Thursday, April 28, 2011

VIGNETTE VOL. #5: AN INTERVEW WITH GRANT GIBSON

It's been a little while since our last Vignette post here on coco+kelley, but, if all good things are worth waiting for, then this interview is no exception! When Annie and I sat down to come up with our 'wish list' of designers for the rest of the year, the young, talented and always gracious Grant Gibson was at the top of mine. I adore his overall aesthetic, his love of black and white, and his reincarnations of classic style. But more than that I'm continuously impressed with his passion for design and the wonderful things I hear from some of his neighbors in San Francisco. So, naturally... we had to make a phone call...
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How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as classic and timeless and I try to mix it up so it’s not too far in one direction. Recently I see the term "new traditionalist" a lot, and I’d describe myself in that way. The style starts with traditional but then mixes in things like a parsons table next to a rolled arm sofa to keep it fresh and young. My personal style has been described as this preppy classic look and I have been experimenting with that in a few show houses like the Elle Décor house and a showroom in San Francisco, trying to mix up the perception about me. Like, in the Elle Décor house I did the teenage girl’s bedroom with hot pink chinoiserie wallpaper and a zebra headboard. I’m trying to think outside the box and have a little fun and show I can do something different.

My apartment has that masculine trophy cup thing and I’m using it as a laboratory, trying to add more contemporary art and things to switch it up. I wear a lot of black and white - it’s easy to get ready in the morning. I have about twenty gingham shirts and I love black sweaters and shoes and I like this personal, classic way to dress, but there are preppy twists to my wardrobe.

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You've reached success and attention at such a young age - due to hard work of course - how much was being driven and how much serendipity?

I’ve always been pretty driven and set very specific goals and I make things happen and so as things began to fall into place there was this sort of magic or serendipity. When I first started, I had just moved to San Francisco from New York and wanted to do a show house. When I daydream I’m not afraid of things - I always think "What is the worst thing that can happen?" and that is that someone can say "No." So I applied to the show house and by some miracle they let me do the space. I was 24 and the day it opened was my 25th birthday and I have set the record for the youngest designer to do a show house.

I built my momentum as a younger designer in San Francisco. In a way the youngness hurt - there is an ageism against the old and the young. I’d go to the Design Center and they’d say "Oh you’re too young to have a firm," and I think that drove me even further and made me push myself.

In the last two years specifically things have really taken off. I work really hard on publicity and I am my own publicist. I like interacting with writers and bloggers and taking the time to meet people for lunch. A large percentage of what I do is marketing and running a business—there is a lot more than just designing.

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Does living in San Francisco affect your designs and aesthetic?

I think San Francisco is a little more relaxed and that is reflected in the interiors there. I don’t think because I live in California it makes me do only a California style. I do projects all over and that’s amazing because I love to travel. I’m a California boy at heart but I am most inspired by traveling.

What are some of the places you are really inspired by?

I was just traveling in South American and am really inspired by Columbia. It was such a random idea to go there and I loved it. I had done a lot of traveling in Italy and wanted to do something different and mix it up and not just do the luxurious European vacation. I’m really inspired by Japan and would love to go there and see the culture and the attention to details. And to India to see the colors. I love Paris, London, and Rome, but I want to think outside the box with my design and to be open to different cultures and lifestyles.

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How has all the press you’ve gotten in publications like Elle Décor and House Beautiful affected your business?

The reaction was definitely huge. House Beautiful has been a huge support to me which is so helpful. Elle Décor picking me as one of five to watch catapulted me. One of the biggest things was my apartment being in The New York Times - that really changed things with new types of clients that started calling. It was an amazing path to grow and be recognized as an up and coming designer and we are now super busy and super thrilled with all the projects we are working on. But it’s not like I turned 25 and was just there overnight. I am 32 now and it has been 7 years of progressing. Each months and each year gets better. I couldn’t ask for any more. I always dreamed of being in the New York Times and when I woke up the morning the piece came out it was amazing. And when Margaret Russell called me to tell me they wanted to name me as one to watch I nearly fell out of my chair. It has been fantastic to have the support of different editors and bloggers - it makes me feel like I am doing something right and makes me want to work that much harder. I really want to keep learning and keep changing and to not be tied to a certain look. There are designers who are tied to a look and I love that but for me I want to mix it up.

What was your favorite house when you were growing up?

Definitely my childhood home. My bedroom was a place where I’d move things around and decorate. I had bunk beds and I took them apart and made one my day bed in a little seating area and one into my actual bed—so it as like I had a little apartment. It had dark wood paneling and I went away to summer camp and begged my parents to paint over it white, and they did and I took up the carpeting so even then had these white walls and hard wood floors.

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What style or period are you most afraid of but would love to try your hand at?

I’m very attracted to Asian design. I try to mix in Asian elements—like a beautiful Chinese coffee table—and I don’t really get a lot of opportunities to do that. I’m not as well educated in the history and use of Asian pieces but I’d like more opportunity to work with them.

If you had to hire someone else to design your home who would it be?

No question - for me it would be two very different designers. The first is Miles Redd. I think his style and the chances he takes are flawless. When I open a magazine and see some of his work, like a door painted yellow or wild fabric on a traditional piece my jaw drops. He would do an amazing, crazy, and unexpected job. And the other would be Darryl Carter. I love his work. I love his use of monochromatic colors and his very well-edited interiors. He just uses such and interesting mix of modern and very traditional. His book is just phenomenal.

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What 5 design books do you think everyone should own?

Daryle Carter’s book The New Traditional, Kelly Wearstler’s books, the Domino book, Jeffery Bilhuber’s first book and Thomas O'Brien's American Modern.

How often do you rearrange your own furniture or redecorate your space?

I used to do it all the time, constantly moving things around until a couple of years ago and I decided I couldn’t do it any more. I told my assistant to stop me if I tried to move things. But I am still constantly re-accessorizing. I move art around and pillows in and out. I don’t have an emotional attachment to things - they are just things and at the end of the day we can’t take them with us when we go.

What was the last piece you purchased for your home?

I purchased a new painting for the dining room and it’s a very abstract 1960’s painting-very green and blue and mid-century with blobs of color and I love the juxtaposition of it with my classic pieces.

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Finish this sentence: No room is complete without… 


excellent lighting.

What current trend do you most despise in decorating?

I don’t really like themed rooms. It’s too much of the same. And I don’t like suites of furniture. You don’t need to buy everything at the same time-you don’t need to buy out of desperation.

Do you have a few favorite pieces, paint colors, etc that you continuously use in your designs, and why?

Two colors I really love are Farrow and Ball’s Downpipe - a gray, moody type of color - and one that works equally well on the East Coast and the West Coast, which is my own blend of 50 percent Benjamin Moore Decorator White with 50 percent Benjamin Moore Linen White - when you put the two together it’s not too creamy, too yellow, or too blue.

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What is one piece of furniture or accessory people under-use?

One accessory that is under-used is flowers. It's a really simple and affordable way to transform a room with a pop of color (or no color if you prefer). I used to only like white flowers, but I have ventured out into adding in pinks (with peonies) or right now bright yellow daffodils.

If you could design a space for anyone who would it be and what particular space?

I would say Diane Keaton. I am always reading about her love of design and her commitment to architecture. She seems like a great person would be interested in history, purchasing beautiful and classic pieces that would relate to the architecture. So much of design today seems to be about removing the history from spaces and making them new and modern.

If you had to spend $25, $250, and $2500 respectively to make a big bang in a room, what would be they be?

For $25 I would purchase a beautiful candle. For $50 I would buy a great book on interior design. For $250 I would paint a room and splurge on great paint like Farrow and Ball. For $2500 I would buy fabric and re-cover a favorite piece of furniture.

A huge thanks to Grant for giving us the time for this interview! And, we're so excited to spread the word that his Tastemaker Tag Sale will be up this Saturday one One King's Lane! I'm hoping to be first in line for a pair of these babies.

*interview conducted and written by coco+kelley contributor annie lou berman.