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Artist Turned Decorator


When Lynn McKernan began decorating her family’s cottage on the New Jersey shore, she ran into a problem: there was nothing she liked. The particular type of fresh coastal décor she envisioned was nowhere to be found. So, instead of hiring a decorator or settling for pieces she didn’t love, McKernan did what any artist would do—she designed her own.

Seven years ago, McKernan was working in the corporate world trying to balance frequent business trips to China with being a first-time mom. Clearly, something had to give. She decided to start her own business. “I figured I could work from home, spend time with my child, and start a hobby business out of my house,” she says. 

McKernan tapped her overseas contacts to manufacture and import materials, and she hired local Amish artisans to make the products. Soon her small “hobby business” turned into Rightside Design, a successful home-accent company named after the creative side of the brain.

“Fortunately (and unfortunately), I have that very strong right-side creative brain that just cannot be shut off. It doesn’t stop and often wakes me at night as I think of ideas,” says McKernan.

“Mother’s Love” serving tray by Sam Savitt.

“Mother’s Love” serving tray by Sam Savitt.

Artistic talent doesn’t come natural to everyone, but McKernan was born to create. What started with art classes in elementary school led to winning a watercolor-painting award as a teenager, then an art excellence award and partial scholarship in high school. McKernan was enrolled in a two-year program for graphics, illustration and photography when she was hired by the Franklin Mint. The company paid for her to attend night classes at the Philadelphia Collage of Art and Design (now the University of the Arts). “My major passion and interest of study was illustration, but it was the Franklin Mint that turned me into a product designer,” she says. 

McKernan went on to design in the toy industry and was also the head of product development and design for Breyer Horses, Reeves International Inc.

Rightside Design has grown quickly. The company launched in McKernan’s Chester County home now fills a 3,000-square-foot warehouse and includes several collections: I Sea Life; Abigail & Lily Equine, featuring English and Western disciplines; In the Garden, Lake & Lodge; In the Fairway; and, most recently, a line of products that features the work of the late equine artist and author Sam Savitt. With sustainability top of mind, McKernan tries to use eco-friendly materials whenever possible, and she gives back to organizations that help wildlife.

“While I love designs that are just decorative and modern personally, I try to appeal to peoples’ passions in life, their lifestyles and hobbies—things that pull at a person’s heartstrings,” she says.

Embroidered dressage-pattern cotton place mats.

Embroidered dressage-pattern cotton place mats.

The I Sea Life collection is an homage to McKernan’s love of the surf, sand and the laid-back beach lifestyle. Wall décor, table linens, serving ware and pillows in colorful palettes are adorned with coastal elements like mermaids, starfish and anchors. 

“I like to laugh and relax at the beach, as most people do,” she says. “So some of the products I initially designed were somewhat whimsical in nature and sort of spoke about the person I am—not so serious.” 

As a “tried-and-true horse person” of 38 years, McKernan felt an equine line was an obvious choice for her second collection. She grew up riding, attended the Radnor Hunt every year, and was a member of its pony club. Now, her daughters have started to spend time in the stables. 

Indoor cotton plaid
hunting-horse-head pillow.

The Abigail & Lily Equine collection includes embroidered table linens, gallery- wrapped canvas art and a Chester County favorite, the Point-to-Point Steeplechase Picnic Cushion, with its Scotchgard-treated outer cover. “Every product is designed to enhance the décor of any living space, to reveal an open love for these forms of life —and the lifestyle that goes with it,” McKernan says.

In July, Rightside Design launched a line of items featuring artwork by Savitt, a name every horse lover knows. He served as the official illustrator for the United States Equestrian Team, writing more than 15 books and illustrating over 150, as well as designing posters for the Kentucky Derby. The New York Times once wrote that the illustrations in his 1956 book, Step-A-Bit; The Story of a Foal, had “great charm and spontaneity.’’

The Savitt collection is especially important to McKernan, as it has close ties to her childhood. “I used to spend much time studying and drawing animals—especially horses—and I always kept Sam Savitt’s How to Draw Horses handy as my inspiration,” she says. 

Rightside Design has incorporated eight pieces of Savitt art in an assortment of functional products, including recycled bamboo serving trays, tote bags, wine accessories, throw pillows, tabletop items, and wall décor.

Rightside Design products are available at www.rightsidedesignstyle.com and in various stores around the area, including the Carriage House in Kennett Square, Dragonfly Décor and B Busy Bee in Chester Springs, and Everything But the Kitchen Sink in Wilmington.