February 12, 2019

with Bailey McCarthy

The Finer Points

It’s not every day we get to feature one of our hometown girl crushes on The Finer Points. Since moving back to Houston to raise her family with husband Pete, Bailey McCarthy has been sprinkling her hue-happy fairy dust all over our city and Instagram feeds.

Bailey burst onto the design scene nearly a decade ago after starting her blog, Peppermint Bliss. Her impeccable taste soon caught the attention of the design world, landing her on the pages of many notable publications, including a shoutout on House Beautiful‘s prestigious list of ‘New Wave’ interior designers in 2013. Through her professional work, Bailey saw a need for heirloom-quality bedding that would appeal to a younger generation. Taking a chance on her own creativity and business know-how, she opened Biscuit in 2012. The brand’s high-end linens, touchably-soft pajamas, and cheeky home accessories quickly gained a cult-like following that continues to grow today.

Read on for more about Bailey’s ongoing passion projects and how she manages to wear so many hats (but seriously, she owns some really cool hats).

Bailey McCarthy; Photo by Julie Soefer

Marie Flanigan: Your career has had a fascinating evolution over the past few years! From interior designer to blogger, and now Biscuit owner and hospitality entrepreneur. Can you share a few highlights from your professional journey?

Bailey McCarthy: Pete and I got engaged and moved to Chicago in 2009. I was writing a blog as a sort of newsletter for friends and family back in Texas, sharing updates on our home renovation, my work for an interior designer, and adventures getting to know Chicago. I discovered the larger blogging community and started to work on building my blog within that space. Online magazines like Lonny, Rue, and Matchbook were all launching and it felt like this really pure, inspiring movement.

Pete and I were newly married, just barely pregnant, and I remember the issue of Rue featuring our Chicago house (starting on page 104!) came out the same week our wedding was featured on Style Me Pretty, and I felt like I broke the internet!

The powder bath in Bailey and Pete McCarthy’s Chicago home; Photo by Emily Johnson

Blogging about design led to me getting my own clients, and because people were finding me through my blog, it was mostly e-design, which was a lot of sourcing non-trade items for clients. I became an online home shopping expert, a market that was also just starting to explode, which inspired me to start Biscuit.

Those early features in Rue and then Matchbook connected me to various editors who continued to feature my work/Biscuit in magazines like Southern Living, Country Living, Coastal LivingHGTV Magazine, and House Beautiful, which was so, so exciting for a lifelong shelter mag hoarder like myself, and such an asset to Biscuit as a new company starting out. Eventually, I decided to take a break from blogging and interior design clients to focus on Biscuit.

Biscuit moved storefronts into our current location, nestled into a development I have been working on with my husband and his company Goodnight Hospitality. Their first concept, Goodnight Charlie’s, opened just behind our Biscuit storefront a few months later. We have three new spots opening this year to round out the development. I now feel tired writing all that out, but it’s been very exciting!

Goodnight Charlie’s

MF: Our office and Biscuit are in the same neighborhood! What do you love about Montrose?

BM: Hayyy, neighbor! Isn’t Montrose the best? I grew up in Houston, but left at 14 for boarding school and had only lived here for a few months at a time since then. When we decided to move back to Houston after starting our lives in Chicago, I wanted to carve out a new space for us within my hometown. I was afraid of feeling like I was moving my grown-ass self into my proverbial childhood bedroom, if that makes sense.

Our life in Chicago felt like us, and I wanted to find something here that did as well, and we found that in Montrose. It has those city feels — restaurants/nightlife, shops, museums — all within a walkable neighborhood in an eclectic mix that feels uniquely Houston to me.

When I moved Biscuit to Montrose 5 years ago, people looked at me pityingly, like some poor fool at Green River Crossing trying to save a few bucks and ford the river. Oregon Trail? Anyone? Anyway, at the time there were a few great restaurants, and of course, the incomparable Menil Collection was blocks away, but we were the only new retail in the midst of a lot of fabulous junktique treasure chests and less fabulous vape shops, (can we not get some better branding for the vape shops around here!?), so I guess it seemed like a downgrade in location to most. Fast forward 5 years, and we have neighbors like Le Labo, Aesop, and the fine ladies of Marie Flanigan Interiors!

Bailey’s store Biscuit

MF: How do your interior design knowledge and personal taste drive the merchandise selection and bedding collections at Biscuit?

BM: The initial idea for Biscuit and our bedding line came directly from my design work sourcing for clients, and wanting a resource for the heritage linens I had grown up with. Biscuit is still my business baby, born from my particular tastes and style. However, Biscuit has gone through all of those healthy, if sometimes unsightly, adolescent processes of separation, and finds itself today on the verge of a very promising life of its own.

As part of that process, our team created a sort of Bailey/Biscuit avatar to guide our merchandise and bedding collections. Originally rooted in my personal taste and background, it has been improved by adding layers of their own style and influence, and further refined using data from our analytics to better serve our market. Our choices are always grounded in things we personally love and believe in, but we have allowed Biscuit to grow into its own thing that is greater than the sum of our parts.

Bailey’s daughter Grace’s bathroom; Photo by Roger Davies

MF: If you could choose one celebrity to have Biscuit bedding in their home, who would it be and why?

BM: I almost hate myself for this answer. It’s like asking someone what their favorite TV show is and them answering that they don’t have a TV and prefer the company of NPR and their library card.

Trust, I love celeb culture, so it’s always fun when we get an order from someone we are fans of. But honestly, the real dream celebrities are the designers who I have loved and followed since I first started scrapbooking from shelter magazines in my dorm room. It is so flattering that these talents who inspire us choose Biscuit for their spaces, and it is always a treat to see how they use our line and show it in a new way.

But then also Beyonce. Except I am not sure she sleeps, so we would be of no use to her.

Bailey’s guest room featuring Biscuit bedding; Photo by Roger Davies

MF: What’s your favorite room in your home and why?

BM: My son Harry’s room. As a baby, Harry was diagnosed with a lung disorder (he has since grown out of it) and had to be hooked up to oxygen 24/7 at first, and then only at night. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly stressful time for our family.

We also just so happened to be in the process of designing our current home, which gave me the opportunity to channel my anxiety into designing some solutions to the issues I could address. I came up with the idea of housing his oxygen machine in a cabinet within a built-in bunk. Bunk beds allow for maximum floor space, so that he could crawl and play without worrying about his tubes getting tangled on furniture. The cabinet, powered from the inside with a hole for the oxygen tubes to connect through, would discreetly hide the machine so that when he was older (and might only need the oxygen at night) he could have friends play and sleep over without feeling like he had a hospital in his bedroom.

Harry’s bedroom; Photo by Roger Davies

You know the song “Hurricane” from Hamilton? How he wrote his way out of his difficulties in life? I feel like I designed my way out. I couldn’t fix the core issue, but I found a way to use my skills and my love and my energy to help when I felt otherwise helpless.

Thankfully, he grew out of his condition on the early range of his prognosis, so now the cabinet is used for costume storage which is also quite practical. The room is adorable, and a reminder to me that, while my creativity might not be as useful in certain circumstances as, say, a medical degree, we all have something to offer when we use our gifts for loved ones.

MF: You worked with Miles Redd to design your amazing country retreat, which was recently featured in Architectural Digest. Since you’re a former interior designer, it seems like the ultimate luxury to hire another designer! What was the process like collaborating with Miles?

BM: As you well know, having good taste, understanding design, and being able to decorate are important skills for an interior designer, but do not one make. And I’m not even talking about training or accreditation. I mean the actual work of being an interior designer is to create something beautiful out of the various functions involved in designing and furnishing a home, like budgets, sourcing, trades, schedules, quality control, etc., just to list a few.

Bailey and her family on the porch of Goodthyme Farm; Photo by Trevor Tondro

I know I am preaching to the choir saying this to the likes of you! But, since you asked, I feel compelled to make this point as many people have expressed consternation that I would hire an interior designer. Artists buy art. Doctors don’t operate on themselves. It doesn’t diminish my past work to acknowledge the greatness of someone else’s, ya know? I have something to say and to offer the world of design, but it’s also important to know when to stop talking and give someone else the floor. This was definitely one of those times, and who better to appreciate the work of a master interior designer than a recovering decorator?

That said, working with Miles and David was a dream, but also a challenge. I admire them both to the point of crippling intimidation. It was hard for me at first to behave like a normal person, much less a client with a clear directive all the while balancing my deep desire to be their best friend. They are the real deal though. So talented and so generous in their ability to collaborate and bring out the best in everyone. I learned so much about interior design watching them work, and also about being confident in myself and what I bring to the table.

MF: You throw some of the most memorable parties! Share your top entertaining tips.

BM: My motto is “Fancy, Not Formal” in all things, but especially entertaining. I truly love to entertain. I love a sense of occasion, and to turn it out and make guests feel festive, but you have to know when to say when and stop and enjoy the party. No one is going to notice what didn’t get done or didn’t go right if you are enjoying yourself!

For Pete’s birthday in December we were planning to set up a table in our living room for a small dinner party. A few days before, the living room fluff we were doing hit a bump in the road and our walls were going to be all exposed insulation during the party. I had a small Joann’s Fabric tantrum (see below), picked myself up, found my good personality again, and staple gunned sparkly tulle, garland, and ornaments all over the walls to cover the insulation.

We work with A Fare Extraordinaire a lot on events. [Which is another tip: Find helpers you like — a caterer, florist, bartender or whatever makes your life easier when you entertain and work with them enough that they gain an understanding of what you like, where things are in your home, etc.] I called them and asked them if they could take over the table set up since I was in way over my head. As they always do, AFE pulled through and set up a whole gorgeous, chic table situation in the middle of the “80s Teen Movie Winter Formal” vibes I had created. We all had the BEST time and no one cared at all about dining in a construction zone!

Pete’s birthday party

MF: Your Instagram presence is hilarious, authentic, and often personal. How has social media played into building your professional and personal brands?

BM: I wouldn’t have this career were it not for social media and blogging in my early 20s, but the landscape has changed so much since then, and my relationship to social media has evolved along with my own personal growth.

In the beginning, social media was a tool that generated various opportunities. It felt expressive and fueled my growth – both creatively and in business. It seems to have shifted where social media is now reflexive. It has become both the ends and the means to success for a lot of people, and as the power of social media, especially Instagram, has grown, I have actually pulled back.

The basic idea behind social media comes almost too naturally to me. Which, if you have made it this far in this interview, you can clearly see I love a personal share. I am also an only child who likes attention.

I found it was too difficult for me to keep a boundary in place using Instagram to help grow my business without giving in to the temptation to commoditize my life. That is not to say I didn’t try it. I know monetizing my Instagram is not right for me because I can look back on my posting attempts and they ain’t right. Some people are able to balance it beautifully, I am just not one of them. We had a team meeting about it and made the conscious decision to separate the Biscuit account from my personal, allowing both to develop their own authentic voices based on separate goals.

Following Bailey on Instagram also means you get to see her adorable dogs! Photo by Julie Soefer

My goal is to share because I believe in its value, whether for connection, entertainment, inspiration, or comfort. I maintain certain lines to protect my privacy and that of my friends and family, but I try to keep fear from drowning my voice.

As my lord and savior Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” I’m @BaileyQuin and sometimes I post pretty interiors and sometimes I tell you about my journey fitting into skintight overalls. If that builds some brand loyalty for Biscuit, or leads to new connections or opportunities, that’s delightful, but I’m just in it for care of the share.

MF: Do you have a hand in the interior design at your and your husband’s hospitality projects like Goodnight Charlie’s?

BM: The short answer is yes, but it’s been a process. So as I mentioned, I quit doing design work a few years ago to focus on Biscuit right around the time Pete and his team were building Goodnight Charlie’s. I was moving in a different direction, and we both wanted to have our own separate things, so initially it didn’t make sense for us to collaborate. We would be marriage partners and business neighbors.

A few weeks before Goodnight Charlie’s opened they asked us to come in and tweak some of the finishing touches. Our Biscuit team was so excited about the concept and really understood it, so we were able to turn out some special things for them with the design, like the wallpaper in the bathrooms that Keila (Biscuit CEO) created and in translating their concept into a clear voice on social media.

Custom wallpaper at Goodnight Charlie’s; Photo by Cameron Blalock

Since then, we have continued to collaborate and last year, when our Biscuit office lease expired, we moved into the Goodnight Hospitality headquarters. Our respective teams are now working together on the three new restaurants slated to open this year in the space being constructed next door to our Biscuit storefront — Rosie Canonball, Montrose Cheese & Wine, and March.

The people we had in place at Biscuit for design, branding, and social media now work on Goodnight Hospitality, so basically our businesses are married, as well! It works because we all have our separate areas of expertise that we are contributing to a larger shared vision. I am really excited to see that the teams we have worked with separately for years are now coming together to build this creative enclave in the heart of Montrose!

MF: What’s on the horizon for Biscuit?

BM: We just launched crib skirts, some new PJ prints, and we’re opening Biscuit Kids across the street sometime this year! We are also opening up the back of our existing storefront and expanding our entertaining/hostess gift selection to complement the offerings from our upcoming neighbors, Montrose Cheese & Wine. We are really excited to see our restaurant friends open! We have been working towards this vision for our little campus that has jokingly been dubbed “McMontrose” and it’s going to be so festive to finally be able to have people come experience it!

MF: Our whole team is pumped about everything you’re bringing to the neighborhood! Count us in for a glass or two as soon as Montrose Cheese & Wine opens its doors. Thank you so much for joining us, Bailey!

1 Comments
  1. Kristin Ciavavarelli says:

    Love

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