“An artist needs light,” declares William Rankin McLure IV, the Birmingham, Alabama–based painter and interior designer known for his big, bold abstract canvases and his precocious Southern style. “My last place was an apartment, and I didn’t realize how dark it was,” he says. “I painted the floors white, the walls white, but it was surrounded by trees, so it stayed dark. It was depressing.” He spent just three months there before moving out. (“But I’ve still got it, sitting empty,” he confides.)
Seeking instead a well-lit space, McLure soon found himself in Birmingham’s Forest Park–South Avondale neighborhood, strolling through the Wilson-Ferguson House, a Tudor-style home built around 1930 and registered with the Jefferson County Historical Commission. “I was lucky,” he says. “It’s got beautiful arches, original windows, French doors that lead out to a screened-in porch, and there’s all this original molding and cased openings to the doorways.” And, yes, lots of light.
I make art that I think will look cool in my space, and I paint what I love.
When McLure moved in five months ago, he swiftly set about preserving every ray of light that filters through the Wilson-Ferguson’s 90-year-old windows. “I just needed sunlight to fill the space,” he explains. “I wanted the house to be bright, open, and airy, and the art to be the focal point.”
Light plays into your whole demeanor,
day in and day out.
To that end, “the entire house is neutral in color, except for two rooms, the bathroom and the TV room, which are really dark, really cozy,” he says. “Otherwise, there’s seagrass rugs in every single room. All of the upholstery throughout the house is white. And all of the drapes are white, if there’s any window dressing at all.”
He envisioned this new, mostly white, light-filled home as “a blank canvas, a backdrop” for his recently completed works. “I wanted it to be clean, to be simple, and the things that should set the tone for each space are the art and the collections of artifacts—my paintings and my little knickknacks.”
Whenever he’s painting, McLure says, “I’m always thinking of how this next one will look in a home.” But, more specifically, his own home. “At some point or another, every piece, whether it’s a commission or not, hangs on a wall at my house, because I want to see them.”
And most days, McLure is working. So there is always another of his abstract creations on the way. “I try to do a painting a day,” he says, “and I’ll usually have at least two that I’m doing at the same time.”
Every room needs one or two antique pieces in it.
They hang in the kitchen, the breakfast nook, and the formal dining room; above his fireplaces, his beloved burled-walnut dresser, and the head of whoever might nap in his white linen chaise longue. His work is everywhere in his home, and it plays off everything: the regal noir dining table, the classical busts perched atop museum pedestals, even the early-20th-century Tudor flourishes of the house itself. “I enjoy that juxtaposition,” McLure says, “the complementary effect of my abstract pieces with antiques.” Or midcentury furniture. Or handcrafted pottery. Or everyday objects, such as design books tidily stacked on the floor.
There’s an intrinsically playful charm to the home that McLure’s created for himself, just as there is in these “really fun, really quick” canvases that adorn the high plaster walls of his well-lit house. “I have fun,” he says. “I’m just painting something that looks good to me.”
He just likes to keep it light. “I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t take my art too seriously,” he admits. “I’m like, ‘You’ve only got one life. Don’t overthink it. Don’t get a chip on your shoulder. Just be humble, be thankful, and do what you love.’”