Fellows Focus: Marian McEvoy

The eighteenth-century farmhouse of Fellow Marian McEvoy sits in the Hudson Valley town of Wappingers Falls, NY, just above an embankment with sweeping views of the Hudson River. After an illustrious career in the fashion and design publishing world as the former European editor of Women’s Wear Daily and W in Paris, founding editor of Elle Décor, and editor-in-chief of House Beautiful, Marian retired to her farmhouse to pursue her creative craft. “Going from fashion to decoration was a natural,” Marian says, “it happens as one moves on through life. The home becomes more important, along with the garden, because they’re two wonderful areas in which you can express that which you want to do. They're uniquely yours.”

Living in France as an editor was a big influence on Marian. Talents such as Yves Saint Laurent inspired her bold use of color, and the homes and gardens of influencers like Hubert de Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld provided her with a major education. Marian notes that their “sense of perfection… and insistence on excellence” helped to shape the narratives she cultivates in her work, which she modestly describes as “naïve, but ordered.”

Left to right: collage with daisies and papaya and lupin leaves; collage with wild morning glories and eucalyptus leaves; collage with cosmos and pansies and hollyhock, oak, and camellia leaves.

“I had always doodled, dabbled, transformed throughout my life,” Marian explains, “I always made things for myself and thought nobody would ever want them or care about them, and a couple friends talked me into doing things otherwise.” Thanks to the encouragement of her friends, Marian now produces original collage, décor, and sculptural pieces, as well as print and textiles. Marian’s original drawings cover the pages of our #OpenDays25 book last year celebrating 25 years of Open Days and she recently collaborated with Stubbs & Wootton on a collection of nearly sold-out linen slippers, and designed a line of botanical fabric for Kerry Joyce textiles, which is out now. 

Left to right: pressed leaves and flowers in the craft room; obelisks being prepared for "corkillage."

Marian works out of her fifteen-by-seven-foot craft room. About 200 baskets hold tiny dried flowers, small leaves, acorns, pinecones, and pieces of cork that she mosaics together to create her pieces. Three large windows allow for natural light while she works, and Marian often places her dried botanicals in the sun to encourage consistent natural fading. For her collages, Marian’s inspiration comes from the specimens themselves: “whatever motif I come up with comes from the shape of the leaves or flowers and sometimes the color.” Her work combines the orderliness and softness of botany in a compelling way, one that we and her many fans can't get enough of. “Who doesn’t like nature? It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t appreciate a celebration of nature,” she says.

Left to right: hydrangea's turning mauve in September; club gravel patio overlooking the Hudson River.

In her garden, Marian is drawn towards wildness and abundance. Because her house is on the Hudson River, she strives for a simpatico relationship between the larger landscape and her garden by cultivating a “gentle, harmonious, and seductive” design. “It’s such a presence,” she says of the river, “I think it is the star of where I live, and nothing should fight with it.”

When Marian purchased her house thirteen years ago, the property was overgrown. She cleared the land, installed the lawn and stone wall, and planted out the property. One long perennial bed along the stone wall is planted with roses, peonies, rose of Sharon, candytufts, Jacob’s ladder, and more. You won’t see much yellow, orange, or red in her garden; while she loves bold colors for décor or cut flowers, she much prefers gentler colors like pink, violet, blue, and white outdoors. One of her favorite plants, Akebia quinata, is an invasive vine that she has to frequently cut back but which she says is worth the trouble for its five-fingered leaves and mauve origami-like flowers, which she frequently cuts for vases (left).

Over the past year during stay-at-home orders, Marian spent a lot of time observing the growth of her property. This March she went out twice a day to see how the buds were doing and to look for “signs of hope, signs of growth, signs of renewal, signs of beauty.” During the summer, she would water her garden every other day. Nurturing and giving sustenance to the plants was a way for her to connect with nature and disconnect from the obligations of everyday life. For her, gardening is a form of meditation. “Gardening in and of itself is extremely meditative,” Marian says, “you’re connecting with something that’s real and true and which has nothing to do with other people’s opinions.”

Follow Marian on her Instagram account @gustthepoodle. Original pieces of her work can be found at KRB in New York City and Cutter Brooks in Stow-on-the-Wold, England.