"My version of entertaining at home is putting on some cool music and opening up a bottle of Jack Daniel's or wine," author, political pundit and TV personality Meghan McCain declares. "I can't cook, unless you want Cheez Whiz on a Ritz cracker. I am the female Oscar Madison."
Well, not quite. The daughter of 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain may, as she explains, "live like a bachelor," but she is far from the grouchy, sloppy character immortalized in "The Odd Couple." Her one-bedroom, loft-style apartment in a renovated 1927 Hollywood commercial building not only looks tidy but also has the sparkle of a boutique hotel lounge, with smoky hardwood floors, button-tufted velvet seating and gilded furniture.
In the chandelier-illuminated front hallway, a framed American flag hangs above a chunky, faceted Radica Trizole console by Phillips Collection. Past the classic black-and-white-tiled bathroom and substantial walk-in closet and up a couple of steps, there's another, larger version of this unusual free-form table. Customized as a food prep island and dining counter with a polished stainless-steel top and a base embellished with opalescent brown lip shell fragments, it defines the kitchen area in the open-plan living space.
"This is my favorite thing in the apartment; it's very 'Beetlejuice,'" McCain says of her eye-catching kitchen counter, which bears the influence of midcentury Brutalist designs. "I imagine this is what moon rocks look like."
The dining room side of the island has seating for three on metal-and-wood architect stools draped with fluffy white sheepskin. Beyond it, the living room is created by a U-shaped seating arrangement of a contemporary black leather couch, a sofa loosely draped in tufted white fabric and a pair of brass-and-velvet armchairs on a shaggy gray rug topped with two Phillips Collection River Stone cocktail tables in a gold finish.
"Meghan's aesthetic is flashy. She is not someone for whom understated works," says her high school friend and interior decorator, Claire Wire. The Atlanta-based designer undertook this project a year ago, when the Arizona-born-and-raised McCain moved from New York to Los Angeles to co-host "TakePart Live" on Pivot, the TV network launched by Participant Media. "Meghan loves a conversation piece, mixing the bright, shiny and new with rustic things like cowhide rugs, taxidermy and cactus from the desert and symbols of spirituality, like Buddha figures and talismans."
Always ready with a sound bite, McCain describes her design style as "Scarface meets Graceland." She adds that, as a well-known Republican, "people expect me to live in a picture-perfect Pottery Barn kind of place, but I don't like anything traditional. I make my living talking about serious subject matter, but I'm a weirdo. I love a rock 'n' roll aesthetic, and I want my place to be where the after-after-party can happen."
A glance around the apartment confirms her nontraditional tastes: A mounted deer head she named George Jones hangs on a wall next to the refrigerator, a glass skull adorns a living room side table and a pair of gleaming glass-and-metal étagères hold these books: "Chicks With Guns," "Universal Studios Monsters" and Dita Von Teese's two-in-one monograph on the art of burlesque and fetish.
Mixed in among framed photos of family and friends are an autographed picture of Dolly Parton — "my spirit animal," McCain says — a black velvet painting of Marilyn Monroe depicted as a gangster zombie and a signed thank-you note from Howard Stern.
By contrast, McCain's boudoir is, with the exception of a bleached steer skull perched above a gold full-length mirror, rather demure. Instead of throwing up dry wall, Wire cordoned off the exterior of the room in lustrous peacock blue curtains made from Fabricut's Mood material at Heritage Draperies in Los Angeles. Inside, she created a soft cocoon with white draperies and bedding reflected in mirrored furniture.
"Meghan wanted something edgy but inviting, stimulating yet peaceful," says Wire, who kept the decorating budget friendly by purchasing directly from accent furniture and lighting manufacturers and importers, including Arteriors, Worlds Away and Blue Ocean Traders. "This was achieved with a neutral base — white fabrics, glass and metallics — layered with surprising colors like chartreuse on satin throw pillows and a bright red tufted ottoman in the dining area. This is what she calls her 'big girl apartment.' "
It's a marked changed for McCain, who grew up sharing a Laura Ashley pink-and-purple floral room with her sister Bridget in a spacious Phoenix adobe home with Spanish fountains, terra cotta floors and Southwestern textiles. "Now I love exposed pipes and vents," she says. "Anything that is the complete opposite of the home I grew up in."
While earning a BA in art history at Columbia University in New York City, McCain grew accustomed to life in smaller apartments with Ikea furniture. "I am not a big house person," she says of her 1,200 square foot Hollywood digs. "For someone who is single with a career, this apartment is huge. My mom doesn't understand it. She says, 'Don't you want a yard?' What for? I have a balcony with a view of the Capitol Records building and the Hollywood Hills."
These days, McCain is experiencing a particularly Hollywood rite of passage: Her TV show was canceled in December, and she's considering her next act, which she hopes will include more television. She is also relaunching her website and planning her fourth book, a "feminist political manifesto" for conservatives. "I'm a big fan of Lena Dunham, but I don't think she is the only one who should talk about feminism." The book is provisionally titled "Bad Republican." That's how many older members of her political party view her, McCain proudly proclaims.
"I am 30," she explains. "I am still dating and love my job and not ready to settle down at all. I spend a lot of time dancing in gay bars and want my gay friends to be able to get married, but I don't know if I ever want to get married and have kids. And I think that's a common struggle."
In the meantime, she is happy in her Hollywood home that is reflective of her square peg personality but still "livable and cozy," McCain says. And she especially loves the neighborhood. "People say I live in Holly-weird," McCain says, laughing. "But I like the energy of the people and seeing a guy in a Spider-Man costume on the street when I walk to Walgreens."
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