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Meet Caroline McLean of Scottiedog Studios in Redondo Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Caroline McLean.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Caroline. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The day after Christmas, 1989, I packed a single bag, left my home and family in Leeds, England, and boarded a flight to LA to marry a man I had met only twice.

It was an uncharacteristically crazy and outrageous thing for me to do.

I was in my eleventh year as Senior Designer with a leading UK design firm that specialized in nightclubs, bars and restaurants. I was living with my (then) partner in a picture-perfect Yorkshire cottage, I have a really close family, and in my “spare time” I had a packed social life including singing barbershop harmony several times a week with my mum, sister and friends.

But when you’re lucky enough to find your soul-mate, crazy and outrageous things can happen. I guess I was just powerless to resist!

After three months of settling into my new life with Peter in Rancho Palos Verdes, I had the good fortune to be hired by the internationally renowned hospitality design firm, Hirsch Bedner Associates, and started work in their Santa Monica office.

In those pre-digital, before-the-internet days, pretty much all our design presentations and architectural drawings were done by hand. Sourcing the world’s finest materials, furnishings and decorative pieces meant, literally, scouring the planet, digging through libraries of catalogs and finish samples, and meeting (in person) with all kinds of specialist vendors, manufacturers and artisans.

We made shopping trips to glamorous showrooms, field visits to stone quarries, millwork and metal shops, and traveled to far-off rug and textile mills to review custom designs in progress. I was lucky enough to work on some fabulous projects (including a historic renovation of the Beverly Hills Hotel; Bacara, Santa Barbara; The St. Regis, Monarch Beach).

It was the 90s, a decade of conspicuous consumption, luxury cars, fancy clothes and grand opening parties. Our design teams traveled the world working on five-star hotels, we were treated like VIPs and I made life-long friends. We worked crazy hard and the hours were insane – but it was FUN! And, back then, we were all absolutely passionate about design – including the clients!

The years sailed by. The much-anticipated Millenium came and went, time marched on and things were changing – fast! For me, at least, that wasn’t all good news.

In my little corner of the design world, our rapidly expanding company was starting to feel less “family-firm” and more “corporate operation”. I was working even longer hours, missing out on family visits and friends’ birthdays (and no time for singing). It was all late-night video-conferences, crazy deadlines, flight delays and interminable commutes on the dreaded 405. Schedules, spreadsheets, HR missives and meetings-for-the-sake-of meetings. I was waking up exhausted, my health was sketchy at best and I was feeling like a hamster stuck in a wheel.

Here I was, a Senior Associate with (at the time) the biggest and best hotel design company in the world, living my own success story. But through years of commitment, loyalty and hard work I had climbed the ladder to my highest level of disinterest. I always understood that, as trained professionals, we were in the Design Business. But when it all became more about Business than Design it was time for me to get back to doing what I love the best: creating beautiful spaces, helping people to feel really good about their surroundings and thereby making a difference in their lives.

So I ditched my “big” career and started again, as an independent consultant, naming my new, home-based design business Scottiedog Studios after our (then) beloved Westie, Max. I can’t say my timing was perfect – no sooner had my new business cards arrived when the 2008 recession hit. Ugh – that was tough!

But here I am twelve years on and I wouldn’t change a thing. These days I can mostly be found zipping around the South Bay in my red Mini Cooper (you’ll know me by my Union Jack mirror caps 🙂 I’m mostly called upon to work with local homeowners, helping them to do anything from picking a paint color to building their dream home (and everything else in between!) I’m lucky enough to be collaborating with some of the best architects, designers, builders and suppliers in L.A – many of whom, along with my clients, have become great friends.

I’m also enjoying hotel design again, currently installing a fun project in Anaheim right opposite the “Happiest Place on Earth”. I still draw by hand (a quick sketch can be a big help when solving a tricky design problem). I love being up to my knees in mud on a job site, I’m still nuts about all-things-design and I learn something new every day.
Still happily married, living in our restored 1908 cottage (British Colonial Outpost meets Redondo Beach) – and still singing!

Has it been a smooth road?
No, but I believe that navigating the ups, downs and bumps (and even getting lost sometimes) is what helps us to grow. So if something seems too easy it makes me suspicious!

The 2008 recession was a doozie – I survived by helping out at a local antiques store until the design business recovered. And to this day I still love shopping at Goodwill.

Now we’re in the thick of a Global Pandemic, the Black Lives Matter Movement and major economic upheaval. Interesting times! We’ll have to wait and see what happens next…

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Scottiedog Studios – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’ve always been passionate about – actually obsessed with – design. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do (from the age of 5!) Having spent practically my whole life studying the history of architecture and decorative arts, I’m happy and comfortable working in any style. I’ve spent so many years learning from my own mistakes I have a lot of experience to draw from – but if I don’t have the answers I’m not afraid to say so.

I love the challenge of a tricky design problem (and there are usually lots of those that come up especially during renovations). And I guess I’m a “people person” – I’m told I’m “easy to work with” (I think my British sense of humor seems to help!)

I’m most proud of the reputation I’ve earned for providing a high level of professional service at a fair price, and for having a straightforward, honest and non-judgmental approach with my clients. I was trained to remember that, as designers, we’re providing a SERVICE. It’s an “old school” attitude but it counts for a lot.

I’m happy to take on a whole project or consult by the hour. (A local builder I work with a lot refers to me as “The Design Doctor”!)

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the diversity of people, locations and neighborhoods. I love that you can find pretty much anything here.

I also love that you can just be yourself and whatever weird things you love to do, wear, eat…are generally all okay.

Of course, I love the weather!

I dislike the traffic and sitting on the freeway.

I am literally terrified of earthquakes.

And I’m disturbed by the ever-widening gap between the “haves” and “have nots” – especially as it relates to rent/house prices. Seeing the increasing number of homeless people hurts my heart. I donate whenever I can and helping to design affordable housing that looks cool is something that’s on my bucket list.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Redondo Beach, CA 90277
  • Website: www.carolinemcleandesign.com
  • Phone: 13107800177
  • Email: caznpeter@aol.com
  • Instagram: scottiedog_studios
  • Other: Instagram: scottiedogvintage

Image Credit:
Project images: Caroline McLean
Photo of me on my Mini by Siri Berting Photography.

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