Shea McGee opened her firm Studio McGee in 2014 to "make life beautiful," and a decade later, she has become America's decorating sweetheart. What's next for the creative who deftly juggles her design business with writing books, launching product lines, and headlining her Netflix series? Total world domination, starting with a residential project in Mexico's Cabo San Lucas. This latest home makeover marks McGee's first design project outside of the United States—but, we're willing to bet, it won't be her last.
"The client reached out to us to take on the build of their second home because they're fans of our work and [had] a referral from a previous client," McGee explains. "They wanted a luxurious beach house, but wanted to incorporate the laidback, organic nature they saw in past Studio McGee aesthetics."
Unlike with some of the projects she tackles on her show, Dream Home Makeover, McGee wasn't restricted by pre-existing structural issues or a shoestring budget. The 22,852-square-foot residence was a new build from the ground up—a feat she worked on with Brandon Architects and Cabo Development Group for approximately three years. McGee admits cost concerns weren't a major factor. What was important was to create an indoor-outdoor oasis that her clients can enjoy with family and friends.
"To make this a house fit for entertainment, we focused on carving out spaces where guests could rest and relax, as well as spaces where they could come together," McGee says. "It takes a lot of intentional designing to create new ideas for each space, especially one of this scale."
A lot of that intentional design can be seen in the carefully selected materials such as wood, plaster, and tile, that are used throughout the space, creating cohesion between the residence's common areas, 10 bedrooms, and 13 bathrooms. "A big reason the clients came to Studio McGee was because they liked the way we prioritize the use of natural materials in timeless ways," she says. "These all go a long way for crafting a laidback, beachy vibe that is beautiful but not too precious.:
Thanks to décor from local shops in Cabo San Lucas and San Miguel de Allende—McGee cites Namuh as a favorite—she was able to give this property a local flair. "Wood species used in Mexico are a bit different than what we are used to, so we had to look at a lot of samples to pick the right one," she adds. "They know how to do plaster in Mexico, beautiful work!"
While the logistics of this project differed from the rest of her portfolio, McGee says her design process remains the same, regardless of the country. "I am always most inspired by both our clients and the home's surroundings," she says. "We are known for our ability to design high-end but livable homes and we applied that perspective in a completely new way." With her Mexican venture, "I loved being able to lean into the juxtaposition between the softness of the salty air and the rugged coastline in a way that feels both luxurious and comfortable.”
In this Cabo San Lucas residence, the kitchen acts as the heart and the stomach of the home. "To come together, [we created] communal spaces with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the beauty of the beach were created," McGee says. "The kitchen was divided up into two separate rooms so that there’s plenty of elbow room when preparing big meals." Though the spacious island might command the room, smaller touches like the painted tiles and wooden accents throughout provide a warm, homey touch.
The Living Area
Since this home prioritizes indoor-outdoor living, McGee wanted to create harmony throughout the property. To get the job done in style, she deliberately added outdoor textiles inside as well as al fresco. "The stone on the fireplace is the same that was used on the exterior of the home," she explains. "And the floors are a smooth limestone that carries seamlessly from the courtyard, through the main living areas, and continues to the back of the home." By blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors with clever repetition, McGee brings a vacation-like peace to the space, allowing the views to shine.
The Primary Bedroom
To help flex her client's hosting muscle, McGee was tasked to create 10 bedrooms that felt warm and welcoming, regardless of who was staying there. "When we first started planning the layout of the home, our clients requested a naming convention for each room so that guests could arrive and know which room they had the pleasure of staying in," she says. "They suggested a color theme that coordinated with the location, and it provided a great visual direction and a new, fun challenge for our team." Now, the bedrooms are known by the main color of the room, such as the Pistachio Room and the Terracotta Room.
While most of the home features a consistent wall color—with each bedroom's palette being reflected in the textiles and cabinetry—McGee changed the plaster color in a few bedrooms. "We wanted the primary bedroom to stand on its own," she says. "The goal was to walk in and feel enveloped in a watery blue tone, so we layered the tone in different mediums from the settee and artwork."
The Primary Bathroom
Even in the bathrooms—which have plenty of window space to let in the views—McGee drew inspiration from the vastness of the sky and the rugged terrain below to create a thoughtful mix of airy and earthy materials. "The tension of juxtaposition creates a harmonizing effect throughout the home, especially in the primary bathroom," she says. "From the sleek steel windows against the stone walls, to the vanity that mixes grass cloth and rift sawn oak, we achieved the mix by balancing rough and smooth textures." Here, a stone backsplash and freestanding tub are offset with the floor-to-walls full of sun-drenched windows. The result: A relaxing-yet-refined space for her clients to unwind.
The Outdoor Space
Given the property's excellent waterfront views, there was no way the outdoor space could be an afterthought. "We started with a bird's eye view of the home and then honed into more intimate groupings," McGee says. "When the doors are open, the home almost becomes a breezeway between the front and the back of the home, so the color palette and materials needed to be able to pair seamlessly with the interior furnishings." That said, the salt and sun of Mexico's Baja Peninsula can be harsh, so she selected materials that were tough enough to hold their own against Mother Nature.
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