Retired designer earns her relaxation

  • Home comforts: Deborah MacKenzie in the breakfast nook created by her father, Bert Darrell. The table is an old ship hatch (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Home comforts: Deborah MacKenzie in the breakfast nook created by her father, Bert Darrell. The table is an old ship hatch (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • In the garden: Deborah MacKenzie outside her house (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    In the garden: Deborah MacKenzie outside her house (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)


Deborah MacKenzie likes to have everything “in its place”.

No surprise then, that during her 30-year career as a fashion designer, she got huge satisfaction out of creating order in homes.

“I didn’t mind if I worked on kitchens or bathrooms, but it was the organisational side of things that really appealed to me,” she said. “I really liked helping people to organise their lives — their closets and kitchens and their stuff.

“My friends tease me for being just a tad anal retentive. When they come over with their children, we sit outside. I love children, but I don’t like them touching my stuff.”

Despite that, she’s not done much in the way of design at her own home.

It was built in the 1930s by her father, Bert Darrell, a well-known sailor and ship builder.

Her mother, Joan, was a dancer. The Warwick house is filled with nautical curios salvaged by her father.

A table top in the kitchen is a ship hatch cover; the wooden floor in the den comes from an old ship in Massachusetts — the milling marks are still there.

Outside, Ms MacKenzie has a doghouse her father made even though the dog has been gone for decades.

“I’m a bit of a saver,” she said.

She has brought her own flair to the place. The fuchsia couch in the den was meant as a joke; the rest of the room is beige.

Ms MacKenzie started as a window dresser at Trimingham’s in her twenties.

“I think my need for everything to be in its place comes from this,” she said. “When you’re a window dresser, you don’t put something somewhere by accident. Everything has a reason for being placed a certain way.”

In 1977, she spent a year in London working as a window dresser for Burberry’s Scotch House. Then Masters Limited asked her to come back to Bermuda

“At the time they were located where Trends is now on Reid Street,” she said. “They were doing major renovations and needed help with design work.”

A few years later she was working for Hamma Galleries when a friend, Jennifer Pengilley, suggested she look at interior design.

“She was an interior designer at Cooper & Gardner, probably Bermuda’s first interior designer,” Ms MacKenzie said. “We met while volunteering at BMDS. We worked on sets.

“People influence your life and don’t realise what a difference they’ve made. She changed the direction of my life.”

On Mrs Pengilley’s advice, Ms MacKenzie spent several summers taking interior design courses at Parsons School of Design in New York.

“I was in my 40s,” she said. “I was the oldest student. I had a more practical approach than the other students.”

In 1994, she formed her own company, Design Options Bermuda Ltd.

“I drafted by hand my electrical and mechanical drawings,” she said. “I tried computers, but found they controlled me, rather than me controlling them.

“People who got into the field in the late 1990s are probably the luckiest, because they knew how to draft by hand but could also use computers.”

The challenge was in remembering that her work had to suit the client’s taste, not her own.

“That is one of the most difficult things for designers and architects to take on,” she said. “It’s important to understand that no matter how your ego gets in there, it’s for your client. To really understand what they want is not really easy.”

She retired at 66 thinking she’d “become a sloth and eat bonbons all day”.

But it didn’t happen that way. She got involved with the Lifelong Learning Centre, a seniors’ programme at the Bermuda College, and found she was busy all the time.

“There are so many things to do in Bermuda as a retiree,” she said. “It’s amazing. On a Tuesday morning, I do line dancing and yoga. On a Thursday, I play mah-jong and petanque. On Friday, we ramble.”

She also loves to travel. Her vacations with Road Scholar, an American company that offers guided trips for people aged 55 and older, have been a joy.

“If you’re the type of person who wants to do a lot of shopping, this probably isn’t for you,” she said.

“I went with them to Cuba two years ago. In one exercise they gave us all some money and took us to the market. We were divided up into groups that had to buy different things using what Spanish we knew. I was in the group buying vegetables. That was really fun.”

Last month, she and 50 other members of the Lifelong Learning Centre joined Road Scholar for an 11-day trip to the Azores.

“It’s not my heritage, but I wanted to learn more about it,” she said.

Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior’s full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published Jul 3, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 3, 2018 at 7:12 am)

Retired designer earns her relaxation

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