MA Allen might not be a household name just yet, but with her impressive roster of design projects and a signature, happy sophisticate look that’s quickly garnering new fans, she’s certainly well on her way. She founded her firm, MA Allen Interiors, in 2011 and has been designing both residential and commercial projects ever since. It was her firm’s tented room for Traditional Home’s recent Southern Style Now Showhouse (pictured above) that grabbed the design world’s attention, and she quickly became the talk of the event. “A room in a showhouse can be a reflection of my true style, untethered, and I love that,” says MA of her showstopper space. MA is stepping into her moment with confidence, using bold jewel tones and custom touches to create rooms that balance the dramatic with a sense of timelessness. To go along with her Chairish collection of favorites, we got the goods on everything MA, including her go-to paint, where she sources those amazing color combos, plus her insider’s guide to her hometown, Raleigh, NC.


Interior Designer MA Allen sits on black and white fur accent chair
Photo by Stacey Van Berkel

What do you love about shopping on Chairish?
I love that Chairish gives me access to the inventories of thousands of dealers and the ability to conduct specific searches when I’m on the hunt for something elusive. Although scouring antique shops during the workday for the perfect piece is a favorite pastime of mine, that just isn’t realistic for me. For the sake of productivity, Chairish is a win!

Favorite three items on Chairish right now?
Pair of Jansen-Style Tortoise Wood Commodes,  Milo Baughman-Style Green Velvet Chairs, Maison Jansen Sconces. 

Traditional Dining Room with Vintage Tableware and Unique Brass Chandelier.
Photo by Stacey Van Berkel


Favorite thing about designing with vintage pieces: 
I love the intrigue that vintage brings to a room! Incorporating a conversation piece or two into a room adds unexpected character, and an element of mystery and desire. People always want what they cannot find.

Favorite way to add drama to a room: 
Wallpaper! Whether on the walls, the ceiling, or both, wallpaper always makes a big impact!

Favorite source for design inspiration: 

Dining Room Table Set with Vintage Tableware and Colorful Candlesticks.
Photo by Stacey Van Berkel

Favorite paint color: 
My closet and my office are painted Benjamin Moore’s Peony. It’s such a fun, vibrant color and I am yet to tire of it.

Favorite pattern (and how you love to use): 
I live for mixing patterns. In my wardrobe and in my home, bright and colorful prints reign supreme. Currently, I am loving all the prints Gucci is turning out. My favorite right now is the print on this shirt that I am wearing on repeat. It takes restraint, but with careful balance of color and scale, prints can be mixed successfully.

Favorite design rule to break: 
What rules? I like to design with abandon!

Twin Beds with matching Orange Headboards and Floral Decorative Pillows.
Photo by Eve Simone

Favorite color combo: 
I love complicated and unexpected color pairings, and find such inspiration in fashion and art. I just bought a pair of ochre pants from Chloe and I love pairing them with a bright cherry red or magenta top. Inevitably, this combo will influence a color scheme for a future project.

Favorite way to mix high and low:
The mix is really a cornerstone to my work. I always think a one-of-a-kind custom item or spectacular vintage or antique piece is worth splurging on if it visually takes center stage.

Favorite way to work a bit of vintage into a room: 
A pair of lamps, a single chair, or quirky brass accessories can usually be worked in with relative ease. Some clients are funny about “used” furniture and can handle it in small doses. Once they see the end result they get it!

Incorporating a conversation piece or two into a room adds unexpected character, and an element of mystery and desire.

Classic Home Office with Purple Walls and A Pair of Green Patterned Armchairs.
Photo by Anna Routh Barzin


Favorite travel destination:
I find inspiration, above all else, from travel. I like to continue exploring new places and typically do not repeat trips, but after a recent trip to Cambodia and Vietnam I left knowing that I would return. I cannot wait to go back! Morocco was another highlight. And Paris is always a good idea! I’m excited to return to Paris this spring for a buying trip and taking time to travel to the South of France, too.

Favorite hotel to check in to:
I spend a lot of time in New York and The Crosby Street Hotel never disappoints. The interiors, designed by Kitt Kemp, are fabulous and the service is impeccable.

Favorite weekend activity:
I look forward to any time spent with my two kids and husband. Our summer beach weekends top the list. We spend our days boating, sandbar hopping, bike riding and just enjoying each other and the company of good friends.

I always think a one-of-a-kind custom item or spectacular vintage or antique piece is worth splurging on if it visually takes center stage.

Kid's Room With Large Pink Headboard and Colorful Butterfly Print Window Shades.
Photo by Ann Routh Barzin

Favorite app:
Instagram and MINDBODY

Favorite thank you/hostess gift:
Cool vintage cocktail napkins or linens. I attended a panel by Jane Scott Hodges and left convinced that you can never have too many linens!

Favorite entertaining essential:
I have several. Good music. Stocked bar. Vintage glassware in fun colors. Hired help in the kitchen for serving, clearing, and cleaning. Fresh flowers.

Favorite thing to collect:
I collect too many things to count, ranging from brass bug ashtrays (weirdest) to design books (standard) to sterling silver serveware. Currently, I am obsessing over vintage colored glassware, including everything from beautiful bi-colored Steuben cordials to French opaline coupes.

Dining area with blue and white striped bench seating, orange dining chairs, and wicker lampshades
Photo by Eve Simone

Favorite morning beverage (and how you take it):
Turmeric latte! With almond milk. Straight up.

Favorite beauty/grooming product:
Goop Enriching Face Oil and is Clinical Active Serum

Favorite adult beverage:

Favorite saying/quote:
I love the quote from Miles Redd, “Buy the best, and you only cry once.” It’s so true!

Favorite artist:
Oh, I have so many! Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney, and Frank Stella. Also, a new favorite of mine is Gemma Gene whose work I recently saw at Voltz Clarke Gallery. Laura Deems is one of my favorite emerging artists and a good friend.

Contemporary Nursery with Blue Plaid Armchair and sailboat Window Shades.
Photo by Anna Routh Barzin

Local Favorites: Raleigh, NC

Favorite restaurant:
Raleigh has a burgeoning restaurant scene, but forced to pick one favorite, I would choose Bida Manda. It’s a beautiful modern restaurant serving delicious Laotian fare and amazing cocktails. It reminds me of many fond memories of my travels through Laos.

Favorite hotel to recommend to visiting friends:
The Umstead Hotel and Spa! Conceived and built with the muses of art and nature, it is designed to restore and rejuvenate. My husband and I even book a room occasionally for an easy staycation!

Favorite local culture hub:
The Contemporary Art Museum, CAM Raleigh, located downtown in the warehouse district is a fave. It’s always a treat to see the newest installation and learn about the exhibit from the young student docents during the exhibition preview party.

I love the quote from Miles Redd, “Buy the best, and you only cry once.” It’s so true!

Set of Modern Animal Print Chairs beside blue bookshelves.
Photo by Anna Routh Barzin

Favorite local attraction:
The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA). They have a fantastic permanent collection, great exhibitions and programs, and the largest museum art park in the country: 164 acres with 2 miles of trails and temporary and permanent art installations.

Favorite local flea market/vintage hunting ground:
One place I will make time to visit is Cheshire Cat Gallery located in a dark basement space in Cameron Village. They do not have an online presence but you are guaranteed endless finds in their stylistically varied vendor booths. It’s our go-to for accessories and those final touch items. And don’t miss Antiques Emporium, chock full of sterling silver and fine china, located a floor above.

Shop MA Allen’s Favorites >>

Lead photo by Jean Allsop

March 7, 2018

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