Maker Monday: An ASPIRE Exclusive Interview With Anne And Will Massie

Since its founding in 1991 by Anne Harris Massie and Will McKinnon Massie, Mckinnon Harris has provided luxury outdoor furnishings to estates, gardens, and yachts all around. Growing up, they were inspired by their grandmother’s memorable Virginia gardens, which represent the brand’s ethos of reflecting on their layered history. Not only are the pieces beautifully handcrafted, but they’re also sustainable. Their pieces have been featured in many major publications such as Architectural Digest and Veranda Magazine and now are available on 1st Dibs digital marketplace. Introducing this week’s sibling duo Maker Monday, Anne and Will Massie.

This luxury chaise features Mckinnon and Harris’ signature duVal back design of diagonal treillage set within an architectural frame. This piece was inspired by streamlined luxury liners from the romantic era.

Andrew Joseph: Describe your design style as if you were explaining to someone who cannot see.
Anne: I remember someone saying genuine love was like holding a wild bird in your hand, that it required a very light touch, you can’t squeeze too hard. I think design (art) is like that, you can’t try too hard. What something wants to be will reveal itself if you quietly pay attention. When you get it right it feels so good, like sunshine on your skin when you first step outside on a beautiful day.

Andrew: What is the last book you read?
Anne: “Hawthorne on Painting” is currently on my bedside table along with “Some Flowers” by Vita Sackville-West. I’m slowly reading through both but I skip around. “Some Flowers” is beautifully illustrated.

Andrew: If you weren’t a designer, you’d be a….?
Will: If I wasn’t designing and making outdoor furniture I would definitely be a landscape architect/garden designer. I really love creating an inspiring space outdoors and gardening. I love the challenge that plants bring to the equation – nature is always changing.

Andrew: What’s your favorite cocktail?
Anne: A whiskey sour made by my father in my parent’s kitchen while I’m talking to my mother. Not possible anymore but a treasured memory. I’ve tried to make it and it isn’t quite the same but the ingredients are: a little warm water (to dissolve the sugar) a little sugar, juice of half a lemon and very good bourbon stirred and poured over ice with a thin slice of orange added last. Just the best.

The table sitting perfectly in the middle of the lawn is named the “Wyatt.” It is made of solid aluminum and features a hand-formed apron with beaded details, giving it an effortlessly elegant look.

Andrew: What are three words to describe where you live?
Anne: Informal, artistic, authentic.

Andrew: What would you like to be remembered about you?
Anne: Kindness to all creatures.

Andrew: What are your ideal weekend plans?
Anne: Hoping it is still warm enough to build a fire on our terrace and have dinner. The real magic happens when it gets dark and we can hear all of the animal sounds- the wildlife in the woods around us, especially when the owls talk to each other.

Andrew: What was your first job?
Anne: In high school I worked every afternoon after school and half day every other Saturday at a dress shop/home decor store called The Carrousel. It was a beautiful, very creative, artistic place and I learned a lot. To this day I can wrap packages with great ease as we were known for beautiful wrapping and were always knee-deep in ribbon and paper.

Andrew: Are you a good cook? If so, what’s your specialty?
Will: We have dinner on our terrace most every night when it’s warm and I love to grill chicken so I would have to say that’s my specialty. I have different marinades that I mix-up from scratch, almost all involve garlic.

The side table featured on each end of the sofa is the charming “Carroll.” The unique feature of this table is the stepped base resting on angled feet. This keeps the surface dirt and debris far away.

Andrew: How would you describe your personal style?
Anne: Classic and bohemian. When I was very young and shopping for clothes I had a little rule that whatever I bought had to ladder up to a couple of rules – look good with blue jeans and a very dressy event, and also be something that I would still want to wear when I was 80. At home I am very relaxed – boots are always at the back door and stacks of books are everywhere all over the house. We have a dog and two cats and they are allowed in every room.

Andrew: What would your dream project or dream client be right now?
Will: A dream client is someone who truly appreciates quality. We have worked with several German and Swiss clients over the years and they have an innate understanding of quality, it’s just in their DNA. They demand the best down to the molecular level and they care deeply that something is crafted and engineered to stand the test of time.

Andrew: What are you most proud of?
Anne: How caring and kind my husband and I have been to my father since my mother died. Time is the most valuable thing we have and I’ll never regret spending mine.

Andrew: Are you a pet person? Why either way? Dogs or cats?
Will: I have always had pets. I’m definitely a dog person though I’ve come around to appreciating cats. We love dogs so much we named a seating collection after a greatly loved Gorden Setter from childhood. A dog’s unconditional love is unlike anything in the world.

The Cowling sofa was originally designed for a Knightsbridge Terrace. They are highly versatile and can fit right about anywhere. It’s both simplistic and subtle, which the Master Artisans call “hidden luxury.”

Andrew: Style or design icon?
Anne: There are three Virginians with great style and fabulous taste that I really admire. Helen McGehee Umana was probably the most famous, artistically accomplished person in my hometown. She was Martha Graham’s principal dancer when she lived in NYC. She designed and stitched most of her clothes and always looked chic and timeless. I also met Cy Twombly a few times through a mutual friend and I love his art, his humor, intelligence and his gentle manner. Our mother’s dear friend since childhood Betty Stokes lives in Italy and has the most beautiful gardens I have ever visited. She is an artist and everything she touches is magical.

Andrew: Favorite piece of clothing you own?
Anne: A very small goatskin clutch in turquoise leather with faded gold embossing that I found in my parent’s attic about 20 years ago. I think it belonged to my great aunt Ootie who traveled a great deal and must have brought it back from North Africa. It meets my requirement of being timeless and working with both blue jeans and formal attire.

Will: A very worn sterling silver belt buckle that belonged to my grandfather. It has survived well past the alligator belts that have come and gone which is the kind of endurance you would expect from metal. It carries a lot of meaning for me as he was a wonderful person and wore it as much as I do. Things are so much more than things when they carry memories.

Andrew: What’s inspiring you in life (in the industry) right now?
Will: I’m really excited about the spotlight on diversity and inclusion within the design community. At McKinnon and Harris, we have always strived to be a meritocracy. We are in the heart of an urban southern city grappling with systemic racism and I have so much hope that we are going to move past that.

About The Makers | Annie Harris Massie and her brother William McKinnon Massie, Jr. founded McKinnon and Harris, Inc. in 1991 to handcraft their original designs of high performance aluminum furniture for the landscape. Their furniture has won numerous design awards and been featured in World of Interiors, House & Garden UK, Elle Décor, Town and Country, Vogue, Garden & Gun, Architectural Digest, and Milieu. Their enduring furniture is crafted without compromise at their workshop in Richmond, Virginia and sold worldwide through their showrooms in New York, London and Los Angeles. Massie has a B.A. in Art from Hollins College and an M.A. in Art History from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here.

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