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For The Home

The Art of Display

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: July, 2013, Page 96
Photos by Karen Shell

Mary Emmerling’s framed black-and-white photographs—many acquired during her days at Condé-Nast—create a worldly feel in her dining room. Vintage red-and-white Christmas ornaments hang from a pair of crystal chandeliers. “I only collect antique ornaments. I stopped collecting new things because I much prefer old stuff to new,” explains the designer.



Designer Mary Emmerling Showcases Her Signature Look in Her Scottsdale Home

Interior designer Mary Emmerling, who has written myriad design books, worked in the magazine business for 40 years, and made a name for herself in the realm of American Country style, is particularly adept at creating eye-catching vignettes, or scenes, in the home. Whether she’s grouping items on a bookshelf, incorporating interchangeable wall art or displaying seemingly random objects on a table, the designer does it with panache.

While working in New York City as an editor for Mademoiselle, House Beautiful, and her own magazine—Mary Emmerling’s Country—under the New York Times, Emmerling garnered a reputation for her artistry in “dressing” rooms. “It started with the girls at Mademoiselle. They wanted help decorating their apartments and rearranging their furniture. I would work all week at the magazine and decorate on the weekends,” she recalls.

While living in a 10-room apartment in Manhattan, Emmerling began antiquing. “I bought all oak furniture in Vermont but when I put it in the apartment, it looked all wrong,” she explains. So she posted a sign at work, and within 24 hours, she’d sold all the furniture and even made a profit. Later, when the U.S. Bicentennial was celebrated, there was a resurgence of folk art. That’s when Emmerling started visiting the Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts, which helped cultivate her love of reclaimed furnishings. “In those days, you could furnish a whole house in one day there,” notes the decorator. Emmerling later had her own antiques store in New York City—American Country Store—which further fueled her collector’s soul.

These days, the Arizona home Emmerling shares with husband Reg Jackson in Scottsdale exemplifies the casual, comfortable American Country sensibility that has become her trademark. In it are many a charming vignette put together with effortless ease and a discerning eye, and offering a plenitude of design ideas and inspiration.

Resting atop a rustic blue cabinet in husband Reg Jackson’s study are two religious-themed paintings from Mexico with frames of carved and gilded wood. Also contributing to the countertop landscape are Jackson’s camera collection and a lone feather protruding from a Native American pot. A small burden basket with tin chimes dangles from one of the cabinet’s doorknobs.

In the master bedroom, tin shadow boxes containing milagros—religious folk charms—take the place of a headboard. Says Emmerling of the bed’s eclectic linens, “I love mixing prints, especially old chintz, with Mexican blankets.”
A table displays eye-catching collectibles, including antique crowns set on favorite coffee-table books and an antique santo with tin wings. A large palm frond in a glass jug provides height and visual impact. “I love using palm fronds instead of flowers; they are so dramatic,” Emmerling explains.


In the lounge area, paintings collected over the years, mostly from antiques shows in Santa Fe, are displayed above a corner sectional. The sofa is accented with assorted throw pillows, some covered with remnants from old, damaged Navajo rugs. An aged flag—another of Emmerling’s favorite collectibles—adds a dash of Americana. The carved wood deer head on the wall was found in a shop in Santa Fe. The glass coffee table, with its antlered base, underscores the setting’s rustic charm. A neat stack of colorful Native American blankets sits on the sisal carpet.
The couple’s dog, Cinco, lies next to the front door, which is embellished with milagros of all shapes and sizes. An old leather quiver filled with arrows leans against the wall.
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