Shea McGee Says This Controversial Color Is the “New Neutral”

published Sep 19, 2023
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hallway with walls of windows on both sides and matching modern sconces
Credit: Lucy Call

You may recognize interior designer Shea McGee from her Netflix series, Dream Home Makeover, or even own a few pieces from her Target-exclusive home line, Threshold designed with Studio McGee. Now, hot off the heels of McGee’s recent collab with Kohler, fans have yet another chance to channel her signature warm, airy aesthetic: an inspiration-filled book. 

Last week, McGee’s brand-new design book, The Art of Home, hit bookshelves. Part photo compilation, part decorating handbook, the 408-page hardcover details everything from her design process to how to style an entryway. It’s categorized by chapters for each room of the house (even home offices and children’s spaces), and is packed with dreamy visuals from McGee’s own portfolio and approachable pointers for recreating the looks. 

I especially love the book’s last section, a 16-part style guide dedicated to furniture arranging, understanding common materials and fabrics, and so much more. If you’ve ever wondered how to mix patterns, where to position a sofa in relation to a rug, or the best McGee-approved neutral paint palettes, the all-encompassing resource has you covered. Seriously, she hits on just about every common design conundrum, with tricks of the trade for renters and homeowners alike.

Leading up to the book launch, I met with the designer-turned-author in person to chat about her favorite tips and takeaways, including one particularly noteworthy design stance — McGee is officially declaring dark brown colors and finishes as the “new neutral.”

It’s kind of a decorating hot take, considering builder-grade dark wood cabinets specifically are typically written off as “dated,” or immediately get the boot in new homes or rentals. That said, McGee notes that “Brown is an often-overlooked shade [because] there’s a depth and complexity to it that its sister shades, blacks and creams, don’t possess.” Because of its earthy coloring, brown also draws connections to nature for an overall soothing, versatile allure. “It’s a powerful hue that elicits feelings of familial warmth and a sense of safety and security, and acts as a grounding, stabilizing force,” she adds.

Credit: Lucy Call

McGee’s own home line, McGee & Co., stylishly models dark brown accents both big and small, like a chocolate-colored duvet cover and rich leather sectional. “In design, it pairs well with others and is capable of standing alone, makes a strong, sophisticated statement, and can carry both minimal and maximal styling,” she says of the color. 

Plenty more interior ideas await within The Art of Home, now available via Amazon, Target, and McGee & Co. Above all, it’s more than just a coffee table accent full of pretty pictures (although there’s no shortage there) — the book gives even interior design novices a master class on decorating like a pro, with personal style and functionality at the forefront. In fact, the collection of expert intel feels just shy of having a 1:1 consultation with McGee herself, for only $28.97. Whether you want visual inspiration from real homes or help planning a project, you’ll find yourself actually flipping through this time and again. Hint: it’s the perfect go-to housewarming gift, too!

Buy: The Art of Home: A Designer Guide to Creating an Elevated Yet Approachable Home, $39.99 $28.97