Rewind to 1995. The first day at my new job at Ann Taylor’s corporate offices, in a city where I had only known three people before I moved there, I was assigned to a desk right next to Mary Valaika. In an instant, I knew I had met a friend for life — Mary was ultra stylish, with calf-hair stilettos and snakeskin pants, and had that friendly Midwest demeanor — which I so welcomed as a transplant from Boston. The Ann Taylor merchandising team was stacked with Columbia and Yale grads, who were equally brilliant as well as fashionable. Intimidating? Hell yes. It was the most demanding job I had worked in. I still joke that I learned more in one year at that company — eating three meals a day at my desk and working well beyond 8pm most nights — than I had my entire career up ’til that point. If it hadn’t been for Mary, I would not have lasted past my first Monday morning meeting.
Fast forward to 2014. At a recent trip to New York, I caught up with Mary at dinner. She had just moved back to the States from London, and wanted to share photographs from a two-year long project she had completed across the pond. Despite the fact that she pulled up the pictures on her iPhone in a dim-lit restaurant, at my first look, I was wow-ed! She did a phenomenal job designing every room in the house. It is gorgeous! I mean, Elle Decor-worthy gorgeous!
A few of my favorite rooms are featured below, but take a look at a slideshow of her client’s home over here, and make sure to catch the photo of the glass and steel-encased dining room from the exterior!
My talented friend has just started building her business in New York and if you’re as excited about her work as I am, help me give her a shout out via social media or word of mouth. Oh, and interestingly enough, the movie actually came out in 1998 (3 years after we met), but hopefully by now, you’ll agree…there’s something about Mary!