Following the passing of its fearless leader Betty Sherrill earlier this year, the oldest continuously operating interior design firm in the country McMillen Inc. is making plans to celebrate its 90th anniversary with an exhibition: “McMillen Inc.: Nine Decades of Interior Design,” on view from September 17 through December 5 at the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID).
“McMillen is without a doubt one of the most influential and internationally celebrated interior design firms of the 20th century,” said NYSID President David Sprouls. “Not only has it created impeccable designs for numerous prestigious clients, it has helped to shape the profession of interior design.”
Anne Pyne, Betty Sherrill, Elizabeth Pyne
This retrospective exhibition will survey McMillen’s accomplishments from the 1920s to the present day and showcase their designs for a roster of clients that included titans of various industries, celebrities and families of distinction. The residences, including city apartments and country houses, will be illustrated with photographs, original renderings, watercolors, maquettes, and archival materials that reveal the fascinating background behind an exceptional body of work.
McMillen Inc. was founded in 1924 by Eleanor Stockstrom McMillen Brown, who began her business selling 18th century furniture and decorative objects out of her New York City townhouse. By the late 1920s, McMillen was operating as a full-service design firm and was noted for its role in moving décor out of the Victorian age and into a classic, modern style.
Early work by McMillen Inc.
In 1975, the firm’s leadership passed from Brown to Sherrill, first as president and later chairman. Sherrill was at the helm of McMillen, Inc. for more than four decades and died in May 2014. In 2002, Luis A. Rey became president. Today the title of president is held by Sherrill’s daughter Ann Pyne, who curated this exhibition along with McMillen designer Ed Jenkins.
McMillen Inc. staff
Some of the most important designers of the late 20th century including Pamela Banker, Tom Buckley, Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton, Kevin McNamara and Alexandra Stoddard worked at McMillen. Today the firm has 20 employees including partners Rey, Mary Louise Guertler and Katherine McCallum; as well as designers Jenkins, Mary Beth Donohue, Suzana Monacella, Lynne Stair and Andrea Young.
Elizabeth Pyne, the third generation of Sherrill women to work at McMillen (Sherrill’s granddaughter), is a designer in the McMillen Plus division, along with Lauren Frasco and Christine Grace, which serves a younger generation of apartment and loft dwellers.
Current McMillen Inc. work
In addition to the exhibition, the NYSID will host “Much About McMillen” a panel discussion on Wednesday, October 15 at 6:00 p.m. Attendees will learn more about what it was like to work at the first professional interior design firm from McMillen designers past and present including Anne and Elizabeth Pyne, Rey, Buckley, and McMillen client Sarah E. Nash. Interior designer and McMillen alumna Maureen Footer will moderate the discussion.
The exhibition will open on Wednesday, September 17, and run through Friday, December 5, at the NYSID Gallery, 161 East 69th Street. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.