Mary Cook is the founder and principal of Mary Cook Associates (MCA), a full-service commercial interior design firm that focuses on the residential real estate development and hospitality industries. She is nationally known for creating innovative, high-quality model home interiors, amenities and environments that are targeted to market demands and designed to increase property value.
The firm’s projects for real estate developers include model homes, multifamily developments, clubhouses, senior housing communities, restaurants, bars, and corporate offices. Most significantly, under Mary’s leadership the work MCA produces emphasizes functionality, showcases possibilities and accelerates sales.
Before founding MCA in 1986, Cook honed her skills at The Childs Dreyfus Group after earning a degree from Chicago’s Harrington Institute of Interior Design. At Childs Dreyfus, Cook rose from assistant designer to VP of sales and marketing in seven years. Her mentor and source of inspiration, Gene C. Dreyfus, was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Best in American Living Hall of Fame in 2013. The magazine cited Dreyfus as the design pioneer who “created the concept of the merchandised home.”
Cook took the concepts she learned from Dreyfus to new heights with “The Art of Space,” her seminal textbook that breaks interior design into seven fundamental principles. Cook developed the book, which is based on her deep industry experience, when she realized that she is consistently hired to ‘fix’ unsuccessful model interior spaces done by other design professionals. By employing the seven fundamentals she identifies in “The Art of Space,” Cook and her team create spaces and model interiors that yield measurable returns.
Cook is also credited with pioneering the practice of tying interior design to sales results. She coined the term Return on Environment (ROE) to reflect the net benefits communities, organizations and individuals gain from environments that enable them to do, feel and be their best. ROE, which has direct and indirect paybacks in every project, offers clients measurable returns and is an ultimate measure of success in every project
Thanks to her extensive body of successful and award-winning projects, Cook is a featured columnist in Builder and Developer and GH Builder magazines, The Huffington Post and Toll Talks. Her most recent pieces include “5 Keys to Design Sustainability in 2017” in GH Builder, “5 Design Trends in Multifamily Buildings” on Huffington Post and “7 Ways to Design Residential Developments for Millennials” in Builder and Developer.
Cook is also a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars; her most recent engagements include presentations at The International Builders Show, NeoCon and the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) annual conference. She is a member of the Urban Land Institute, NAHB, NAHB’s 50+ Senior Housing Council, American Institute of Architects (AIA), Home Builders Association of Illinois (HBAI) & Greater Chicago (HBAGC), NGCOA, Club Managers Association of America (CMAA), National Recreation & Park Association (NRPA) and the Illinois Park & Recreation Association (IPRA).
When Cook isn’t leading her 33-person team, she can be found entertaining her wide circle of family and friends or glued to a field, court or gym. Cook’s three children are accomplished high school and college athletes, and she is a regular at their games. She is also a lifelong athlete and plays singles tennis or boxes almost daily to stay in shape—and sane.