Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home

BY HARPER'S BAZAAR ARABIA / Nov 11 2015 / 22:15 PM

British entrepreneur Marigay McKee creates a new home, and a new company, on the Upper East Side

Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman
Inside Marigay McKee's New York Fairy Tale Home
Douglas Friedman

Marigay Mckee is a firm believer in mantras. “I always keep a card with this one on my desk: “Be brave. No one remembers a coward,” she says. “I also love Robert Kennedy’s “only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Marigay’s conviction is precisely what brought her to Manhattan in 2013, when she moved from England with her two teenage kids to become president of the retail giant, Saks Fifth Avenue. After 15 years working her way up from beauty buyer to chief merchant at the vaunted British luxury department store Harrods, Marigay knew taking the job was a bold move — and that’s exactly why she did it. “When it comes to making choices, you can either embrace an opportunity or be a nonparticipator,” she says. “And I think embracing is really important.”

Case in point: During her break between companies, she kicked off her Manolos and trekked more than 13,000 feet up Mount Everest. “I went with a few good friends who were experienced hikers,” she says.“And five years ago I jumped out of a plane to raise funds for breast cancer. I will not be doing that again! But it’s nice to tick things off my life list.” Marigay, who was born and raised in London, took a similar bull-by-the-horns approach when she arrived in New York. “I’ve adapted quite well,” she says brightly. “I have gone from scones to bagels, tea to coffee, jam to cream cheese.”

Sitting in the living room of the Upper East Side home she shares with her fiancé and their respective children, she is petite and kittenish, with doll-like eyelashes and honey-blonde hair. She also exudes the warm, polished confidence of a master marketer. Two minutes into a conversation, you not only want to buy anything she mentions but everything around her as well, including the couch she’s curled up on, the coaster for her water glass, and the potato crisps on the coffee table next to her. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the couch is covered in an impossibly soft fur throw by Yves Salomon and the coaster is a slice of amethyst crystal. (And the crisps are, well, crisps.)

“Some people think it’s old-fashioned, but I am very visual, and very OCD"

In April, Marigay left Saks and set up her own company, MM Luxe Consulting, which specialises in developing high-end branding strategies for clients, ranging from real estate developers to start-up fashion labels. She also joined the board of Violet Grey, the Los Angeles-based beauty retailer. “It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever worked for myself. I’ve gone from drivers and assistants to Uber and getting my own Starbucks, and I love it,” she says. “I never really saw myself as an entrepreneur before — I always saw myself as a worker bee. Although,” she deadpans, “some people might have called me the queen bee.” Whatever kind of bee Marigay is, she’s a busy one: Companies have been knocking down her door since day one, and she’s been getting her hands dirty — literally. “In the world where everything is computer-generated, I am the last remaining person who makes their own mood boards for every project I work on,” Marigay says, leading me into her home office and brandishing a stack of posters. “Some people think it’s old-fashioned, but I am very visual, and very OCD, and it really helps me organise my own thoughts. All you need is some cards and staples and glue.”

She holds up a board she’s prepared for a beauty client, with photos snipped from magazines and keywords like “travel” and “philanthropy”. “This one looks at how women juggle beauty and work and family and giving back,” she explains. “When women get together, they talk about things like fashion and shopping, but they also talk about charity. It’s more important now than ever to find causes aligned to our lives and those of our friends.” Marigay is an avid supporter of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Autism Speaks, and has co-hosted fundraisers for both organisations (in addition to the aforementioned skydive). “It’s all part of what’s relevant to women today, and the balancing act we do,” she continues. “I’ve also got children and a partner to look after, dogs, a client meeting. I’ve got to help my son pack or help my daughter with her science test … And on top of that, we all want to look good,” she laughs.  Charlotte Cowles

Read the full article in the November/December issue of Harper’s Bazaar Interiors