Cluttered spaces are designer’s pet peeve

Credit: Marc Mauldin Photography

Credit: Marc Mauldin Photography

In her sophisticated yet livable spaces, award-winning designer Donna Grace McAlear draws on her experience as a museum curator and art expert.

Designer & background: Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and grew up in various parts of Canada. She earned an undergraduate degree in fine arts, a master's degree in visual art (contemporary fine art) in Canada and a doctorate in cultural policy in Australia. McAlear worked for 20 years in art museums in Canada, Australia and the United States in various key positions before starting her design firm.

The company: New Mood Design was founded in 2004 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as a part-time venture while McAlear was still working in art museums. In 2009, after relocating to Atlanta from Toronto, she went full time with her design firm.

First design job: Selecting new paint colors for the exterior and interior of a 4,500-square-foot home and furnishing the entire home for a couple with four young children in Baton Rouge in 2004.

Big break: Hired in 2009 for a turn-key design of an architect-designed, new construction ski home in Breckenridge, Colorado. The client wanted a minimally furnished modern home, both functional and elegant, for family weekend ski retreats. The home was dubbed the "Peak 8 Penthouse." Atlanta Modern Luxury magazine published the ski home in 2011. Kitchen TRENDS magazine published the project in 2012 and selected New Mood Design as a designer of a "Trends Top 50 American Kitchen 2012-2013."

Claim to fame: Named one of eight designers and architects featured in Heat & Glo's 2016-17 "Designers on Fire" North American media campaign

Design pet peeve: Cluttered, over-crowded spaces.

Current design obsession(s): Surfaces: textiles to tiles.

New (or re-emerging) designs she likes: Wallpaper, in an amazing variety of modern materials, patterns and textures. Also that modern and contemporary design is a growing trend in the Atlanta area.

Most unusual request: The "Peak 8 Penthouse" client required that all the fixed lighting in the home not impede panoramic mountain views from the large windows on the upper two levels.

Biggest design mistake she has made: Partially renovated her own kitchen last year. In retrospect, she should have fully renovated it, saving time, disruption and costs over the long term.

… and biggest (or common) mistake homeowners make: Cramming too much into a room. Empty space is an essential design element.


Blogs or websites: Design Milk; Dezeen; Dwell; and The Cool Hunter.

Instagram: Martyn Lawrence Bullard; Holly Hunt Design; The Hardt; and Bjork Studio.

Atlanta area home/design stores: HA Modern; Illuminations Lighting; Specialty Tile; Switch Modern; Ligne Roset; Roche Bobois; and Alan Avery Art Company.

Recent projects: Modern, artistic kitchen and powder room remodel in Roswell; a Buckhead loft remodel, including design of a new cocktail bar, surface renovations (floor stain and wallpaper), new furnishings, artwork and lighting. Also new furnishings, lighting, art and accessories for an entire home in Ansley Park.

What's next: Interior design of an architect-designed home addition in Grant Park, including the bathroom, dining room built-ins and interior stair designs. Also furnishings, lighting, art and accessories for an entertainment space in a Johns Creek home.

Find New Mood Design and Donna McAlear at:

Facebook: NewMoodDesign

Instagram: newmooddesign