Thirty years ago, McAlpine Tankersley Architecture was born in Montgomery, Alabama. Since then, the firm has grown into a national powerhouse, encompassing both architecture and interiors, with four offices including a recently updated outpost in New York. I had the pleasure of visiting with four of the seven partners there before the holidays to see their elegant new Flatiron digs and discuss the evolving nature of this talented multi-faceted firm.
Designing from the inside out. That mantra is what led Bobby McAlpine, in 1997, to open a related but separate interior design firm, McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors, with partners Ray Booth and Susan Ferrier. The two companies have functioned both independently and together. While they had all worked many years side by side in Alabama, as things progressed, they found themselves spending much of their time traveling to projects all over the country. Dealing with out of town clients became second nature and they realized where they lived was a matter of preference rather than necessity.
The interiors leg opened new branches in Nashville and Atlanta and Ray eventually re-established a foothold in New York. Last fall Greg moved to Manhattan as well, with several of the McAlpine Montgomery architects, and with an increasingly strong client base in the metropolitan area, it made sense to have a larger presence. They were lucky enough to find expansive light-filled quarters with marvelous views, above, twelve floors up in the same building where Ray had established the original interiors office. New York has a long history of welcoming design firms with roots in the south and McAlpine, though no longer merely a southern firm, hopes to continue that tradition.
Greg’s move to New York precipitated not only the need for more space but also the decision to integrate the two firms in all their locations. With over forty people in four offices, it was time to simplify. It became obvious that fusing the firms presented more opportunity, a better communication system and a unified “house” for their talents. So with a simplified name and a new website, we welcome McAlpine – the “big, splendid roof” to the house.
While each division will continue to work with others (ie – the architects working with other interior designers and the designers working with other architectural firms), ideally they would also like to work more together. Since the inception of Bobby’s business, there has always been a fluidity between the architecture and interiors. And perhaps that’s why outside interior designers like working with the firm – they are used to collaborating as a team and making room for other creatives’ ideas. They understand and readily accommodate the necessary considerations for draperies, furniture and art. In fact one of the firm’s signatures is the consistent use of a design category that straddles the two disciplines. It’s a hybrid concept where, for example interior design elements can act as architecture for a softer solution.
You can see this in the new McAlpine NYC offices where, rather than officially cordoning off the conference area above, for example, the curtains and lacquer ceiling define the “room.” And in the open work area below, flowing semi-sheer curtains and upholstered leather dividers, rather than traditional cubicles, separate and delineate the spaces.
Like all their work, the offices feel welcoming, warm and on a very human scale. Industrial is balanced with organic
and inspiration is effortlessly incorporated in a seamless way.
It was not surprising to learn that hand drawing is still vital to the firm and where every project begins.
It’s that personal connection, from head and heart to pencil and paper that is the start of the vital sense of place and home.
Since Bobby used to teach, he is steeped in education and many of the people who work for the firm were students of his. In fact, he describes the new McAlpine as “part business, part school and part family.” Everyone who comes through their door to work for the firm is taught how to be their own architect and many have gone on to establish distinguished firms of their own. Not unlike Albert Hadley’s approach with his protégés at Parish Hadley, McAlpine prides themselves on focussing on people’s strengths and letting them run with it. It is a firm with a strong dedication to mentoring and an atmosphere that fosters encouragement, inclusion and acceptance. It is the belief that coming together offers an opportunity without boundaries. And while their genesis may have been in the south, they are really a firm with their feet planted wherever their work may be. We are happy McAlpine now has a place to call home in New York as well.
Take a peek at a few examples of their beautiful work. From Ray Booth’s own Nashville home, above, to an elegant compound in Napa Valley
with airy and eclectic interiors,
to a Dutch inspired Baton-Rouge house
where inside and out are melded with clever details,
to a stunning Dallas residence,
McAlpine brings heart to wherever you may call home.
10 thoughts on “Welcoming McAlpine Home”
Thanks for the coverage! You are welcome at our doorstep anytime.
Thank you Stacey – Designing from the inside out is a rare thing these days, and is a technique I applaud! Brilliant that the two companies work side by side. The Baton-Rouge house is divine as it sings of two of my favourite places. Their hand-drawings are magnificent! Jenny
One of my absolute favorite firms! The perfect marriage of interior design and architecture. And I really appreciate their philosophy for fostering creativity and encouraging their associates unique talents. Very rare to find in many design offices where so many people are driven by ones ego! I also loved seeing that they still have a real drafting table and are continuing the fading art of architectural hand drawings! So happy to hear they’re in New York now and I will look forward to seeing their future work.
Their hand is on the pulse…I look forward to seeing more of their finished products! franki
Stacey thank you for profiling this esteemed firm. Their traditional yet fresh approach has made McAlpine instantly known for their superb work. You can see why their clients applaud them!
The Arts by Karena
Dreams of Spring!
I study many many designers and design thinkers… McAlpine–one of my very favorites. Always human and earthly, but divinely so. From whom I continue to learn, as in the philosophy explained this piece. Thank you for excellence and human inspiration, McAlpine…and, Quintessence.
I’m so excited to see their New York offices. I love their work and have always been a huge supporter of design education and multi-disciplined firms. Just lovely!
What a magnificent post for one of my favorite firms–ever! I’ve long been an admirer of their work and wrote a post, (not nearly as eloquently as yours) a while back. BTW, Greg found mine and also thanked me. How wonderful to have some of that southern, gentlemanly good manners amongst us New Yorkers! It’s not that people here are necessarily rude; it’s that they are lost in their own world, perhaps?
Their new office is sublime! It is the epitome of their elegant, refined, sumptuous style that defies any category except for way cool. We lived across from the Flatiron before we moved to Westchester in the early 90’s.
I LOVE the renderings. It’s just not possible to get that organic warmth with a computer generated design! Thanks for such a lovely report!
I had the pleasure of working with them when Bobby published “The Home Within Us”. They are all as lovely, charming, nice AND good looking as they are talented! Some of my fondest memories are of Bobby, Greg and Bobby’s right hand Richard Norris with whom I was separated at birth!!!
SO happy for them and what a wonderful post!
So glad they are here to stay!