For Winchester-based designer Shannon Gilmour, grace is a way of life. Bringing this concept to her business, Grace Interiors, Gilmour thinks of the name as a double entendre: both the name of her daughter and the essence of her designs. “I live for moments of grace,” she explains. “Classical music, beautiful china, fine art, and textiles.”
Gilmour’s own home is a testament of this philosophy, with an eclectic mix of the fine and the understated. Next to a work of irreplaceable fine art, Gilmour has hung a tapestry from Turkey, purchased in a market for pennies. On display, collections of fine Herend china and exquisite Limoges boxes sit alongside some of HomeGoods’ best ceramic offerings. “In my own home,” she explains, “I’m inspired by textiles and fabrics, different dimensions, mixes of color, history, and artistic focal points; but most of all I am inspired by the intangible feeling of a piece.”
Gilmour draws inspiration extensively from her travels, which began when she was young. “I spent summers in Mexico, Arizona, California, Milan, and Rome,” she notes. “I developed a passion for art and travel at a very young age, and I bring that to my designs, both in my own home and in the homes that I design for clients.” Gilmour earned her degree in art history and later pursued a career at The Magazine Antiques in New York City. “I developed a background in antiques and spent time in some of the world’s best auction houses. I’ve found that what I learned there still informs my design decisions.”
With a meandering path through the world of art and history behind her, Gilmour launched Grace Interiors in 2002, after putting her Winchester home on a Christmas tour. “Even before then, my friends would come to me asking for design help. It wasn’t until the response my home received on the tour that I thought I could make a business of doing what I had loved to do in my own home and with friends,” she says.
Gilmour’s designs for clients are often quite different from what she does in her own home. Grace Interiors’ mantra comes from Gilmour’s commitment to each client’s individuality: “Your home is a canvas for living. It should reflect your lifestyle, your interests, your passions,and your favorite styles.” Equally important, she explains, is the need for your home to represent “the texture of your life.” Rather than imposing her own tastes on a client, she takes the time to discover what matters to them, and then considers how to transform their passions into a beautiful design for their home. “I am inspired by what inspires my clients,” she says. “I love to bring things from their world into their home.”
Gilmour’s design process allows her to tailor her methods to the tastes of her clients, creating designs from the fusion of their own tastes with her expert input. “I always begin with my Lifestyle Design Quest Methodology,” she explains, “a set of questions I ask each client to determine everything from their personal tastes and passions to the concrete details of when they need their project finished and what their budget might be.” She asks, among other things, what they love about their homes; what needs changing; how they want guests to feel when visiting; how involved they wish to be in the design process; and whether they are going for a formal or more relaxed feel. The questions are meant to help her understand “where they are in their lives,” Gilmour says.
“My design for a family with children will be quite different from my design for a retired couple in their second home.” Gilmour prefers to conduct the design quest in the client’s home to get a feel for their current style and gain insight into what their style may become. “I derive inspiration from the physical space,” she notes. “When I walk in a room, I can see endless design possibilities.”
Gilmour’s sense extends beyond just the rooms themselves. “The best thing about hiring a designer is that I am always on the lookout for that special piece that will make a room,” says Gilmour. “Long after I’ve finished a room or a home, I still have it in mind if I see a perfect piece in an antiques store or a gallery. I’ve called up clients two years after I finished their project to show them a painting they could put over their dining room table.”
Much of Gilmour’s work involves the kind of constant attention she employs when searching for the perfect piece. “I love to be hands-on with a project, and see it from start to finish with the builders, architects, and other members of the client’s team,” she explains. She enjoys the sense of the “big picture” gained by being present on a job site, and physically being in the space. “I love things that make a room special, which can enhance my design.” Being in the space also allows Gilmour to work collaboratively with builders and architects. “I think of it as a triangle, with the builder, architect, and designer on each corner, and the client in the middle. Each one of us is so important to the success of the project.”
It’s her hands-on, start-to-finish mentality that keeps clients coming back to Grace Interiors. “Every time I’ve done a home for a client, they’ve asked me to design their second home. If I’m only designing one room, they’ll often come back to me for the next room,” she says. Gilmour worked with one client over the course of 10 years, designing different spaces throughout the same home. “I continue to think about what’s best for my clients as their lives grow and change; many of them become my friends and stick with me when they move,” she says.
Going above and beyond for her clients, Gilmour began offering event planning as an additional service. Clayton Events, a side business named for Gilmour’s son, provides a perfect corollary to Grace Interiors, completing Gilmour’s identity as a big-picture designer for whom the minimum is only the beginning. graceinteriors.net