It’s hard not to fall in love with a space designed by Gillian Segal. The founder of Vancouver-based design firm Gillian Segal Design has been in the industry for nearly a decade, servicing clients locally and across North America. Segal is also a contributing writer for Marthastewart.com and co-founder of Saint Lunette, a development service that helps simplify the design and staging process for developers. Segal joined us in our Engel and Völkers Vancouver flagship shop in Yaletown to discuss her design career, starting her own firm and global design trends she predicts will make their way to Vancouver.
The first thing we’re curious about is where her passion for design comes from. Segal tells us she has always been innately creative. “I used to ask for bedspreads for Christmas!” she laughs. While her family encouraged her to pursue law or medicine, Segal opted for design school instead, where she explored everything from fashion and merchandising before eventually landing on interior design.
“I started working for a local firm immediately after graduation and soon I had friends and family asking me to do little design projects for them on the side,” says Segal. She eventually switched firms after getting married, finding a mentor in her new boss. It was around this time that she started a blog to showcase her perspective and design aesthetic.
“The blog grew organically in a way I did not expect,” she adds. Not only did Segal receive design work through her blog, but she eventually got an email from the team at MarthaStewart.com, requesting she join them as an Interior Design contributing writer. “I still have no idea how they found me!” says Segal, “When I first got that email I thought it was a prank or they had accidentally emailed the wrong person.”
Segal describes visiting the Martha Stewart HQ in New York. “Their prop closet is the size of five boardrooms, it’s huge,” she says, “They have a whole floor dedicated to crafting, and every type of homeware product you could imagine, it was like a dream.” As her blog’s popularity increased, Segal switched to working part-time before eventually leaving to start her own design firm.
While Segal is based in Vancouver, she regularly travels, either to attend design and trade shows or for her international clients. She recently travelled to Venice to attend a show with Inform Interiors. We ask if travelling has helped inspire her design aesthetic and what trends she has observed from her time abroad.
“West Coast design is synonymous with neutrals,” says Segal, “We’re not really used to the bright neons you might find in Miami or Europe. It’s a lot more about earth tones and natural textures with less saturation.” She notes that global trends have always been more focused on boldness and bright colours, but predicts the West Coast slowly making the shift to more daring design choices. “What I find really inspiring about European design in particular is how they utilize materials that have a “lived-in” feel, like metals that are un-lacquered or unique marble textures.”
Travel isn’t the only place Segal finds inspiration. She is also an avid fan of old movies, finding interior ideas from films like Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and another favourite, Alfred Hitchcock. “I’m a huge fan of luxury designs from the 50s and 60s,” says Segal, “I love adding classic, old-school touches to modern spaces.” Fashion is another big inspiration for Segal, who adds that it’s a great place to find colour and fabric trends (think chunky shearlings, boucles and more recently, the “teddy bear” jacket found nearly everywhere).
Segal and her team typically work on anywhere from 8 to 15 projects at one time. Though this might seems like a lot, she says they’ve developed a good system for working on multiple projects at once, especially since all her projects are at different scales and lengths. “It also helps to have an amazing team!” she adds.
Segal doesn’t like to enforce her style on to her clients, but instead prefers to work with them to find the best version of their own style. Her design process usually begins with an in-depth conversation where she and her team get to know the client, then a mood-board session where they explore concepts and share feedback before creating a more specific plan.
“Development is definitely Vancouver’s industry,” says Segal, who notes that there’s an exclusivity to the city that makes it a special place for architects and designers. “It’s similar to New York or San Francisco in terms of price and demand, which means there are many people who take designing their homes very seriously.” Segal’s favourite favourite designers include French designer Joseph Dirand, Disc Interiors, Flack Studio and Banda Property, among others.
So what’s next for Segal and her team? “There are a bunch of exciting projects coming up that I can’t really talk about just yet, but they’re for some amazing clients!” Segal also recently co-founded her second business, Saint Lunette, and is launching their first design project in February.
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