Designing a home for someone else is both a creative and collaborative experience. To honor the aesthetics and values of those who live in a space, an interior designer will play a kind of journalist, asking questions and evaluating what is critical and loved. But sometimes a design project starts with intuition. This is often the case with interior designer Gillian Segal. “Deciding which projects to move forward with is an instinctive process,” says the director and founder of Gillian Segal Design, noting that this was the case for the renovation of this magnificent craftsman house in the seaside Kitsilano district of Vancouver. “I immediately fell in love with the client.”
Segal let that kinship guide her as she renovated the charming home of her client, an ‘incredible’ retiree who lives with her dog Lexie and occasional long-term guests (mainly the client’s two college-aged children) . While most parts of the house were “badly in need of updating,” Segal recalls, the house, which was built in the 1990s, had strong bones. The original heritage-style oak marquetry floors, beautiful stained glass windows, and “old fashioned” brass door hardware were treasures Segal reclaimed to honor the eclectic, vintage character of the neighborhood.
With his love of mixing old and new, bespoke and vintage, Segal chose décor elements that honored the “historic” feel of the house. This included a mix of heritage and contemporary elements, highlighted by vintage floor lamps, custom ottomans, a Montauk Sofa, Arteriors Home side tables, and B Zippy & Co. ceramics. A neutral palette allows rooms eclectic and art collection to shine.
The finished home is “sleek, unexpected and effortless,” as Segal describes it. We couldn’t agree more. To better understand how she put it all together, we reached out to the talented designer. We have to say, this stunning craftsman home renovation is truly the product of talent and intuition.
How did you honor the original bones of the house?
We wanted to achieve an eclectic elegance. To achieve this, we retained some of the original features like the inlaid oak floors, which we stripped and re-stained to make them look modern. We kept the original paneling in the areas we could and added new, more refined moldings with pencil rails for an updated touch. The house had several stained glass windows. These were beautiful but the client didn’t like how traditional they felt, especially with their all primary color palette. Instead of removing them, we designed new windows by creating our interpretation of stained glass. This turned out to be one of my favorite features.
Tell us about a piece you particularly like.
This kitchen is one of my favorites I’ve designed to date. It’s so peaceful, elegant and inviting. Although the materials are seemingly quiet, we focused on details such as the cast metal post crossing the island, the sculptural bronze handles, the minimalist Bocci Design stoppers and a marble casing around the newly designed stained glass window. Fixture selection is always one of my favorite parts of the design process, and this project was no exception. Brass Pelle pendants with cast paper flowers are a work of art. And the Apparatus Studio light fixture in the kitchen is another favorite. It gives off the most beautiful light.
Resilience is key no matter where you are in life, what you’re doing, or what field you’re in. Failure happens, you need to learn from it and keep moving forward with a positive mindset.
What is the inspiration behind the color scheme?
We worked with a fairly neutral palette, layering subtle color swatches and keeping the more saturated hues for the amazing artistry. We wanted a palette that was warm, sophisticated, textured and also representative of the natural hues found along Pacific Northwest beaches.
You have layered so many amazing decoration elements. What were your best finds?
With the more neutral palette, we wanted to focus on materiality to create a layered and warm look. We used lots of natural stones, mainly marbles, and worked oak in a variety of finishes throughout the house. We have also worked several metals, including cast bronze, patinated brass and blackened steel.
I also love the art collection we’ve built together, which focuses on Canadian artists. Erin Armstrong’s pieces in the dining room are so bold and whimsical. We also commissioned Curtis Cutshaw to do the two black and white wall sculptures in the living room that mirror the fireplace and the television, which is concealed in a cabinet above. Another personal favorite is The Rug Company’s rug in the living room. Fun fact: After her first house party, our client called us with a design emergency: a guest had spilled red wine on the carpet! Fortunately, the wool-silk blend is so durable that it looked like new after cleaning it.
You have a knack for keeping the spaces you design balanced and timeless, as well as minimalist yet warm. What is your secret?
I have made a conscious effort to move more and more towards working with natural products and materials, handmade items and small series pieces that have a story and support a craft or craft. It’s that little imperfection that brings the magic. This is what brings life and emotion to our home. Without these things, spaces can feel sterile and new rather than timeless.
Add layers. Make sure the layers are made up of different materials, whether it’s bedding, paint, wallpaper, drapes, or lighting. This approach creates a comfortable ambient space.
What tips can you share for those new to design?
The most important thing to offer your customer is a personalized experience! We pride ourselves on educating our customers in the design process while making it as easy and fun as possible. We strive to create original work for our clients that pushes the boundaries of design while feeling like it represents them. Ultimately, we want to do everything we can to make our customers happy.