A Commitment to Function Over Form Sets Emily Mackie’s Inspired Interiors Above the Rest

The founder and president of the luxury interior design firm draws on her rich background to focus on the basics.

Growing up with a single mother who bought old houses and flipped them as a secondary means of income, Emily Mackie got her first glimpse into the interior design industry at a young age. On the other side of the spectrum, but equally interesting to a young Mackie, was her stepmother, who imported and resold antiques from places like Paris and London. From her mom, she got a front row seat into the nitty-gritty aspects of remodeling a home. From her stepmother, she learned about the history of furniture and high-end furnishings. Between these two empowering women, it was almost inevitable that Mackie would end up in the interior design industry, blending these two perspectives together in her day-to-day life.

After switching majors in college from psychology to interior design, and a brief stint as a flight attendant, she finished school at the Illinois Institute of Art while working at an architectural firm. Eventually, after getting engaged and starting a family, she decided to switch gears to residential design to get a better work / life balance. She and her husband moved in with her mother in Texas, and she began working from her mother’s laundry room before relocating to Chicago. That’s where Inspired Interiors was born.

At Inspired Interiors, Mackie and her team focus on luxury residential design, whether it’s a home, a corporate office or a commercial retail space. When asked where she draws inspiration in her daily work, Mackie says, “Historically, I got a lot of design inspiration by traveling and seeing different parts of the world. I’ve been to Greece, Turkey, Africa and all over Europe – and as a designer, I have a photographic memory, so I’ve catalogued photographs in my head of what I saw on my travels.”

Now, a lot of her inspiration comes from helping people get what they need out of life and seeing how their environment isn’t tailored to their needs. As trends shift toward “going back to the basics”– whether that’s in restaurants with the farm-to-table movement or making their home a comfortable place – Mackie says it’s less about making a home look like it should be in Architectural Digest – and more about making it functional.

Mackie’s favorite room in the home is one that is inherently meant to be functional above all – the kitchen. She says, “The kitchen is like the heart of a home – it’s central to everything, it provides for everything. It’s always the room that you spend the most time in, it’s where everything happens.”

But a focus on function over form doesn’t mean that Mackie doesn’t have an appreciation for the whimsical. Her mid-century, split-level home features three interior slides that her three children absolutely love. This passion for the industry shows not only in her own home, but also in her advice to budding interior designers.

“A trusted mentor gave me advice that I would give to anyone trying to get into the industry: ‘Don’t worry about choosing a career path, find something you’re passionate about.’ I truly believe that some way or another, you’ll figure out your finances. Just follow your intuition. As long as you’re passionate about something, it’s going to drive you every day, and the money will come,” said Mackie.