McMillen Inc. turns ninety this year, and the New York School of Interior Design is celebrating the august firm with an exhibition that explores its legacy of superior interiors. Writer Nancy Lazarus got a behind-the-scenes look at the country’s oldest continuously operating interior design firm during a recent visit to NYSID.
The white gloves worn in the 1920s, when McMillen was founded, are long gone, but the renowned interior design firm carries on many of the traditions that have accounted for its longevity, said Ann Pyne. As McMillen’s co-president and daughter of the founder, Eleanor Stockstrom McMillen Brown, Pyne shared her inside perspective at a recent NYSID panel discussion. The event coincides with a 90-year retrospective exhibit, on view until December 5.
“Walking into the McMillen office gives you the feeling that you’ve arrived at a company that knows its business,” said Tom Buckley, principal and founder of Brown Buckley, and a former head of McMillen’s design department. “Mrs. Brown had a very progressive mind and was a forward-moving businesswoman.”
As Pyne sees it, the firm’s design authority, non-negotiable business models, devotion to education, and attention to finishes are the cornerstones of its success. McMillen interiors also adhere to the “discipline of the room,” while promoting a sense of conviviality and coziness. That foundation has stayed with McMillen alumni long after working at the firm, noted Buckley.