Q&A with Holiday House Design Show 2018 Winner Mackenzie Williams

This year, MFA student Mackenzie Williams was announced the winner on November 27, at the mansion on East 76th Street on the Upper East Side. Mackenzie used what she likes to call a snowman effect to help create inspiration. Her winning design, “La Salle de Champagne” was based on a New Year’s Eve night with family and friends. “There is something exciting and glamorous about spending New Year's Eve out on the town in Manhattan,” she says, “but I'm personally equally as happy celebrating and playing games at home.” Mackenize continued, “My design is meant to reflect both of those feelings. It is part glitzy and moody, with metallic details and nods to Art Deco style, and part grounded and natural through the inclusion of leather, natural wood, and botanical patterns. My hope is that it feels like the perfect place to sip champagne and celebrate.”

Mackenize used fabrics and furnishings from the Robert Allen Duralee Group and their partners, including Anna French, Arteriors, Theodore Alexander and Thibaut. Her mentor for the competition was Cheryl Settino Mosher, a NYSID alumnae and former Holiday House competition winner, who she says is amazingly talented and fun to work with.

Prior to judging, students were treated to a discussion with interior designers Vicente Wolf and Eric Haydel, and founder of Holiday House NYC Iris Dankner.



Describe NYSID in three words.
Focused, Practical, Exclusive.

Tell us about the process you use to transform ideas into work.
Maybe it's the season, but making a snowman comes to mind when I think about my process. There is always one thing that serves as my initial inspiration; it might be a full-blown concept, a fabric or pattern, an art installation I've seen or somewhere I've recently traveled. That one little snowball is the beginning of my snowman. I explore it through conversations with friends and classmates, through research, or visually with sketches and some rough 3D modeling, growing the idea until it's developed into a solid foundation for the rest of the project.

That process is repeated however many times are necessary (or however many are possible, given the deadline), to strengthen the design. Every design takes several iterations. So many ideas are explored; some are developed and included, others are not. The body of the snowman is where all of those ideas are really put together; my plan and elevations are laid out, I have a 3D model built out – that's the stage where someone on the outside looking in can start to see what it's going to be.

The snowman's eyes, nose, scarf, hat and everything else are the presentation pieces of the process. Communicating your ideas is one of the most important parts of being a designer, and I think it can also be one of the hardest. For Holiday House I really tried to capture the mood of the space and reflect that in my renderings and overall presentation. It takes practice, and it takes more time than you'd ever think just by seeing the finished product, but that time and those details are essential to capturing your audience.

What’s your take on NYSID’s efforts to make its curriculum more diverse and inclusive?
My course load this semester is a pretty good example of how diverse the curriculum at NYSID can be. Over the course of a week, I spend time working on my studio project (currently a retail space for a lifestyle brand), and learning about lighting, HVAC and plumbing, architecture of the 18th and 19th Centuries, and the preparation of construction documents. I like to try to include a class each semester that is more hands-on and really pushes my creativity, so my elective right now is Mixed Media Rendering with the amazing Bill Engel. That means that on a Thursday evening I'm in class learning Revit and on a Friday afternoon I might be sketching and rendering in Central Park.

What are some of your best moments at NYSID so far?
Some of my best moments at NYSID have been times that I've enjoyed with friends, classmates and other people I've connected with through the College like alumni mentors that I've been paired with. The program is a lot of work, but we're all in it together and everyone is so supportive of each other. Things as simple as celebrating a classmate's birthday in studio with cupcakes or going to an industry event with friends from school are the moments that I really remember and what have made my time here so far special.

Why did you decide to pursue a MFA at NYSID?
I was working in finance related to commercial real estate for about six years before I made the leap and applied to the MFA program. When I was growing up I wanted to be an architect, and I've always known that I wanted to be involved in some sort of design. I couldn't ask for a better place to be to studying interior design than New York City, and NYSID's program is so skills-oriented and practical, that it just made the most sense to me when I was looking at schools. I couldn't be happier with my decision.

Phyllis Greer