pratt Institute graduate and talented artist. So, it only seemed fitting that I would follow in their footsteps as a principal and interior designer at MA Allen Interiors.

As a child, I always worked alongside my mom, decorating my room, dorm rooms in high school, apartments in college, and on to my first home. However, before taking on the design world, I dreamed of attending law school and becoming an attorney. It wasn’t until my junior year at UNC when I took a trip to Budapest that I was reminded of my passion for design and realized law school wasn't on my career path. On that trip, I indeed spent my time going from one antique store to another, loving every minute of it. Once I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a career in Interior Design, I have never looked back. I graduated from UNC in 2006 before entering the Interior Design program at Meredith College.

How would you describe your personal style and what’s the personal signature that makes your projects unique?

Dressing and designing interiors is a balancing act of contrasting elements, like traditional furniture with a backdrop of bold walls, fun patterns, and unexpected color pairings creating a visually pleasing end result. A juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern allows the collection of family heirlooms to coexist with the new and shiny.

Are there any specific trends that you’re currently blending in your practice?

Our design approach tends to steer clear from trends. We are always influenced by history and tradition, but the True North of all decisions made during the design process is knowing what is most important to a client. Our team always seeks to incorporate the most recent technology to enhance the usability of a home and simplify the day-to-day responsibilities of our clients, whether it’s investing in recessed infrared heaters to make use of your outdoor patio all year long or sealing your marble countertops for peace of mind during your next dinner party, we build homes that work for our clients and not the other way around.

What do you think it’s going to be the next big trend in interior design?

My eye has tired of the overtly clean, modern, farmhouse aesthetic. I’d love to see historic renovation projects trend versus the tear-down that plagues so many beautiful neighborhoods, letting architecture take the lead and influencing the interiors.

What’s the decorative piece you enjoy selecting for your clients and why?

Everything really! Light fixtures and cabinet hardware are the jewelry, while wallpaper, fabrics, and passementerie are the clothing. Sourcing new furniture and seeking the perfect antiques is all a labor of love to balance old and new.

In a hyper-digital world, do you often turn to social media for inspiration? If yes, which social media platform do you use and why?

A daily scroll through Instagram often sparks an idea while current projects are fresh in the mind. But I will always treasure my collection of design books, both old and new, and taking time to flip the pages for inspiration.

What would be your dream project to work on?

I’m really excited about luxury, boutique hotels. The opportunities to influence a fully immersive experience and get into the nitty gritty details - scents, bedding, reception, branding - would be a dream come true. We successfully pull together large concepts for residential interiors by intentionally considering every detail, I would love to bring this same design thinking to the public.