For Tamu McPherson, born in Jamaica and transplanted to America when she was just a young girl, ‘roots remain in the heart’. ‘It doesn’t matter where life takes you,’ she says, ‘home is a place where you live in the present, where you keep your important things.’
For 15 years now, Tamu’s most valuable ‘things’ have all been based in Milan: an Italian husband, whom she met while studying law in New York, her son and a career she loves.
Following her passion instead of her training, Tamu founded lifestyle blog All The Pretty Birds in 2008, with a mission to appeal to a multiethnic, multicultural audience. This clear editorial vision led her to being appointed editor-in-chief of the Italian edition of Grazia in 2011. Two years later, she left the magazine and returned to her self-titled post of ‘chief lover’ at her site, providing inspiration for her followers, who she affectionately refers to as her ‘flock’.
Tamu’s distinctive style and eye for colour have come in handy when decorating this
early 20th-century apartment, which was a generous gift from her mother-in-law, whom she calls ‘The Signora’. ‘Making a home is a bit like creating an outfit,’ Tamu explains. ‘You start with a strong piece, and then build a mood and a palette around it.’
Fortunately, in this home, there is no shortage of strong pieces. In the living room sit a pair of Luigi Caccia Dominioni sofas – a gift from The Signora. ‘My mother-in-law is a genius!’ enthuses Tamu. ‘She has incredible taste and I’m one of her biggest fans.’ This enthusiasm is easy to understand when you catch a glimpse of the table by Carlo Scarpa in the dining room – another of the many adopted ‘kids’ Tamu has welcomed into her home over the years, sourced from the family’s rich collection.
To these inherited gems she has added pops of vibrant colour. From the cyclamen-hued ‘Florence’ sofa by Knoll to the multicoloured armchairs in the library – picked up in Milan’s Galleria Luisa Delle Piane – they bring a modern energy to the classic pieces in this historic space.
For Tamu, this year’s lockdown offered a unique opportunity to slow down and really appreciate her home, although there have been accidents. ‘Living in a place 24 hours a day for two whole months means staining upholstery, breaking vases and ruining the floors, so I have a lot of maintenance to do,’ she admits. But the time did nothing but renew her love of her apartment’s vibrant marriage of the traditional and the contemporary.
Tamu jokingly likes to define herself as a ‘Bag Lady’, recognising a certain affinity with the figure depicted on a painting by Brazilian artist Marcel Cordeiro, which hangs behind the desk in her studio. This bag lady, though, carries a wildly rich, intense and colourful baggage. alltheprettybirds.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration January 2020
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