Dream Home Makeover's Syd and Shea McGee Reveal Which Decade They'll Never Take Design Inspo From
Just a few minutes into Dream Home Makeover and it's clear that the booming success of Studio McGee is hard-earned and well-deserved. From early mornings to late nights (and mommy-and-me dance classes in between), husband and wife founders Syd and Shea McGee have mastered the art of multi-tasking to the extreme — and they have two multi-million dollar companies to prove it.
Despite only having started in 2014, the McGee brand has amassed a loyal following of interior design fanatics across practically every social media platform. It's so influential in the home space that you would think it's been around forever. Yet even with followers in the millions, Syd and Shea McGee still manage to personally respond to every direct message and to like every post in the hashtag #SMMakeLifeBeautiful.
So what's their secret? "It's been a combination of a lot of hard work and smarts, but also good timing and luck," Shea recently told POPSUGAR. And they've been seeing the fruits of their labor ever since they realized they'd have more success if they built the brand together. Shea's seemingly endless flow of ideas and Syd's business acumen manifested itself into the creation of Studio McGee and later McGee & Co, but the self-made couple hasn't stopped there. With a Netflix original show, a published book, and an ongoing Target collab, the future of home design is very much in the hands of Syd and Shea McGee. Keep reading to see more of our interview with the design power duo.
On Their New Book, Make Life Beautiful
Entitled Make Life Beautiful after Studio McGee's motto, Syd and Shea's book takes us through their journey to becoming the influential design team they are today. Due to their packed schedules, the co-writing process wasn't a straightforward one, and it took five months just to organize their outlines, since Shea is a self-proclaimed perfectionist. "We divided and conquered," she told POPSUGAR. "He'd go to his office, I'd go to the bedroom and sit in the chair in the corner. We'd write and then meet, circle back, and organize it so the book was a back and forth between our two voices. Then we'd go from there."
Syd went on to address the challenge of writing while filming the first season of Dream Home Makeover, saying, "We were filming when we first started writing the book, so to be honest, we weren't doing a great job at writing the book at that time. When COVID hit, we took a break [from filming] and that's when we were all in, and really just focused on the book."
On Filming For Netflix vs. Filming For YouTube
Since launching Studio McGee, Syd and Shea have always maintained authority over the content they publish, which means every one of their blog photos and YouTube videos are 100 percent original. Shea even said she took a crash-course in photography back in 2014 to ensure that the posts on Studio McGee's Instagram were as authentic as possible. That authenticity crosses over to Dream Home Makeover too. "Netflix really has allowed us to just be us, almost to the point where I'll ask, 'Don't you want to tell us what to do?' and they'll tell us, 'Just go in here and do your thing, and we'll stand in the kitchen,'" Shea explained. "Syd and I will be talking, and they'll be capturing it all. It's very us. That was a really pleasant experience to just have the freedom to be ourselves. It's definitely more intense than our YouTube channel. With the show we're filming all day, every day, for months."
On Their Newfound Fame and Having an Onslaught of New Clients
Head to the comment section of any recent Studio McGee video and you'll find a plethora of hopeful clients eager to have Syd and Shea design their dream home or renovate their kitchen. The volume of inquires has reached a point where Syd and Shea can't review every single one on their own. "We have someone go through the inquiries and narrow them down depending on our availability at the time and the locations of the contracts," Syd explained. "Dream homes take a long time to build, sometimes a project takes two years to build, so if we have too many out-of-state projects going on, we might narrow our search just to local projects, or vice versa."
While Syd, being the CEO, emphasized the importance of project budgets, Shea pointed out that client chemistry is equally as important. "We interview them to make sure that our communication styles will fit because it's definitely a long-term relationship," Shea said.
On How They Handle Clients With Conflicting Tastes
Dream Home Makeover shows us that no two projects are alike, and everyone has a unique vision for their dream home. Syd and Shea therefore aren't taken by surprise if indecisiveness or differences in opinion arise. Their approach is simple: "We have had a few clients who have had opposite tastes and my goal is always to help them see that we can combine styles," Shea said. "I have to really get to the bottom of what about that style is really important to them. When couples disagree, I try to figure out how to blend the styles, instead of them arguing."
On Finding Inspiration in Everything
Shea admitted that she finds it hard to take her mind off her work or design in general, and even when she's just watching TV, she's always looking for inspiration, though not from home improvement shows like you might assume. "I don't have tons of time to watch TV, but I will watch any Nancy Meyers movie to see the designs of those homes," Shea told POPSUGAR. If you watch Dream Home Makeover, you'll understand why that's the case — Syd and Shea love blending traditional with modern, and they especially love mid-century architecture. But there is one decade that Shea refuses to pull influence from. "I think the '80s were the tackiest!" she said with a laugh. "The '80s were really hard on architecture and design in my opinion."
On Syd's Skateboarding Hobby
If you've been following Syd and Shea since before their Netflix days, you probably already know that Syd is a skateboarder. In fact, the first time he and Shea met, he was riding a skateboard (more details on this in their book, Make Life Beautiful). And despite his demanding schedule, Syd still manages to find time to incorporate skateboarding into family time. "I take the girls down to the skate park during the winter which is pretty fun," he said. "And they're putting a halfpipe in our basement right now as we speak!"
Clearly nothing is off limits for a dream home. In addition to their own halfpipe, Syd and Shea have designed homes with movie theaters, state of the art kitchens, and now, basement-sized skateboarding tracks. Given that Syd and Shea are considered major trendsetters in the design world, it wouldn't be a surprise if halfpipes suddenly became the next biggest trend in custom builds!