Designer Mary Patton: 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Candles and lamps. I hate overhead lighting. At night, I have a ritual where I turn on all the lamps and light candles for ambient lighting. I stick with one type of scented candle at a time — right now my house has Boy Smells Ash everywhere — it’s delightful!
As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Patton.
Mary Patton Design specializes in residential and commercial interior design as well as home and event styling. Mary creates elegant, eclectic interiors — mixing modern with vintage; high art with personal treasures — to create moments of unexpected beauty. She believes interior design should be accessible, and an enjoyable experience for clients. Mary’s designs have been published in both national and regional publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, Martha Stewart, Better Homes and Gardens, HGTV, Lonny, Modern Luxury, and The Houston Chronicle.
Prior to starting her design firm, Mary worked in the fashion industry for Calvin Klein and Theory. After several successful years in New York, she moved to Houston and launched the acclaimed Mary Nichols Handbag Collection — a collection that was featured nationally in People Magazine, InStyle, and Brides.
Mary holds degrees from Southern Methodist University and Parsons School of Design. When not designing, she enjoys painting in her studio and spending time with her family and friends.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
From my earliest childhood memories, I wanted to be a fashion designer. That was it — I knew it in my heart. I am from Houston and was too scared to move to New York City for undergrad. So, I went to Southern Methodist University in Dallas and majored in painting and alternative process photography.
A year after college at age 23, I found myself a married schoolteacher and was living in Houston. I taught art and fifth grade social studies — I was a terrible teacher. I was extremely depressed, knowing this was not my life path. So, I applied to Parsons in New York City to study fashion on the little table in a little chair in my classroom.
I was accepted and my then husband and I moved to New York. Parsons was the opposite of what I expected. Also, I did not have a clue of what to expect. However, after teaching elementary school, everything by comparison has been easy.
During my time at Parsons, I learned that I in fact, hate sewing. I decided to shift my goals and I started a handbag line. I had no idea what I was doing but figured it out. I had my handbag business, Mary Nichols Handbags for eight years and learned about all areas of manufacturing a product, marketing, all the things by trial and error. The business was not very profitable, but it taught me priceless life lessons.
My husband and I moved back to Houston for his job, and I split my time between Houston and New York for a while. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last. I was traumatized by the divorce –and anyone that has been through it knows how bad it is. But I stayed focused on my small business.
A few years later, I got re-married and shortly after became pregnant with my daughter, Violet. I had Hyperemesis, a condition that you are so sick throughout the entire pregnancy. I couldn’t work or do anything — I was basically in bed for nine months. When Violet was a few months old, I had an identity crisis about what to do. The purse business was not making money, so I let it go, which was difficult. It had been my identity for much of my adult life. A friend of mine encouraged me to just start saying I was available for interior design work and to see what happened. A big career change at any point in life can be very scary, it’s best not to over think it and go for it.
I took her advice and started with small projects — my first was having pillows made for a friend’s sofa. Having had the fashion and art education was enough I felt to move forward to work doing interiors.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
Funny things happen to me all the time. I am a magnet for it and try to laugh though life. One of my early clients is a good friend. I went to meet with her at her home to discuss re-designing her son’s room. When I got to her house, she came outside to tell me that I would need to walk into her house backwards and let her 100 plus-pound German Shepherd smell me before we could proceed, and so that he would not attack me. I love animals and just leaned into it, because I knew that death by German Shepherd was not my fate.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had several projects going on and I absent mindedly ordered the wrong custom bed for a client. The fabric was outrageously expensive. We delivered the bed and staged the room — I was thrilled with how everything turned out. She called me that evening and graciously told me it was the wrong bed. I told her I would double check my notes and call her back. She was correct. I took a moment, cried a little bit, collected myself, called her back, apologized for the mistake and said I would gladly replace the bed. I was able to sell the incorrect bed later to another client, so in the end it was fine, but that taught me to quadruple check custom orders.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am finishing a renovation, re-decorating of a 100-year-old Tudor-style home. It is so beautiful; I cannot wait to have it photographed. We kept all of the cool elements that show how old the house is but modernized the kitchen and furniture. Just because the house itself is formal, does not mean you have to use formal furnishings.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier,” Mother Theresa. I think the luxury of being able to hire a designer to enhance your life is such a gift. The experience should be joyful.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
During my school teaching days in my early twenties, I would come home from work and watch Oprah. She inspired me so much to be brave. I am also so grateful to my friend that encouraged me to shift careers into doing interior design work.
Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Declutter. Don’t think about it — throw it away or donate it. Having a bunch of stuff you do not need weighs you down spiritually and emotionally.
2. Add plants. I formerly was not a plant person, but being the cliche that I am, got very into plants at the start of the pandemic. I encourage all of my clients to have at least one in every room. They purify the air, bring nature in, watering and caring for them is not a chore, but very enjoyable.
3. If something brings up a bad memory, get rid of it. This may only be a me problem, but I assign memories to objects and clothing. If it is something that reminds me of something negative, I get rid of it. This is a form of decluttering but can apply to larger items.
4. Sage. I sage my house every day with my daughter. It’s a fun ritual and even if it doesn’t actually do anything, it makes the house smell nice.
5. Candles and lamps. I hate overhead lighting. At night, I have a ritual where I turn on all the lamps and light candles for ambient lighting. I stick with one type of scented candle at a time — right now my house has Boy Smells Ash everywhere — it’s delightful!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Women being kind to other women. I think one of the biggest problems in the world is misogyny, and it trickles down to female relationships. If women could just be kind to each other — we could get a lot accomplished.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them :-)
It would be Oprah. I would cry like she gave me a car! She changed my life. Secondly would be Jay Shetty — his teachings of kindness through social media make keeping Instagram worth it. Thirdly, Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye. I think we might be best friends; he just doesn’t know it.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Instagram: @marypattondesign.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!