Living a Life of Color and Style: Mary Raab

By Leslie Moore

Living a Life of Color and Style: Mary Raab

Fashion, style and artistry are as much a part of our small community as sand, sun and waves. For our fashion issue, Sasee has highlighted two local artists whose creativity has become “All the Rage!”

Walking into Mary and Corky Raab’s lovely home in Pawleys Island, it is obvious that this is the home of an artist and creative soul. Gorgeous and colorful, each room is filled with a variety of interesting décor, from found art to priceless antiques. Her love of color and fun come through in signature pieces like a large, framed Ferragamo scarf and a restored, antique barber’s chair. Carefully planned seating encourages her visitors to sit and just enjoy the surroundings. “I love the unexpected,” Mary told me as she gave me a tour and told stories about pieces in her collection. “My decorating style is completely my own.”

Growing up the daughter of a prominent surgeon, in Westchester County, New York, Mary had an idyllic, privileged childhood filled with the best schools, travel and opportunity. Her mother was a well-known socialite, and Mary was always expected to take the same path. But, for her, it just never felt right. “There was no space to be creative,” Mary told me thoughtfully. “Somehow I always knew that was not the life for me.”

After high school, Mary attended Marymount College and Katharine Gibbs Business School, and then took a job in First National City Bank in Manhattan after finishing her education. Mary loved every minute of this time in her life – living in the city was exciting and, it was the 1960s, a time of many tumultuous changes. By 1967, Mary had married, and five years later she had four children. “It was very hard for a while,” Mary laughed. “I didn’t have disposable diapers, nor did I have a diaper service. For the first time in my life I had to clean and cook and take care of four children under the age of five. I had three in diapers at one time!”

When the children were toddlers, Mary began to explore her creative side through gardening. “I was outside all the time with the children and it gave me something to do. And, I discovered I was good at it.” Mary’s father had been a prolific gardener. Even with his busy schedule, he always found time to work outside growing his beloved flowers. As Mary raised her family, her life was filled with new experiences, a “baptism of fire,” as she laughingly says. “I had never even eaten spaghetti until I went away to college!” On the surface, Mary was still a traditional housewife, but her artist’s soul was growing day by day.

When the children were 19, 20, 21 and 22, tragedy struck, and Mary became a widow. She went back to work and began to rebuild her life. Always a beauty, Mary slowly began dating again, but it wasn’t until a tall, handsome man appeared at her work one day, wearing a tuxedo and carrying a dozen roses, that she decided to open her heart and let love into her life again. Corky and Mary were inseparable from the time of that first date and were married in 1993. Several years later, a health issue caused Corky to retire early, and the couple decided to move south. “We looked up and down the east coast and finally found our home in Pawleys Island. Corky picked the lot and I chose the house plan.”

Corky and Mary were soon firmly planted in our area, and Mary’s artistic side began to explode. “Here I can do my own thing and be exactly who I am. We have added so much to our original house and made it our own.” Along with filling her home with beautiful, colorful objects, Mary started making purses covered in silk flowers. Each purse is selected for its durability and style, and then the flowers are carefully taken apart and glued back together before being attached to the purse. Hours of work goes into each of her pieces that she and Corky named “KT Creations,” for the “kitchen table” where she works. While she doesn’t sell these one of a kind works of art she does give many away, asking only that the recipient make a donation to their favorite charity. “Wherever you go, if you’re carrying one of my purses, people will come up and talk to you,” says Mary. “They are beautiful, fun and a conversation starter.” Local non-profits have also been the recipient of Mary’s generosity, and her purses bring top dollar at local silent auctions benefitting the charities of her choice. Mary’s other love is hats, and she has dozens, some decorated with her signature flowers and others, chosen for maximum style and color, are left unadorned.

Today, Mary and Corky spend as much time as possible with the children and their four granddaughters whom they adore, as well as their five rescued cats, all named for famous designers. “We enjoy taking the girls on trips,” said Mary. “And, of course, they always want to go shopping with me.” Mary’s affection for color and style extends to her wardrobe as well. “I love animals, flowers and color,” Mary told me when asked about her wardrobe. “Living here, I can dress for myself. I like bright, silk tops that flow, paired with black or white slacks or skirts and my favorite Lily Pulitzer flip flops!” Her large, cedar walk in closet is filled with clothes that reflect this artist’s colorful soul. “Being fashionable, to me, is wearing what makes you feel good, that’s also comfortable and appropriate for the occasion. I’d always rather overdress than under dress.”

“My home, my garden, my wardrobe and my art all reflect who I am.” Jokingly she added, “I love color – after all, we’re going to be dead a long time and that box is dark!”

Also read, Ashley Hoffman: Creating from the Heart, part of this month’s Southern Snaps.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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