Not everyone has the time or the desire to design their home. While this is a staggering and somewhat heartbreaking truth for some us, technology has come to the rescue. Miami-based interior designer Sabrina MacLean has recently launched Maison MacLean, an online interior design service created exclusively for men who want cool, customized interiors, but who can’t invest the energy required into achieving them.
Working in high-end residential interior design with her mother, designer Carola Hinojosa of Hinojosa Design Studio, MacLean noticed that more and more of her clients were bachelors—either recently divorced, separated, or flying solo due to demanding careers. Without a girlfriend, wife, or partner to help weigh in on design decisions, they were generally at a loss. “When I researched this, I noticed other brands like Trunk Club would focus on fashion but not home,” says MacLean. “I realized not enough companies were focusing on men, so I wanted to cater to this niche. These are men who are recently single and have to start fresh, or they have just purchased a new place and they want their homes to have style and reflect who they are right now.”
There is no lack of interior design inspiration online, but finding the right designer in real life has its challenges. From vetting to interviewing, it is a process so similar to dating that it’s stunning Silicon Valley hasn’t imparted more disruption within the industry. A few online design services like Home Polish and Laurel & Wolf have proven that that interior design can indeed take place virtually. MacLean sees those platforms as ideal for a particular demographic, like “couples who are newlyweds, or starting their lives together, where the wife is more involved,” she says.
But bachelors are a different breed. Maison MacLean clients are often in their mid-30s or older; she describes them as men who want to invest in the next stage of their lives, trading up from hip, but very mass retail brands like West Elm. Cultivating that updated, defined sense of style does not happen in short order. It either looks too catalog-perfect or too disconnected from the homeowner. “A gentleman’s home should be the ultimate stage and the ideal escape,” she says. “Our goal is to have them come home to an inspired and beautiful space which resonates with their personalities.”
Knowing how elaborate the traditional client-designer relationship can be, MacLean wanted to simplify the entire affair. Instead of having nuanced discussions about specific design details, her approach was to distill the essence of her large-scale residential work and make the decision-making manageable. “Woman are hunters. With men, you have to bring the product to them,” observes MacLean, without playing into gender politics.
Narrowed to six steps, Maison MacLean begins with an online assessment, which is presented as a questionnaire – How do you dress; How do you use your home; What industry are you in; Why types of workouts do you do? From that baseline, the diagnostic moves into a style profile, asking prospective clients to choose from four specific looks: Hamptons, Laid Back, Urban Chic, and Refined. (Urban and Laid Back, it turns out, are the most popular.) The merits of each are described, but this is a deliberately visual approach with a strong emphasis on fashion. “How you dress is how we style,” says MacLean, noting that clothing and personal style are relatable entry points for interior design. “It’s an expression to the world about who you are,” she says. It also provides immediate take on taste, which, for men, regularly suffers from standardization. “I have two brothers and they are very much opposites, so it was important to understand how men define themselves,” MacLean says; it’s important to her that she avoids obvious clichés.
Prospective clients then choose a level of service—Silver, Gold or Platinum—which determines how light or heavy the project will be. Maison MacLean’s options range from light accessorizing and color choices to complete package with furnishings, lighting, art, accessories, and additional lifestyle elements. MacLean is big on dressing more than the home, including “anything that adds value to my clients’ lives.” She has arranged wellness sessions with nutritionists, found top-rated housekeeping services, and offered wisdom on how to select the best bed linens, choose the right clothing hangers, and how to accessorize a bathroom. She also maintains a list of black book resources for each city with experts in various categories like home organization, travel, or the culinary scene.
A typical starting point for an entry Maison MacLean package is $50,000. Clients often step up to a total design treatment—including art—which reaches into the $300,000 and beyond. MacLean presents a mood board before the client signs a contract so they can get a sense of what can be accomplished. Next, parameters—budget, timeframe—and contract details are discussed by phone. Once a Maison MacLean client is on board, she and her team work on a detailed design concept, which includes furnishing options complete with images, material samples, and pricing for all items. If a client wants a rendering, there is an additional charge. The engagement concludes with white-glove delivery service and the tah-dah moment every designer dreams of.
Instant gratification is rare in the design world, but MacLean is committed to keeping the timeline short. Projects are typically completed between six and eight weeks. She also insists on a complete transformation, spiriting away all of the old furniture and handling everything from procurement of accessories to sophisticated sound systems.
As so much of this experience is based on faith, digital seems to be an unexpected sidekick in the process. But it’s a natural fit; clients often weigh in on decisions over email or text. She allows their personal style to take the driver’s seat for the interior aesthetic after assessing the online profile and asking the right questions. Still, a lot of the magic can be credited to professional instinct. “If a client’s style is very plain—not a lot of color or pattern or risky choices—I keep it very simple. I don’t go too heavy; I create an environment that looks very relaxed and not too branded,” she says.
Similarly, she will deploy some of that New York industrial, mid-century modern style with rich woods and clean lines for the Urban Chic kind of man, just as easily as she’ll find the patrician/preppy balance for a Hamptons type of guy. MacLean hand-selects products for ever project. She leans on reliable companies and showrooms like New York’s modernist go-to DDC for quality pieces she can source quickly and with no issues. MacLean admits having a few battles with major retailers over nightstands that were suddenly unavailable or less-than-perfect customer service. All those behind-the-scenes dramas never touch the client, which is ultimately the point: to have the rewards of a custom-designed home without summoning a well of patience or endless hours to execute it.
Saving time might be the great motivator of all. In relaying a story about a residential client whose dining room needed to be finished, MacLean proved the point. “I took the client shopping. We went to three places. He was exhausted and overwhelmed with all the options,” she says. “We curate. It’s what we’re good at and it’s what our clients expect because everyone is bombarded everyday so there has to be a way of filtering the best selections. That’s what this service does.”