Designer Discourse: Grant Gibson

A Q&A Series with Prominent Designers Circle Members

Travel is an eternal source of inspiration for many people, especially those in the design industry. The colors, patterns, materials and visual imagery on display throughout a journey are unending. Grant Gibson takes it to another level. His firm of two decades, GRANT K. GIBSON INTERIOR DESIGN + TRAVEL combines his two passions and weaves them together, creating once-in-a-lifetime trips that are as thoughtfully curated as his design work, and bring together travel and design through private tours, experiences and guided shopping excursions, with pre-vetted vendors.

Chair from Paris flea market, Penobscot Bay photography by Grant Gibson. Interiors photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

Personality is the driving force behind Gibson’s design sensibility. His spaces are curated to his clients’ individual tastes, and with a feeling that they are tailored but not too much so. There is a wonderful level of comfort and simplicity in his aesthetic. It offers a carefree feeling with soft, sophisticated hues, pops of color, and imaginative juxtapositions of lines, colors and patterns.

His work has been featured in numerous design publications; he is repeatedly named a ‘Designer to Watch’ and has been included on Elle Décor’s A-List. His design book, ‘THE CURATED HOME | A FRESH TAKE ON TRADITION’ (Gibbs-Smith) was published in 2018.

Custom upholstery, art by James Nares. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

Gibson answered my questions recently about the tools, inspiration and principles that propel him in the design field.

Ariane Trimuschat: What was your first introduction to design-what drew your interest in the field as a career?

Grant Gibson: My parents brought me to everything from an early age, from antique stores, auctions, art galleries, and flea markets. If we were on vacation, we would be exploring and end up with some incredible collections.

Christopher Spitzmiller lamp, chest from 1stdibs. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What are your key influences? Where do you get your inspiration?

GG: Travel is always on the top of my list. In addition to interior design, I started a boutique travel company where I take small groups on adventures. We have had such a diverse mix of people of all ages from around the country join the fun. India and Morocco have been favorites, and I can’t wait to add some new adventures in the future. Mexico City, Petra, and Egypt are on the list.

Water Photograph by Peggy Wong. Interior photography by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: Name three design tools you can’t live without.

GG: My iPhone allows me to take great photos and stay in touch with clients and vendors. My pad of paper and pen, which I take endless notes during client meetings and keep task lists. There is something much more satisfying about a real pen and paper instead of keeping it on your computer or phone. My bookkeeper and office manager (can they be tools?) to run a proper interior design business are essential. I think it is necessary to know where your strengths and weaknesses are and hire professionals for help.

Marin breakfast room, Raoul fabrics, antique French farmhouse table, chairs by Charles Fradin. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: If you could design any property in the world, which would you tackle?

GG: I would have to say that I am currently in the process of doing this already. I had always wanted to have a summer home in Maine after spending summer there for ten plus years.
I searched for an old home to restore but ended up purchasing five acres of land with a private beach and designing something new in an old style. My goal is for the house to look like it has always been there and blend in with the rest of the traditional architecture.

AT: What are the first three things you consider when planning the layout of a house?

GG: I always start with a floor plan, which guides what goes where and makes sure everything will fit. It is essential to listen to my clients and how they will use the room. For many years there was a trend to knock down walls and have an open floor plan, but I see the return to rooms back to traditional layouts. Lastly, I think natural light is so important.

Vintage lounge chair, artwork by Walter Kuhlman, fireplace by Jamb. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What design element should one focus on and invest in most?

GG: I would advise you to buy the best of the best that you can afford. When you purchase a quality piece, they stand the test of time. Especially, upholstered pieces that are hand-made will continue to wear well after years of use. I love it when a client calls back after years, and we reupholster a sofa or pair of chairs in new fabric. Pieces should not be thought of as disposable but lifelong pieces that can be used for many years and passed on to younger generations.

Custom vintage-inspired navy blue sofa, artwork by Walter Kuhlman, pair of coffee table from Paris flea market. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What have you learned during this pandemic? How has it affected your business?

GG: Fortunately, I love my home, partner, and dog Alistair, so it has not been a struggle like it has been for some. We love to cook, read and watch movies. This year has made me think of my priorities in life and be grateful and live each day to the fullest. As for my business, we are as busy as ever and have seen a shift of efficiency with Zoom and working with clients, architects, and construction teams. This has changed the interior industry and so many others forever in a positive way.

Katie Ridder wallpaper, mirror from Mecox Gardens NYC, Waterworks plumbing. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: Are you seeing any new trends in what your clients are asking for/prioritizing after the year we’ve had?

GG: Home offices, workout rooms, outdoor spaces, and beautiful locations within a house with good zoom backgrounds.

Bunny art by Hunt Slonem. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What course of study was most relevant to what you do as an interior designer?

GG: Psychology!

AT: What is the most impactful interior design lesson you’ve learned in your career?

GG: Always follow your heart and gut with potential clients. If you see red flags in an initial meeting, listen to those as they will come up again when working together.
Designing a home is highly personal and a long-term process, not something that can be rushed or forced.

San Francisco bedroom with Urban Electric light fixture, chairs from Paris flea market. Photograph by Kathryn Macdonald

AT: What keeps you coming back to the SF Fall Show each year? What do you most look forward to at the show?

GG: It’s a tradition and wouldn’t be the same without attending. It’s fun to see friends and go booth to booth to see what treasures have been brought in from around the world. The internet is a fabulous tool, but there is nothing like seeing something in person.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat

Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family. Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim.