Meet Michelle Gray: North Salem entrepreneur, designer, contractor, and chronic creative


North Salem's creative entrepreneur Michelle Gray (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

North Salem resident and mother of two Michelle Gray is an interior designer, yet it’s difficult to label her as solely that. A creative entrepreneur with a literal toolbox of talents, Gray’s skillset covers everything from sewing to custom cabinetry. “It was accidental, really,” she modestly admits, “I’m not very academic at all, [but I’ve] always been very hands-on.”.

Gray, who moved to New York from the United Kingdom in 2011, previously worked in horse racing, as a massage therapist, and as a nanny. When she and her husband moved into their first apartment together, Gray refreshed the space by repurposing and refinishing his furniture.

After becoming a mother to two girls, Gray wanted to carve out something that was just hers, reclaiming her identity in motherhood, as well as earning an income. Thus, she began a small children’s clothing business. What started as a printed t-shirt business quickly evolved into handmade rompers and dresses. With the help of ‘YouTube University,’ (YouTube tutorial videos) a lot of cursing, and getting a lot wrong…I taught myself how to sew,” Gray says, laughing. “At night, I would get [the girls] into bed and sew until one, two o’clock in the morning,” she recollects. With her two daughters Ryleigh and Neave as models and her primary inspiration, Inspired by Tots was born.

Gray's sewing table (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Like so many others during the pandemic, Gray was doing the same amount of work, and not having the same volume of sales. She knew then that it was time to change gears. Gray and her husband took on a fixer-upper in North Salem with the plans for Gray to design, renovate and revive the home. “Our house was a complete and utter renovation, and I did it myself,” she says. When Gray wasn’t exactly sure how to build custom cabinets, she taught herself once again through ‘YouTube University.’ For two months, Gray and her family lived out of the children’s bedrooms, without a kitchen, as she gutted the mid-century/contemporary home, transforming it into a more modern farmhouse vibe.

Gray’s work on her own reconstruction project caught on with friends and neighbors, who began to request her help for their own projects. Gray tackled everything from organization projects to custom-built closets, shelving, and larger design and renovation work. Through her passion project, MG Interiors was born.

When describing her design style, Gray says, “I kind of like to be minimalistic. I like to have everything structured, and a home for everything. I make spaces function.” Gray tackles everything from installing shelving inside closet spaces to custom kitchen cabinetry.

Gray is a completely self-taught contractor and credits 'YouTube University' for many of her skills. (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

In January of this year, Gray’s daughters inspired her once again as her older daughter’s eighth birthday approached. It was just after Christmas, and Gray offered her daughter a sleepover with some close friends to celebrate. “The creative in me said [to myself] ‘I can't just do a sleepover,’ so I got on Pinterest to get some ideas floating. That’s kind of how my head works, I get an idea and I just roll with it.” Gray decided to custom-build A-Frame style indoor tents with fabric coverings, one for each sleepover guest. She didn’t stop there; Gray also customized coordinating bedding for her daughters and their friends, along with matching pajamas and headbands. After several nights working in her garage to build the tents, and once again putting her sewing skills to work to create the coverings, Gray decided she could transform this into another business opportunity. Aptly named after her two daughters, RooNee Indoor Glamping was launched to “take sleepovers, movie nights, or ‘just because’ occasions up a notch.”

Gray plans to enhance the offering with intentional, luxury favors, rather than the typical bag of trinkets for young girls’ sleepover parties. Here, Gray will source products such as natural face masks, and natural “slime” complete with essential oils from local purveyors. Each party will be creatively designed based on a client’s chosen theme.

Gray's girls cozied beneath a RooNee Indoor Glamping tent (Benjamin Allen / HudValley Photo)

Whether it's designing and building a functional pantry for a busy family or crafting a magical night for a group of besties, Gray’s entrepreneurial engine is always humming.

“What I love– sometimes even more than the project – is the feedback that I get from my clients. [They will say] ‘oh my gosh, this is like a therapy session. It lifted a weight off me.’ That’s huge for me,” Gray says with a satisfied smile. “It’s like –okay, I’m doing the right thing here.”

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