We asked designer Gillian Gillies what fuels her work. The Edinburgh-born, Toronto-based owner of Gillian Gillies Interiors grew up immersed in the neoclassical and georgian architecture that Edinburgh was founded on. As a result, her designs are influenced and centred around a timeless aesthetic grounded in natural materials and paired with a smattering of heritage and vintage finds. Gillies strives to immerse her clients in an eclectic and European experience of easy living, designing for the person in the space — not just the space. Her goal? To "make the world healthier, happier and more pleasant to be in, one home at a time."
HG: How would you define your style?
GG: My personal style is what I call European Curated Eclectic. I like to blend different colours, patterns, periods and genres together in harmony. I do like there to be tension in a space - I don’t like it when things perfectly match. Even if we are sourcing for an entire home at the same time, things shouldn't look shopped, they should feel acquired. It makes a huge difference to the longevity of a space. This is how we source for our clients and how I decorate my own home and purchase items for my wardrobe.
HG: When did you first become interested in design?
GG: When I was about eight years old, living in Edinburgh, I loved a children’s show called Blue Peter. It was basically what all British kids were raised watching. In one episode, they showed the interior of the Orient Express Train. I remember being fascinated about the fact that there was a sink in a closet and that the bed folded away during the day. I had never seen anything like it and I think this was the initial spark toward understanding how transformative design can be in a space.
HG: Who or what inspires you?
GG: Travel and experiencing different cultures and ways of life are constant inspirations to me. I spent the first 30 years of my life in Edinburgh, and being immersed in its beautiful Georgian architecture, as well as frequent travels to Europe, have informed my design understanding and colour palettes. I find that when I travel and switch off (somewhat), inspiration floods me. I always come home wanting to share what I've seen and I’ll often have found a new resource. I love visiting art galleries at home and away; to me they have a stillness, similar to what you find in a place of worship, and a visit to one always feels like an opportunity to simply be.
HG: Where is your happy place?
GG: My head! Its an old adage but you take 'you' with you wherever you go, and you need to be happy in yourself to find peace and happiness. I love hiking in nature, experiencing beautiful spas and sitting in my kitchen drinking a cup of herbal tea.
HG: What's your favourite part of the design process?
GG: We have a 7 step design process and I love the client presentation at the end of step 2. This is where we present our initial design concepts and colour schemes. It's where our clients see for the first time our thoughts, blended with theirs, scaled and presented along with inspiration images, fabrics and samples for a totally immersive experience. It’s a joyous step. It shows we are all in alignment before we go too far, and it lets our clients see how much we have listened. The design process can be a long one and having a structured plan from start to finish allows us to get to the finish line with happy clients.
HG: Styling tip?
GG: Immerse yourself with things that feed your soul. On my own coffee table I have a large circular brass tray that helps define and corral things. A tray or a collection of smaller catch-alls is a great starting point. Once you have this, you can scale all items accordingly. I love greenery on a coffee table so I always have a plant, a small stack (3) of hardback books with the dust covers removed (always remove the dust covers!). If I have picked up an object on a recent trip then it will probably go here. I do like to change things up frequently and will move things around my home when I have a spare moment. I don’t like things to look or feel stagnant; greenery can make a huge difference.
HG: Favourite room in the house?
GG: When we're designing for a client, I love the opportunity to do their bedroom, closets and bathrooms – their private spaces. It’s a beautiful way to give back and really show care for someone. I think if we were all able to start and end our day in a nourishing environment where everything is in its place, where we sleep soundly and feel good, we would be kinder, nicer humans. We tend to prioritize our main floor over everything else but I do love the opportunity to go upstairs to the second and third floors.
HG: Best entertaining tip?
GG: Stay in your zone! I don’t enjoy cooking — I find it quite stressful — so I’d rather hire a caterer and spend my time getting the perfect flowers, linens and playlist together.