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Design Stop: John McClain's Comfortably Chic Design

McClain’s firm has become a symbol of refined elegance, specializing in mid- to high-end residential design and unique commercial projects.

By Gianna Annunzio
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John McClain designs

John McClain of John McClain Design is an accomplished interior designer with a deep-rooted passion for creating chic-yet-comfortable living spaces. With a family background in homebuilding, McClain’s fascination with the creative process began at a young age. He recalls being the child who tagged along on construction projects, captivated by every detail. Little did he know that these early
experiences would pave the way for an
illustrious career in the realm of design.


Early Beginnings

At the age of 21, McClain took a bold leap by purchasing his own 1880s home, and quickly became immersed in the art of design and renovation. With each project, his talent grew, attracting attention from friends and family. The breakthrough moment came when McClain’s skills caught the eye of HGTV. Cast on the show “First Time Design,” he showcased his innate ability to transform spaces.

“After the show aired, I began to receive phone calls from all over the country and realized that I could turn a passionate hobby into a viable career,” he says. “I’m the type of person who will jump in headfirst by taking calculated risks, and this career change was one of those.”

It was during this time that McClain’s passion evolved into something more profound — an opportunity to turn his creative hobby into a thriving profession.

“At the time I began my ‘official’ design career I was actually working full-time in advertising,” he says. “In my early 30s, I decided to go back to design school to begin a career in something that truly interested me. Via a friend, I serendipitously met the owners of an LA design firm. One week I was sitting in design class, and the next week I was in the living room of an A-List celebrity in LA talking about custom drapery.”


Chic & Comfortable

Today, McClain’s firm has become a symbol of refined elegance, specializing in mid- to high-end residential design and unique commercial projects that fit well into his aesthetic and values. A key aspect of McClain’s approach is his unwavering commitment to creating spaces that are both chic and comfortable. He understands that homeowners desire a beautiful environment that can be lived in and enjoyed by all. He also emphasizes the importance of choosing the right materials to withstand the demands of everyday life, whether it’s the pitter-patter of little feet or the presence of beloved pets.

“Our interiors are detailed and edited but are not precious,” he says. “Most of our clients are busy families who do not have time to constantly be concerned with delicate materials; therefore, our responsibility is to marry the concept of beautiful design with durable design. It does take a little bit of explanation of our portfolio to explain that the sofa that they are looking at is beautiful, but can also withstand the dirty paw prints of a 2-year-old.”

McClain’s design style also dispels the notion that chic and comfort are mutually exclusive, as he believes that functionality and beauty can coexist harmoniously. McClain’s portfolio showcases a range of materials and design choices that strike a balance between aesthetic appeal and practicality.

“I remember having a project featured in Traditional Home magazine where the interiors were light and bright with lots of whites and creams,” he says. “I got so much flack from readers who said that this home was definitely not family-friendly. After that, I was on a mission to educate those people and others on the benefits of choosing the right materials in a home, and how those choices can achieve functionality, beauty, comfort and durability.”

Through the years, McClain’s team has also developed a strict list of materials that satisfies these needs, ranging from fabrics to area rugs.

“I also have a variety of designers on my team who have first-hand life experience with children, pets and life in general,” he says. “They bring their own expertise into our designs and into client conversations. Clients love when we can empathize with them on a product or material that we have personally used in the past or in our own home.”


Custom & Coaching

In addition to his design firm, McClain has also delved into the world of custom furniture design with his home furnishings company, John McClain Home. Early in his career, he gained hands-on experience working with custom upholstery and furnishings at a Los Angeles design firm. This experience demystified the furniture-making process and sparked the realization that designing custom pieces had limitless possibilities.

“I realized that the sky is indeed the limit when it comes to designing custom pieces; therefore my home furnishings line was born years later,” he says. “That being said, a to-the-trade home furnishings line is a full-time business all its own. I have that part of my company on pause at the moment and we are solely designing custom pieces for clients; but never fear, it will be back soon!”

McClain’s drive to share his knowledge and experiences has also led him to embrace the coaching and education-based side of the design world. As a published author, design coach and online instructor, he imparts practical wisdom and insights to aspiring designers.

“After I published my book, The Designer Within in the Fall of 2022, I wanted to capitalize on all the energy and time I had put into writing the book,” he says. “I also realized that I had become a mentor of sorts to my design colleagues by lending advice regarding my own success.”

McClain aimed to distill this knowledge into an easy-to-digest formula that other people could replicate and reproduce. For example, since he set up his own company with a franchise mindset so he could expand from Florida to Los Angeles, he now shares this wisdom with other designers.

“[The franchise plan] put my mind at ease knowing that every process from either office was going to work exactly the same, and that I did not have to physically be in each location,” he says. “I took that plan and am now teaching it to others.”

McClain’s courses and coaching are renowned for their no-nonsense approach, providing valuable information without the fluff.

“Solo entrepreneurs (and even those with a team) are much too busy to have to dig through information and decipher what will work or not work for them,” he says. “I boil everything down to the important parts that work and allow them to
take those and implement them into their own firms.”

He also finds great fulfillment in witnessing the success of his students, whether it’s through their increased revenue, magazine features or simply finding their own
creative voice.

“That is the intrinsic reward that I honestly have been searching for in this industry,” he says. “Sometimes our industry can be very artificial and superficial. I encourage everyone to define and follow their own paths to success rather than following an industry-led pathway.”

Two years ago, McClain also changed the title of this position to CEO and Creative Director. He says it was amazing what a simple title change did for his mindset, and to his team and clients’ perception of his role.

“It allowed me to think broader and to really look at everything from the 30,000-foot view, rather than in the weeds,” he says. “I want to continue more of this exploration of opportunities. I will definitely be expanding my business-to-business mentorship and coaching, and I want to implement in-person events and allow all of my students to network with each other in person rather than just online.

“Having just purchased a home in Las Vegas, I do want to expand to that market as well and implement more commercial designs with hotels and restaurants. I never limit my potential with what someone else says or does; I allow my own brain and heart to dream big, and then I like to add wings to those dreams.

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