New York state of mind

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

For two weeks every summer, Meg Williams Braff kicks off her heels and her big-city clothes and heads south to her family’s vacation home on Pickwick Lake.
It’s a trip she looks forward to every year, since moving to New York some 20 years ago.
“It’s fun to come down here and be with all my Southern cousins,” said Braff, who was born and raised in Tupelo. “It’s such a part of my childhood, being here.”
Braff, 42, the daughter of Mary Elizabeth and Fayette Williams of Tupelo, is the face behind Meg Braff Interiors, a design firm in Manhattan.
And she is living her dream.
“I really did want to be in New York – I wanted that experience,” said Braff, 42. When she graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in interior design, she knew the next logical stop would be to head to Parsons The New School for Design in New York.
“At the time I graduated, it was a really difficult time to find a job,” she said. “People weren’t hiring much. And Parsons was a great design school.”
After several internships, Braff’s first full-time job was as a design assistant for Jeff Lincoln Interiors in Manhattan. She was there for a year and a half.
“I started taking on freelance jobs and ultimately transitioned into having my own business,” she said. “It’s just grown and grown, but by New York standards, it’s still a relatively small firm. I have four design assistants and we take on a limited number of jobs per year – usually 10.”
Those jobs have given her national exposure. Braff’s work has been featured in Southern Accents, Coastal Living, Renovation Style and Traditional Home magazines. She’s been in House Beautiful four times; the latest 10-page spread in that magazine was in May.
“Newell Turner is the editor at House Beautiful,” she said. “He’s a Mississippi boy – he’s from the Delta – and he published my first project when he was with Cottages and Gardens magazine in Palm Beach, Fla.”

Resort decorating
For the majority of the projects Braff takes on, location has driven the design.
“We happen to do a lot of second and third homes,” she said. “People are more willing to try different color combinations when they don’t live with it every day. I love resort decorating. It’s so uplifting and cheerful. It really puts you in the vacation mode.”
Braff has done homes in places such as Palm Beach; Newport, R.I.; the Hamptons in New York; Philadelphia, Penn.; San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas; Nantucket, Mass.; Jamaica and Bermuda.
“Blues and greens are a staple in my design repertoire,” she said. “We also do a lot of coral and orange. For my non-resort jobs, combinations of gray are nice – gray with aubergine.”
Braff’s own home in Locust Valley, on the north shore of Long Island, hasn’t been touched in a dozen years.
“I did our house 12 years ago and there’s very little I would change if I had to do it over again,” she said. “It looks a little loved, but everything is pretty much classic. We’re actually building a new home right now, so it’s time to do something new. It’s exciting to be working on plans for a house.”
Braff will share that new home with her husband, Doug, and their four sons: Douglas, twins Andrew and William, and Charles.
“My house and my other projects are all kind of going on at the same time,” she said. “They’re all in different stages, of course. It would be crazy if they weren’t. It can take a year to do a project, depending on the construction and the location. A job in Philadelphia took two-and-a-half years, but it was from the ground up.”

New wallpaper company
Braff said early on, even when she was working for someone else, she knew she wanted to own her own business.
“I’m pretty self-motivated,” she said. “I also like the flexibility it offers me with four kids. I work pretty hard, but I also work on my own time. I know a year out what my schedule is going to be for the next year.”
And part of next year’s schedule will include putting the finishing touches on a wallpaper company Braff bought in September.
“We’ve got wallpaper being sold on our website and it’s had good response,” she said. “We’re in the process of recoloring, updating, giving it a fresh new look. I’m going to start working on fabrics that coordinate with it this fall. That’s the natural next step.”
But for the moment, all Braff wants to do is relax with her parents, her husband and her children at the lake. At Pickwick, she can pad around the house barefooted in white shorts with her blond hair held back by sunglasses perched atop her head.
“I love coming home and being here,” she said as she sipped a tall glass of iced tea her mama had prepared. “I miss things. I miss our church – First Presbyterian. You don’t have that kind of community in New York – it’s harder to find that kind of situation. I mean, I’ve been in New York long enough to where I’ve met a lot of nice friends. But there are compromises. It’s a trade-off all around. I’m just so happy I grew up in Tupelo. It’s made me the person I am today.”

On the Web
– To learn more, visit www.megbraff.com and
megbraffdesigns.com.