Betty Sherrill

We, at McMillen Inc., are extremely sad to announce the loss of Betty Sherrill.

She died early this morning after a very short illness.  She was in her own bed, as the sun rose over the East River, surrounded by her family.

My grandmother, Betty Sherrill, loved McMillen, and her career in interior design.

We are so proud to be carrying on her legacy, and that of our firm’s founder, Eleanor McMillen Brown.

Ducky and McMillen

My grandmother in front of McMillen Inc. (and her favorite flowers).

McMillen Inc. at Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse

No surprise, it has taken a major event – Sotheby’s Inaugural Designer Showhouse – to get me fired up about writing another blog post! 


How it Came To Be

When my former boss, and head of the old master paintings department, Christopher Apostle, asked me if McMillen Inc. would like to participate in Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse, I accepted immediately.  It was a no-brainer!  During the seven years I worked at Sotheby’s, I always dreamed about being able to  incorporate the beautiful pieces I saw every day into functioning interiors – I couldn’t believe the opportunity that our firm was given!

The Rules of The Game

Six design firms participated – McMillen Inc., Max Sinsteden & Catherine Olasky, Ryan Korban, WRJ Design, Modern Declaration, and Shaler Ladd.  Each designer had to choose at least twenty pieces – furniture, lighting, paintings, prints, and objets gleaned from future Sotheby’s sales – and then use them to create a room in a 20′ by 20′ space.   We weren’t allowed to reupholster any of the antique furniture being offered for sale, and if we wanted to use upholstered, or, “soft” furniture, we had to bring it in ourselves.

McMillen chose to do a dining room, and the results are below!


In keeping with our dining room theme (and to cover some major wall space) we chose this monumental Roy Lichenstein, “Thinking Nude.” If you look carefully, you can see a bowl of fruit in the upper right hand corner of the work. On the east and west sides of the room, we placed a pair of Italian Neoclassical parcel-gilt and green-painted settees. Above each we hung a Robert Ryman print.

My mother filled her latest purchase from Rago’s, a resin Fish Design vase by Gaetano Pesce, with white anemones, McMillen’s signature flower.  This vase has been one of the main attractions of our room,  and naturally, my mother has had a lot of fun reminding me that I ‘advised’ her not to buy it!  (Specifically I said it was “ugly and weird.” Anyway, it’s grown on me!)  I love the geometric pattern of this George III Giltwood marble top side table, circa 1775, and how its black and white palette is carried up the wall by the John Baldessari print.


The John Baldassari will be offered in Sotheby’s May 1 and 2 Print Sale; the pair of candelabra and the side table will be offered in the June 9 sale of Important English and European Furniture and Decorative Arts.

For our dining table, we chose a beautiful Chinese Export parcel-gilt black lacquer center table, circa 1835.  Notice how the red tongues of the dragons at the base of the table pick up the red details of the screen behind, the red accents in the Lichtenstein, the red of the upholstery of the Godwin settee, and (while not visible in this photo) the red rectangle in the John Baldessari print.  My mother, Ann Pyne, designed and -  together with A.W. Fowler – executed, the geometric blue-on-blue-on-blue design of the walls.  I think it works perfectly with the diagonals of the Lichtenstein, and as a means of “contemporizing” the 18th and 19th century furniture.


We added the screens to give the room more height. The blue flowers in the carpet we borrowed from Beauvais tie in well with the smoky blues of the walls.

A detail of our table setting. These adorable owl pepperettes were one of the first objects I chose.  I love this photo, and how it looks like the tiny birds are being watched over by Lichtenstein’s daydreaming beauty.

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A Set of Eleven English Silver-Gilt Owl Pepperettes, Richard Comyns, London, 1962-63. These are being offered in Sotheby’s April 8th, sale of Important Russian Works of Art, European Silver, and Vertu.

A view of our dining room from north to south, with the door to the old master paintings department on the left (and the 6th floor bathroom on the right)!!


As everyone knows, photos can never really do a room justice.  So go to 1334 York Avenue and see the Designer Showhouse for yourself.  We had so much fun working with Sotheby’s and the specialists there, especially Andrew Ogletree, who is extremely knowledgeable, and a blast to be around!  The Showhouse is open to the public through Sunday, March 30th.




A Bed Blog

Last Thursday, while waiting for my (very delayed) flight home from Miami, the only thing I could think about was getting back to my own bed.  And actually, “I just want to sleep in my own bed,” is a refrain I hear a lot: on flights home from particularly rowdy “destination” weddings, in conversations with friends who travel for business, and in meetings with clients who want their renovations finished (now!).  There is something so comforting about “your own bed.”  No wonder House Beautiful has a monthly column, “I Love My Bed“!

A bed, to me, is the most private and peaceful place in a house.  It’s where I have my first and last thoughts of the day, finish some of my favorite books, and, I’ll admit, binge-watch t.v. shows ’til the wee hours.

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My bed when I first moved into my apartment. I’m nostalgic for this neatness. Now, the bedside table is stacked with books and photographs; the bed is piled with decorative pillows!


But just because a bed is personal, it doesn’t mean that designing one should be a total free-for-all.  As with everything in design, there are certain rules that should be considered (even if you end up breaking them!).

Keep It In Context

McMillen Plus did the below bed for a single guy’s rental in New York City.  In keeping with the masculine, streamlined look of the rest of the apartment, we bought a simple bed from Crate & Barrel.  The ebony bed frame and dark brown ultra suede headboard guarantee that this bed won’t need much upkeep.  (And the proportion of the mattress to the bed frame is perfect!)

McMillen Inc. Residence of Mr. Pyne

The straight lines of this bed allows for no-frills bedding.  (Over the years I’ve noticed that guys aren’t too keen on tucking in sheets or plumping pillows…unless, of course, they have someone to do it for them!)


On the opposite spectrum, my colleague, Mary Beth Donohue, used this bed from Oly Studio for the stately master bedroom of a 19th century house in Old Westbury, New York.  Notice how the silvery hammered metal bed frame echoes the curtain rods; how the tassel fringe on the leading edge of the bed panels matches that on the curtains; and how the Marc Bankowsky bench from Maison Gerard is upholstered in the same shade of blue as the headboard.  (Even though I am, in general, opposed to sleeping late, I think I could spend many a happy morning in this bed!)

Mary Beth Old Westbury

This finely wrought bed demands beautiful bedding, and Mary Beth went to
E. Braun & Co. for these linens.  This bed is perfect for a sophisticated couple.

Make it Cozy

My mom, Ann Pyne, designed this bed for a little girl’s room.  I love how the canopy envelops the head and footboards, like a mother hen putting her wings around her chicks!  I’ve always liked small, cozy spaces, and I would have loved this bed as a little girl.


The Gustavian twin trundle bed is from Country Swedish.  The plaid fabric is from Carlton V.

 Some Tips

1. Proportion is important!   The standard height of a bed (combination of mattress, box spring, bed frame) is 21″-26″.  The classic proportion of mattress to support (box spring + frame) is 1:2.  Using this proportion, a bed skirt, which covers the support, looks graceful.  But now, mattresses are often (unnecessarily!) thick, sometimes 14″-20″, making the bed frame look diminutive.  So, if you’re going to buy a huge mattress, and want to have a bed skirt, make certain to increase the height of your bed frame too.  Otherwise, you risk having your bed look like a sumo wrestler wearing a tutu!

2. It’s a myth that fatter mattresses are more comfortable!  I think the best mattresses are the custom-made mattresses by Charles H. Beckley, and they average 7 1/2″ thick.  Sleepy’s also makes a mattress that’s 8″ thick.  I’ve done a price comparison, and actually, Beckley mattresses are quite reasonable.  (And they last forever!)

3. Look at the other furniture in the room!  A lot of bedroom furniture is made for beds that are 21″-26″ high.  So if you’re going to have a thick mattress and corresponding bed frame, make certain the furniture can stand up to it.  It would be a real shame to have an expensive antique outdone by a Sleepy’s mattress!

I hope these simple tips will guide your next bed-buying adventure!  Next up: highlights from my trip to Art Basel Miami.

Sweet dreams!