McKinley, an avid surfer, also owns a beach cottage in the Long Island hamlet of Amagansett; his wave-riding pals include the Beastie Boy Mike D, with whom he collaborated on operating a charity food truck in the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy. His love for the sand-and-sea lifestyle shines through in his design work, which also includes the low-key Surf Lodge in Montauk and the rustic-glam Sant Ambroeus restaurants in SoHo and the West Village. His Chelsea apartment, likewise, features an eclectic, beachy-chic mix that nicely sets off the space’s wide floorboards, functional fireplaces and large original windows.
McKinley designed most of the furniture in the living room, including the table and benches. The wide white oak sofa features cream-colored Loro Piana cashmere and wool cushions, a design he replicated in mahogany for the Waikiki hotel he’s currently designing; he hand-shaped the coffee table from statuary marble and bronze. The bedroom is also outfitted with a suite of custom furniture hewn from a single piece of 100-year-old American Walnut. Unique vintage and found objects are sprinkled throughout: an antique mirror from Brooklyn Heights hangs above the fireplace, an original gas chandelier from the late 1800s lights the living area. Scandinavian chairs from Paris sit fireside, and a gold-leafed skull, from a series that was custom cast for GoldBar, a boîte he designed in 2007, rests on a circa-1950s Franco Albini rattan ottoman from Rome.
The designer’s next project is Tijuana Picnic, a Lower East Side restaurant set to open next month by the team behind the perennial hot spots Indochine and Acme. McKinley, a partner in the project, says that despite the mostly Mexican menu, he’s staying away from south-of-the-border clichés. “We’ll be channeling a modernist 1960s Mexico City,” he says, citing design elements like a hand-painted mural, polished concrete floors and diner booths. It will be McKinley’s first time working with the restaurateur Jean-Marc Houmard, whose Indochine turns 30 this year and who tapped McKinley for what he describes as the designer’s “effortless” style. “He can do high-end,” Houmard says, “but his talent is striking and interesting without having to spend on expensive materials.”
Looking forward, McKinley also hopes to build packable beach cabins — shipping containers with teak floors, kitchens with brass inset sinks and, of course, Loro Piana fabric sofas. “They could work in Montauk, maybe Malibu,” he says. “You can even put them on a boat to Australia if you want.”