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Tuesday, July 26

Have You Had Some Work Done?

Thought that you might enjoy this article in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal. I was interviewed for the article. The article talks about making minor tweaks to achieve a very different look for your interior.

The topic is timely as I am personally in the middle of this process myself. I am making some changes (and am excited to share them with you in the upcoming months). Something fresh, with some more modern touches and a little bit more color. A new version of me. I think of my own apartment as a laboratory for experiments (far better to make mistakes at home vs. more costly ones with my clients).

What do you think about this concept?
Have you decorated your own space and thought that maybe you were done - but then wanted to change things around to make it fresh again?

If you haven’t been reading the Wall Street Journal recently, I highly suggest picking it up. Former Domino Editor-in-Chief Deborah Needleman has taken over the weekend Lifestyle section and it is filled with great articles each week.

“Make a built-in bookcase stand out as though it were an important piece of furniture by painting it and distinguishing it from the wall, said interior designer Grant K. Gibson, in San Francisco.”

“Switch out a traditional coffee table for a radical period piece (steel and glass '70s-era, say) to punch some of the stuffing out of the upholstered pieces that surround it, suggested Mr. Gibson.”

The Wall Street Journal

Have you had some work done?

Introducing 'the refresh': Minimally invasive décor tweaks that give interiors a major lift


People think what decorators do is a kind of home-based bowling strike: you knock down all the pins, and set them up again—with different pins.

But the best decorators—the ones with repeat clients—will tell you that after the big job is done, they get called back in over the years to refresh it and fine-tune it. The "refresh" is decorating lite: no big budget, no big headache, but big effect. There was nothing wrong in the first place. The refresh is just, fresher. Decorators say they have more fun with the refresh, and it shows in the work. The client is pleased with them, or they wouldn't have called back. The budget might be modest but it's not being shared with architects or contractors.

Decorators say it's largely a question of getting people to look at what they have and as Benjamin Dhong, a designer in San Francisco, put it, "fall in love all over again." Elissa Cullman, in New York, called it "fluffing." Eric Cohler called it "nuance." Kara Mann in Chicago called it "Zsa-Zsa-ing," after Ms. Gabor, who was strong on surprise. Ms. Mann, returning to a shocking orange dining room she created, refreshed it by wallpapering the ceiling.

In speaking with designers across the country, a primer began to emerge. Yes, you're dealing with arrangement, color, light, furnishings, paint, fabric, etc.—the ABCs of decorating—but at a sophisticated, secondary level.

Edit. "Take everything out of the room, then assess," said Amy Lau, a New York designer, on the theory that you do your best thinking about getting dressed when you're naked.

"You accumulate tons of stuff. Take it all out, then layer it back in, and clean it up."
Brad Ford explained, "I go in and get rid of stuff: clutter-editing. Your eye doesn't know where to land. People can't believe the difference, without having spent any money." And clear corners. "If the corners are clear, your eye says, 'I can see the room.'"

Matthew Patrick Smyth put it this way: "Purge. Things from trips, gifts, what the kids bring home. You lose perspective. 'Do I need this in my life?' The answer is 'No.' Look at the place cold, as though you were showing up for a party. Think 'thrift shop.'"
"Keep an eye on everything," Mr. Smyth continued. "We're not looking at our bedding, our dusty lampshades, the six-year-old sisal rug, towels, what's faded or uncleanable. You can only wash something so many times."

Look at yourself. "Peoples' lives change," Ms. Cullman said. "They become more formal, less formal." If you entertain more now, concentrate on the public spaces, like the living and dining rooms, how they look and work. If you spend more time with the family, concentrate on the family room, the kitchen and bedrooms.
"Decide how you want the room to feel," decorator Elizabeth Martin suggested. And prioritize decisions accordingly. "Identify why you like what you like," Ms. Lau said. "Is it color, memory, texture?"

Buy a few beautiful new vases: they tend to "date" quickly, said Mr. Smyth. And spend a portion of the money you saved by not replacing the sofa on a budget for fresh flowers, advised decorator Daniel Pafford. "Living things make an enormous difference," he said.

Repurpose a room. "Create another 'task' place, like a small table for a meal in a bedroom, or a desk in a living room," Markham Roberts, a New York decorator, said. "Adding a different-type piece of furniture to a room changes the way you use it."

Create unpredictable relationships. "Move things from room to room; what gives pieces their energy is their relation to each other," said Mr. Dhong, who moved a grand dining room sideboard into a hallway, where it was "out of context, and younger-looking. You looked at it." Mr. Dhong uses chests of drawers as bedside tables, which create convenient surfaces for lamps and stacks of books.

Organize, and organize richly. "Hermès makes great straw trays, where things can be organized," said Stan Topol, an Atlanta decorator. "Make the functional beautiful. You need to do it anyway, so buy a great thing, instead of an ordinary thing, that organizes your life." Mr. Ford observed, "It's important to contain things. Big baskets in a family room or playroom, to throw everything in. Beautiful woven baskets, with lids, create texture too."

Identify the 'dealmakers' in a room. Ms. Cullman and her senior designer, Tracey Pruzan, advised focusing on the signature pieces, and letting them dictate what happens next, because "it's hard to know what to change" when you start, said Ms. Pruzan. It might be a favorite piece, an expensive one you don't want to replace, an inherited item or the biggest thing in the room—but it's staying.

"Make it the focus," advised Amanda Nisbet, a New York designer, who wrestled with two red sofas a client wouldn't give up. She put them in the middle of the room, where they looked brave, not embarrassed, she said.

Make a built-in bookcase stand out as though it were an important piece of furniture by painting it and distinguishing it from the wall, said interior designer Grant K. Gibson, in San Francisco.

Reverse historical direction. Switch out a traditional coffee table for a radical period piece (steel and glass '70s-era, say) to punch some of the stuffing out of the upholstered pieces that surround it, suggested Mr. Gibson. Or replace it with small moveable tables that can be pulled up to seats, said Mr. Topol, who also pleads for tighter seating arrangements, so that people can actually hear each other.

Sara Story, a New York designer, was called back into a Crosby Street apartment, where she replaced a traditional dining room chandelier, above a traditional dining table, with a contemporary glass pendant.
"It totally changed the room," she said. Similarly, Ms. Story replaced a Jonathan Adler rug in the contemporary living room with a traditional Tibetan silk rug, making that space in the loft-like apartment "an elegant room," she said.

Make the small stuff big. Because it was refreshment and not renovation, Ms. Story devoted an inordinate part of the budget to details, like throw pillows. She commissioned a handwoven fabric from a design atelier in Bogota, Colombia, through Cristina Grajales, a gallery in New York, making the pillows "objects of luxury" rather than accents.

Do some big stuff on the quiet. Aurélien Gallet, in New York, will adjust a sofa's shape, when the piece is taken apart to reupholster, making it deeper or higher for the client's comfort. Mr. Topol, in Atlanta, will repitch dining chairs, adding to the fill in the back so that the chair "sits" more perfectly when used.

Paint. "Color is the cheapest thing you can do," Mario Buatta said. "Color changes the point of view of a room." He once talked a client out of replacing all her furniture. "The walls went from yellow to dark green and the furniture came to life again."

"Paint the ceiling instead of the walls," Mr. Smyth said. "That's what the light's bouncing off of. The trim too—it gets beat up, with vacuums, fingerprints. Give the trim and the doors a coat of paint and everything looks fresh. I've lived with the same glazed red for the last 20 years, but I play with the trim."

Ms. Ridder left a pink bedroom un-repainted, but painted a tailoring trim in a chocolate brown at the walls' edges, to sharpen the room's angles.

The sad truth. "You pass the five or the six year mark, and you get that phone call," said Jeffrey Alan Marks in Santa Monica. Mr. Marks is currently one of the Bravo Network's "Million Dollar Decorators." "Things wear out."

"Eighty percent of clients want to replace things with a new version of what they had," he said. "I try to talk them out of it. That's the true art of decorating."

Mr. Gallet was planning to reupholster a piece in a new fabric when the client told him, "I love this pattern," he recalled—referring to the fabric that was already there. The decorator reordered the old pattern in blue, not red.
Everyone was happy.


Karena said...

Grant, this is a superb article thank you. We all need a wake up call occasionally, even if only investing in new sheets and bedding or painting! Bravo!


Art by Karena

Acanthus and Acorn said...

I have loved every posting you've done of your LR, so I look forward to seeing your updates! I'm in the process of "design lab" updates too and it's been fun and a little sad saying good-bye to old friends don't you think?!

BTW, the matchbook business card is brilliant, would love to have one for my 20+ year collection!

the modern sybarite ™ said...

Nice feature. You deserve the good press!

Anonymous said...



Sent from my iPad

Anonymous said...

congrats grant!

Dean Farris, Designer

shiree segerstrom said...

Grant, I personally experienced what you are referring to and it has been a huge energy boost. Our surroundings evolve as we evolve, always refining and becoming better with age...we hope. Shiree'

Emily said...

Great article! I read this in the wall street journal, and thought it was very informative! Glad you did too. Cool pictures as well..they made me inspired to redecorate!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

yes - great article! They've really upped their game and I've included the WSJ in my own weekend reading. Great for sunday brunch.

Lynne Rutter said...

nice press, Grant! as for being done... well this is always debatable. I am never "done" here!

offset printing said...

This is a great article to read and I think I'm going to share it with my friends who needs more ideas about refreshing their homes. I, myself have also been inspired in reading this, I actually took notes from it so I would remember them. Again, this is really wonderful.

Tradition Matters said...

The WSJ weekend edition is a must read. I enjoyed seeing your name in it.

LM Thompson

Anonymous said...

Great article on refreshing decor....I'd like to put the matching coffee table and side table (currently my night stand) on Craigslist, and replace the coffee table with a rectangular tufted ottoman. We don't need to replace the side table.

Anonymous said...

My recollection of my first exposure to GRANT GIBSON was with this shot
of your apt. in San Fran a few years ago. I loved it then and still do.
That old quote, "You've come a long way, baby!" certainly applies to you.
Congrats and more good luck and success on the journey!

Charles Allen
Daytona Beach, Florida

La Dolfina said...

Wonderful article!
I adore the Wall Street Journal!


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