When Lauren McKay and her husband, Kyle, began looking for a home to purchase in Raleigh, they simply couldn’t find exactly what they were searching for. “We looked all summer, and nothing popped up,” the designer says. “So we finally said, ‘Why not just build a home?’” As a designer , McKay had worked with various builders and was confident she could find a home that suited the soon-to-be family of five. The couple fell in love with a custom-home plan by Speight Built and a lot located in central Raleigh. “There’s this trend in homes in Raleigh where architects are taking cues from cottages and older styles, but they’re cleaning it up, so it’s simple and a little more modern,” she explains. “That’s what I love about our house. I love how clean and timeless the aesthetic is.”
The home was a vast change from their previous residence, which featured an arts-andcrafts vibe, darker wood details, and a darker color palette. “We built that home in 2012, so the style of the home was more earth tones,” she says. “We enjoy a modern style, clean lines, and pattern and color. But with this house, we really wanted to make it brighter, whiter.” Inspired by their travels abroad to Paris and Belgium, the McKays wanted to incorporate architectural details throughout that mimicked those they’d seen during their travels. “I wanted to add details in the master bedroom, framed-out vertical moldings on the walls,” says McKay. “We’d seen it in Paris, but we did it in a much simpler, less ornate way.”
The couple tweaked the open floorplan, adding defined walls to the dining room and flipping the location of the staircase, resulting in a more open kitchen. After layering architectural detailing, McKay began designing the interiors. Not one to shy away from color and pattern, the designer looked to bold, graphic wallpapers for inspiration for several of the rooms throughout the home, including the detached garage where McKay works her design business. “I love to play with color and pattern, and I've used that to create different moods,” she says. “Bright, cheerful tones in our living room are perfect for the central hub of our home, while muted tones in our master bedroom create a restful retreat.”
In her design office, McKay was inspired by the Manuel Canovas wallpaper, featuring a traditional Indian wedding parade pattern on a dramatic black background layered with bright colors. When paired with the Worlds Away marble and gold vanity, the stage was set for the rest of the space. “I’d seen this print while we were in Paris and loved it,” she says. “I love that you see these things and they remind you of a really special time you had in your life.”
With wallpaper and coverings laying the foundation, McKay was able to weave-in accents that complement the modern patterns and color palette she wanted in the home. “I had this vision of brass everywhere,” she says. “Even though the home itself is more contemporary, I love how brass can be paired with a modern finish to add warmth.”
Throughout the home, McKay continued the brass accents, particularly in her lighting choices, in subtle ways to add warmth to the more modern furniture and accessories. The kitchen pendants by Visual Comfort, the dining-room chandelier by Arteriors, and the master bedroom Strada Sputnik flush-mount lighting, also by Visual Comfort, feature metallic details that help unify McKay’s overall warm, contemporary aesthetic.
But for McKay, it wasn’t just about striking, sophisticated design. With three young kids, the designer was keen on creating an interior that’s not only classic and timeless but also functional and livable for a family of five. “I work with a lot of families and I have three kids of my own, so I understand that a home needs to be family-friendly,” she explains. “But I don’t think you need to feel held back in design because of your kids. There are plenty of solutions that can work really well.” The Nuevo Living barstools in the kitchen feature wipeable leather seats, and all other fabric was treated with Fiber-Seal, which McKay says works wonderfully. “Of course I’m the one who spilled red wine on the furniture, not my kids,” she laughs. “But it came right out!”
Ultimately, McKay created a home that has an updated aesthetic and holds personal touches that remind her and her husband of fond memories. “I love that so much of this house is a reminder of our travels together,” she says. “But I also love that it fits our family day-to-day.”