NOT TO BE RUDE, I TOLD Marian McEvoy as I picked up a slim red copy of her new book from a stack waiting to be autographed last week at the West Hollywood antiques store Nathan Turner, but it struck me as, well, a wee bit of an odd undertaking for an international style sophisticate.
This from a woman who had spent a decade as editor in chief of Elle Decor, and then two years in the same role at House Beautiful? Who had lived for 16 years in Paris working as the European fashion editor for Women's Wear Daily and W Magazine and as executive editor of Elle?
Could there be a less sexy topic, a more prosaic, mouthful of a title? "Glue Gun Decor: How to Dress Up Your Home -- From Pillows and Curtains to Sofas and Lampshades." No offense intended, of course. And none taken, not by a long shot. You don't arrive at the places she's been by lacking a secure sense of self -- along with a healthy sense of humor.
The 57-year-old, L.A.-born-and-raised McEvoy has the kind of dazzling aplomb that can make everyone else in the room come off like timorous little nail-biters. "My Way" could be her theme song.
Since the book's publication in early May, McEvoy has heard the same surprise and skepticism expressed so many times in so many words by her peers, she expects it now. "Everybody says that," she answers with a quick chortle and a so-what shrug as she pushes the left side of her glossy chestnut-colored hair away from a gypsy-ish dangle of earring and then twiddles the four strands of her costume pearls.
That's because we don't get it, is the unspoken suggestion, and we don't get it simply because we haven't tried it. She acknowledges that most people hear "glue gun" and think "how tacky." Too bad, our loss. We're missing what her book calls "one of the hottest trends in home decorating today." Embellishing objects with a glue gun is affordable, fun and fast -- "instant gratification," she says -- and "you can turn something humble into something really beautiful. It's a wonder tool."
So relax. McEvoy hasn't gone daft since she left the magazine world three years ago (only to reenter it again this month with a column beginning in the premiere issue of Domino, Conde Nast's shopping magazine for the home).
"Glue Gun Decor," a comprehensive guide to transforming just about everything in sight if you do it the McEvoy way, is exactly the project she was meant for after 15 years of wielding what she claims is her "number-one decorative ally." In 1990, she hot-glued hundreds of shells onto a fireplace to disguise its clunky ugliness, and since then, she's been a woman possessed.
"In fact," she tells us in her introduction, "there's very little in my day-to-day life that hasn't been shot by a glue gun," and boy, does she mean it.
"I did everything but the rugs," she says. "If I could figure out a way to do those, I'd do them too." Had her publisher Stewart, Tabori & Chang called the book "Glue Gun Madness" instead, it might more accurately have captured the essence of McEvoy's decor style: "More dash than cash," she calls it, and just this side of overkill.
Photos in the book and in the current spring issue of Oprah's magazine O at Home, featuring her house in New York's Hudson Valley, hint at the truth behind McEvoy's words. Embroidered patterns cut out from souzanis she finds on EBay gussy up plain white pillows that cost her $4 each and the borders of $2-a-yard muslin curtains. Murals of mini pine cones, seed pods, weeds, leaves and acorns swirl about in glued formations to a bedroom wall. Patches of red fabric and black trim turn a Target lampshade atop an iron Pottery Barn base into one-of-a-kind.
On a balmy afternoon in the genteel antiques store just off Melrose with her close friend Turner, I watched her go diligently to work on framed mirrors that were to be auctioned to benefit Hollygrove -- a local community organization serving abused and neglected children -- and show several more portable, finished examples of her work: a large tote bag, a small straw handbag, a leash for Turner's yellow Lab, Daisy, variously festooned with grosgrain ribbons, bows, industrial tape and pompoms and a fabric flower brooch popping from her black jacket like a showy hothouse hybrid.
Little more than an hour later, my premature assumptions about a wincingly reinvented McEvoy -- a loving-hands-at-home craftswoman, author of how-to home cutesy-ism -- had been laid to rest. She had emerged, once again, as the Marian McEvoy of memory, a worldly, fearless original. She'll try anything if it strikes her visual fancy, and her bold willingness to sacrifice perfection as she tackles the new and different can change you -- like what she does or not -- from a cop-out of a cynic to a convert. There's nothing that inspires or shames so much as someone else's daring.