“Go big or go home” is this interior designer’s mantra, so is it any surprise that she’s from Texas? Denise McGaha may be based in Dallas, but her colorful, sophisticated designs are often spotted nationwide, in designer showhouses as far-ranging as Palm Springs, New Orleans and the Hamptons, or projects all over her home state. Denise began her career in the corporate offices of Neiman-Marcus, so in addition to her interior designs, she’s also a business-savvy influencer and designer for big-name companies like Miele, Kravet and Silestone.

We caught up with the designer to find out more about her style (and how we can get a little of it in our own homes).

Denise McGaha’s business degree from Texas A&M and years spent in the marketing department of big companies give her an edge in the competitive world of interior design. Her projects have been featured in Traditional Home, House Beautiful, and D Home, among others. Photo credit: http://karlischstudio.com/

Denise McGaha’s business degree from Texas A&M and years spent in the marketing department of big companies give her an edge in the competitive world of interior design. Her projects have been featured in Traditional Home, House Beautiful and D Home, among others. Image: Stephen Karlisch

When did you decide you were destined to be an interior designer? What do you love about the business?

I left my great-paying corporate job to start a design firm (with no prior experience), and that was when I knew it was my destiny. I mean, who else does that!?! But, I love the people! Some of my best friends are interior designers. We speak a language all our own and I wouldn’t trade this tribe for anything.

What are your favorite features in your own house?

I love our kitchen and dining room. This is where the magic happens with kids, friends and family. We entertain often, and I love cooking and laughing the night away with friends. I love to set a table, and I might have a “dish addiction.” Shhhhhh … don’t tell anyone!

Her first showhouse room was this bedroom with a wow-factor in the Hamptons. “I wanted to do a room that didn’t look like the Hamptons,” she says. The tortoise-green wallpaper is by Celerie Kemble for fschumacher.com. photo: http://www.marcoriccastudio.com/

Her first showhouse room was this bedroom with a wow factor in the Hamptons. “I wanted to do a room that didn’t look like the Hamptons,” she says. The tortoise-green wallpaper is by Celerie Kemble for Schumacher. Image: Marco Ricca Studio

Swivel chairs covered in crocodile-patterned linen have a brass base; they’re from taylorburkehome.com. Beloved art fills a gallery wall as another striking feature. Photo: http://www.marcoriccastudio.com/

Swivel chairs covered in crocodile-patterned linen have a brass base; they’re from taylorburkehome.com. Beloved art fills a gallery wall as another striking feature. Image: Marco Ricca Studio

Denise helped a Texas builder with this spec home (believe it or not). “Anytime you can work with a team that believes in your vision, it’s a dream project,” she says. Photo credit: http://www.piassick.com/

Denise helped a Texas builder with this spec home (believe it or not). “Anytime you can work with a team that believes in your vision, it’s a dream project,” she says. Image: Piassick Photography

A mix of glam and wood touches define this spec-home kitchen. Photo: http://www.piassick.com/

A mix of glam and wood touches define this spec-home kitchen. Image: Piassick Photography

Is there such a thing as a “Denise McGaha” look? What makes up your design aesthetic?

I’m told I have a “look,” but really it’s a combination of must-haves in a room. There has to be original art, collections, comfort, down-filled pillows and cushions, and dogs. My look invites you into the space, and there has to be a drinks table or surface at every seat. I love color, and each room I design has a bold color statement, even if it’s neutral.

Who are some of your own design crushes?

Bunny Williams, Beth Webb, Mark D. Sikes and Alexa Hampton

What’s been your favorite project to date, and why?

A project we completed last year for a family of six who moved to Texas from Connecticut. We remodeled the entire home in four short months and fully furnished it in six months. I love creating spaces that no one can imagine from the onset, and “before and after” images are always my favorite. This home was a dark and dingy old-world style, and we infused it with light, clean lines and durable fabrics. When four children and two dogs are welcome on any piece of furniture, I consider that a success.

What are some of your favorite sources for projects … companies that always do you right?

Currey & Co., Craighead Green Gallery, David Sutherland, Scout Design Studio

“I loved designing this punchy color-filled space,” says Denise. “Wallpaper in a laundry room is a must.” http://www.laurejoliet.com/

“I loved designing this punchy color-filled space,” says Denise. “Wallpaper in a laundry room is a must.” Image: Laure Joliet

Art Deco glass-and-brass knobs pop against the teal cabinetry in Denise’s laundry room. http://www.laurejoliet.com/

Art Deco glass-and-brass knobs pop against the teal cabinetry in this laundry room. Image: Laure Joliet

Denise’s commercial projects include this showroom for Fashion Glass and Mirror. “Even boring builder showrooms should have style,” she says. http://www.piassick.com/

Denise’s commercial projects include this showroom for Fashion Glass and Mirror. “Even boring builder showrooms should have style,” she says. Image: Piassick Photography

“This sitting room is in the home of my very first design client 16 years ago,” says Denise.  “It’s a perfect example of a ‘Denise look’:  collected, artisanal and personalized. http://www.piassick.com/

“This sitting room is in the home of my very first design client 16 years ago,” says Denise. “It’s a perfect example of a ‘Denise look’: collected, artisanal and personalized.” Image: Piassick Photography

This kitchen was part of the Texas State Fair Showhouse a few years ago. “It’s what our firm is recognized for most often because of the fabric backsplash and bold yellow Bertazonni http://us.bertazzoni.com/#0 range,” says Denise. “We designed the entire home, but the kitchen was the most memorable because of the use of color.” http://www.piassick.com/

This kitchen was part of the Texas State Fair Showhouse a few years ago. “It’s what our firm is recognized for most often because of the fabric backsplash and bold yellow Bertazonni,” says Denise. “We designed the entire home, but the kitchen was the most memorable because of the use of color.” Image: Piassick Photography

What are some design trends you wish would go away? Any you’d like to see come back from the past?

I’m growing weary of white everything. I want color everywhere, even if it’s oh-so-subtle. I love colonial-style architecture and wide entry halls with a center stair. I also love a dish pantry — everyone should have one.

What are some of your suggestions for easy-ish ways homeowners can update their own houses?

Wallpaper the walls and paint the cabinets. It’s life-changing.

What celebrity would you like to be the interior designer for?

Nicole Kidman

See more of Denise’s work on her website. Click here.

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