Interior designer MA Allen will tell you that she lives for the experience and inspiration of travel. Yet she has come home to roost a mere 50 miles from where she grew up, proving that inspiration can also be found right at your back door.
Growing up with parents who ran an interior design and furnishings business in Wilson, “a small town big on barbecue and antiques,” Allen realized she, too, was destined for design after a visit to Budapest before her senior year of college. “I spent the entire trip in antiques stores and markets, scouring the racks for Herend” porcelain. The time abroad convinced her to stop pursuing a law degree and to enroll in Meredith College’s interior design program instead.
Though the change seems abrupt, “all signs in my early life pointed to my current career.” she says. “At 13 I creatively wallpapered my closet in shopping bags.” Today Allen, 29, is both a commercial and residential designer who approaches each project “from the lens of the end user.” She moved to Raleigh in 2006, and says she can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“The best rooms have something to say about the people who live in them,” said the iconic designer David Hicks. In Allen’s newly renovated closet, she is at ease in a space where both the unexpected and functional reside side-by-side. The bright poppy wall color was fresh on her mind after choosing it for a client, Hayes Barton Nails. “And it makes a great backdrop for all the black in my closet.” The framed shopping bags are reminiscent of her teen foray into wallpapering, while the mirrored vanity adds a touch of glamour.
“Classic yet modern” is what Allen admires about Hicks, whose work she believes has “stood the test of time.” The same can be said of her personal aesthetic. “I lean towards streamlined, classic silhouettes. I like a modern balance in outfits and interiors, mixing old and new and throwing in something unexpected or edgy.”
At first glance, her everyday go-to pieces may not fit the bill of a lady from eastern N.C. – “definitely wedges or heeled booties because there is no such thing as being too tall, House of Harlow black and gold earrings, DL jeans.” But her inspired style easily bridges the gap between near and far, old and new, and looks to stand the test of time. -J.R.