Written and styled by Tracy James
Photography by Chuck St. John
“It is better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” or so the saying goes. That’s the spirit 32-year-old artist William McLure banked on when surreptitiously redecorating his Southside flat. A walk-up in a historic home, the original hardwood floors had disastrously been covered with carpet and linoleum, which McLure took upon himself to remove little by little, making midnight trips to the dumpster. Perhaps the boldness by which he took design matters into his own hands stems from his childhood in Troy, where, as the oldest of four boys, his mother allowed him free reign in his room. McLure was known to move items from other parts of the house he felt better suited for his room and hang sheets around his bed to emulate a canopy. Flash forward to present day, and since the removal of the offensive flooring, the walls and floors of McLure’s apartment have been all white, all blue, and all red and are now back to all white again, changing on his whim with the ease of paint on a canvas. In fact, McLure paints his canvases—primarily oil and by commission—on his floor, simply painting over any spills or splatters. The young artist contributes the success of his art not to his obvious talent but to “Instagram, 100 percent.”
The apartment of the artist, who still dabbles in interior design (which until December was a full-time endeavor with the firm of local architect Bill Ingram) is a reflection of his own personal style. Resplendent in crisp white and vibrant blue, McClure is a key aspect of the Mediterranean inspired decor that surrounds him. Even his fawn-colored Weimaraner, 15-year old Baylor, who dons a blue-and-white textile collar, seems part of the story. If it weren’t for the brick buildings visible outside the open windows, one might think they were in a pied-à-terre on the Amalfi Coast, a feeling bolstered by lack of TV, Internet, or any other modern technology, and the swirling scents of Neroli Portofino (Tom Ford’s fragrances are a go-to) and Sicilian Orange (expensive candles from the likes of Nest, Dyptique, and Malin + Goetz are a vice.) The walls are covered with McLure’s own art, and stacks of coffee table books reside on table tops and ledges.
“Much can be gathered about a person based on their book collection,” says McLure. “If I have guests over and am occupied engaging with someone, others can get a sense of my interests by looking at the literature I have scattered about.” Most are about or by fashion designers, photographers, and interior designers—the latter including Miles Redd, Michael S. Smith, and Markham Roberts. However, his favorite interior designer is West-coast-based Mark D. Sikes. McLure says of his mentor, “I want to be him, or at least work for him.”
McLure’s wardrobe certainly seems inspired by Sikes, who last spring launched MDS Stripes, a collection devoted entirely to the blue and white stripe, offering cotton dresses, knits, and accessories. “Clothing options are limited when you are a size 28 waist and XS shirt,” McLure explains. While a few of his brands of choice can be found in Birmingham, like J.Crew and Bonobos, he usually has to venture online to find his size. Other resources include Zara and Club Monaco, stores McClure wishes would come to Birmingham. Just as he has a fondness for layered interiors—pillows, paintings, and objets d’art—McLure likes the aesthetic of a layered ensemble. A woven belt for textural interest, perhaps. Or a striped sweater thrown over the shoulders for a touch of print. The result is a look that says, “I’m heading to the Hamptons tomorrow.”
One of McLure’s prized possessions —and the only art piece on his wall that is not his own—is an oversized photograph by Birmingham-based photographer David Hillegas. A man in a bathing suit stands overlooking a rocky Carribean coastline, an infinity pool in the foreground. McLure compares the photograph to the work of the late American photographer Slim Aarons, known for shooting socialites and jetsetters. Aarons reportedly never used a stylist or makeup artist and made his career out of what he called “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” William McLure himself seems to fit into this world. Art imitates life.•
You can view McLure’s art portfolio at williammclure.com.