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How to Fold a Napkin with Ultra-Talented—and Totally Game—Designer Gary McBournie

How to Fold a Napkin with Ultra-Talented—and Totally Game—Designer Gary McBournie

Interior designer Gary McBournie and a dining room he designed.

There are a few misconceptions worth clearing up about renowned designer Gary McBournie. (“Renowned designer” isn’t one of them; in fact, he’s a huge favorite here at Matouk.)

The first is that he’s Boston-based. It’s true that he lives in Boston for much of the year, but Gary and his husband/business partner Bill Richards also spend time in Palm Beach (where they moved both their mothers into their building) and in New York, where we recently caught up with them. And McBournie has projects going on all over the place—California, London, Nantucket, New York, Palm Beach… just to name a few.

The second misconception is that McBournie’s style is traditional (you’ll often hear it described as “traditional with a twist”). McBournie prefers to call his look “transitional”—taking the best of the past and the best of the present and bringing it into the future.” Lately, he’s into mixing antique pieces with mid-century, and infusing color in unexpected ways. There’s a happy spirit that’s pervasive throughout his designs, and if you have the chance to meet him (or just check out his stunning and inspirational book), you’ll understand why.

This happy spirit loves to entertain, from doing intimate dinners at home to planning open houses, birthday parties, and even weddings for clients.

So… what do you do when you get Gary McBournie to give you a few minutes of his time on one of his stops in New York? Ask him to fold napkins, of course!

“I collect antique linen napkins, including ones with monograms, even if they're not mine,” he says. “There's nothing more beautiful than the extra-large white linen antique napkin.”

For every day, “Bill and I love the Matouk Savannah Gardens napkins because you don’t have to iron them. We use them daily. We do not own a paper napkin.”

For folks in the market for their first real linens, McBournie recommends buying one set of Savannah Gardens in a solid color and one set of plain white. “That will get you through a lot of dinner parties,” he says. A set of white linen napkins will serve you well for special occasions and more formal affairs.

A dining room and table by Gary McBournie.

When it comes to setting the table, “as obsessive compulsive as I am about etiquette, I still go online and Google just to make sure I'm correct.” McBournie says. “Some people like to critique and do notice. So if you're trying to do something correctly, I always check out Emily Post.”

He continues, “For casual dining, anything goes pretty much. I still lie to put the fork on the left and the knife on the right, but other than that, you can pretty much play with it… Personally, I really dislike napkins in wine glasses. The fan fold or the rosette is not my thing. I think a swan napkin is fine for a baby shower, but I wouldn't sit down and fold 20 napkins like that. And if folding intimidates you, get creative with napkin rings. Or tie up napkins in raffia and tuck in some flowers.”

With the holidays around the corner, we wondered what McBournie has planned for the table. “We try to make it special each year,” he says. “We have a tradition in Palm Beach: We wrap a napkin with ribbon and tie an ornament on it. We collect ornaments throughout the year. People are able to take their ornament away, and they really look forward to it. We just came back from Harrod's in London and we picked up all these sparkly ornaments. I've been carrying them from London to Washington, DC to New York, and next to to Palm Beach, where they’ll reside until Christmas.”

Until then, watch McBournie make napkin folding look easy.

Click here to see The Formal Napkin Fold.

Click here to see The Pyramid Fold.

Click here to see The Knot.