Stroke of Genius

The first clue as to Bobby McAlpine’s destiny came when, at the tender age of 5, he drew his first sketch of a house onto the back of a Whitman’s candy box. Ultimately, those first scrawls led to architectural and interior design firms that bear his name— McAlpine Tankersley Architecture and McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors. The point of difference, for each, perhaps lies in the fact that a lot of heart goes into each McAlpine project.

It’s important, he says, that the exterior world match one’s interior desires. “Our authentic selves lie within us. Successful people walk their truths out loud, so they do not become estranged from what they’ve found to be real. The heart craves evidence of itself and a larger recognizable containment is good for all. It expands your heart’s territory and makes you easier to find.”

In McAlpine’s just-released tome, The Home Within Us: Romantic Homes, Evocative Rooms (Rizzoli, 2010; $55), readers are invited to explore that kind of authenticity, what it is that makes a house a home. Twenty-five projects represent the work of his two firms, varying in style from a Mediterranean Revival residence with industrial windows and Old World stone columns to a beach house influenced by South Africa’s Cape Dutch architecture. And, McAlpine says, there could have been many more. “I chose 40 or more projects that represented a good cross-section, that provided good examples of the thoughts and theories I wished to speak to,” he explains, “but only 25 would fit between the covers. There are many more waiting in the wings.”

Throughout the book, readers can see for themselves how McAlpine draws inspiration from architecture of the past—Palladio, Lutyens, the classic French farmhouse, the cozy English cottage and more—to create houses that marry historical precedent with gracious modern living, spaces that radiate comfort and warmth. What’s more, the hand-picked projects beautifully showcase the firms’ talent for juxtaposing unexpected forms and materials—the hallmark of their work.

The book’s moniker is appropriate, says the author, because “as artists, all of us really long to put into the world what is not already there. At a young age, some of us build playhouses [in which] to store and rescue our treasures, to brew and steep until the moment presents itself to make all this discovery and consideration manifest in work that alters our exterior lives into recognition. The Home Within Us touches on the importance and meaning of building. That our exterior and interior lives look as much alike as they can so that we may swim freely between the two.”

So what is the home within Bobby McAlpine? “My own home is re-imagined and reinvented regularly through building, renovating and redecorating—to keep it current, always, with where I am myself inside. ‘House’ is my play and I am in tireless attendance to it. If you want to know ‘how’s Bobby?’ just look at the house I’m in. It is always me.”


Bobby McAlpine,;;