By Linda McIntosh
Following in her father's footsteps, Laurie Ann McMillin Ray is making her mark in people's homes. While her father, Corky McMillin, made his name building homes, Ray is making hers designing their interiors.
Ray's first interior design job was for a new model home in a master-planned community her father developed in Chula Vista in 1985. The homes went like hot cakes and sold out during the first phase. Ray kept designing model homes for her father, who developed thousands of acres throughout Southern California, particularly in Chula Vista, where he built Otay Ranch and Rancho Del Rey and where the Corky McMillin School was named in his honor.
"He used to say, 'Everyone deserves to own a home,' " Ray said. "I feel everyone deserves to make a house into their home."
For Ray, that means making it into their "Home sweet home."
"I want everyone to love their home. After all, it's where we start and end each day," said Ray, who lives in Del Mar.
Ray is set on helping people make home their favorite place. After fielding questions about home design during her 25-year career, Ray decided to answer some of them in her new book, "At Home With Laurie Ann, a Decorator's Guide: Turn the Place You Live Into a Home You Love," which is now being released in stores.
"I started writing the book because people asked me questions about decorating," Ray said. The big question was, "Where do I start?" Ray was also inspired to publish a book because she had a large collection of photos of the interiors she had done for hundreds of clients in Poway, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Point Loma and throughout the San Diego area.
The 224-page decorator's guide generously uses full-page photos of Ray's interior design work to give examples of what can be done. The book offers suggestions and decorating tips on everything from getting started to figuring out a style for each room and choosing accessories. Sprinkled in the guide are anecdotes from Ray's family life and experiences along with family recipes.
It's clear that both her father and mother influenced Ray's decision to become an interior designer.
The dedication in her book says, "To Mom and Dad, for creating a warm and loving home, and teaching me to make it matter."
Ray called her home a comfort zone and sees it as her mission to help others make their own homes comfortable.
She suggests having chairs that you can "melt into" and surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good.
"People ask me, 'Should I have this style or that, and I tell them to fill their home with what they love," Ray said.
Ray decorated a kitchen for one client around the pattern of her favorite dishes. The drapes and accessories all blended with the theme of the plates.
Ray calls her own style eclectic. "I like to blend the old and the new and use contrast to make the colors pop." Ray is known for melding scrubby furniture with new pieces. "When people redecorate, there are usually some things they want to keep, like a dresser that's been in the family for years, so we figure out how to mix the old and new," she said.
Ray's knack for decorating showed up early. Even before she decorated her father's model homes, she decorated her own room and redecorated frequently with furniture from the sold-out model homes.
Ray recalled her initiation into interior design at age 15. Her mother was consulting with an interior decorator and they were figuring out where to place the sofa. It didn't look right against the wall or in the center of the room, so Ray looked around and suggested putting the sofa at an angle. It worked and is still that way 38 years later in the home where she grew up in Bonita.
When Ray talks about an atmosphere she wants to create in her home, she points to a wooden sign in her kitchen that says, "Sit a spell and talk long."
Where to buy
'At Home With Laurie Ann, a Decorator's Guide: Turn the Place You Live Into a Home You Love' is available for $29.95 at