December 13, 2017
Interior Designer Ghislaine Vinas' On Her Bold Design Narratives, New Product Lines, and So Much More!
Ghislaine Vinas' passion and belief in 'the aesthetics of happiness' revolves around the importance of creating environments that are practical and easy to live in—where people simply feel good and want to spend their time.
by New York Spaces
NYS: How did you get started as an interior designer?
Ghislaine Vinas: I moved to NYC right after I graduated from Philadelphia University in 1990 with a degree in Interior Design. After working in design/sales for a modular furniture company called Techline for about 8 years I was lucky to be introduced to a young woman, Paige West, who was my age and was starting a new company selling art on the internet. At the time, this was an exciting, unheard of, and somewhat outrageous idea. These were the early days of the internet. She had just signed a lease on a raw 10,000-square-foot office space in the Starrett Lehigh building. Up to that point, I had freelanced a bit outside of my day job but I had never taken on a project of this scale. Luckily I had a good combination of naivety and fearlessness. I got a signed contract and deposit and figured out how I would complete it. This was the start of my solo career and eventually the beginning of my firm.
NYS: Do you and Paige still keep in touch?
Ghislaine Vinas: Eighteen years later, Paige and I are still working together and have become close friends. She's an amazing client to have because, following a general brief, she allows us to truly express ourselves through her projects whether they are residential, commercial or hospitality. It helps too that she actually loves color even more than I do, has a sense of humor when it comes to design, and has a deep affinity for bright white. We truly understand each other in a special way! Working with her allows me to "play" and truly enjoy a field I am so passionate about. As a young designer it's hard to build your portfolio but, I was fortunate to work with Paige and the projects we did together in those initial years really established my name and identity as a designer.
NYS: What is your background?
Ghislaine Vinas: I was born in the Netherlands and I grew up in South Africa. I am incredibly grateful to have had such an interesting upbringing. I'm a bit of a mutt in the sense that I speak Dutch with an English accent, but have a truly Dutch attitude when it comes to design. I have no fear towards my work and am passionate about expressing my creativity in a new, unique way. I love turning the normal upside-down to get a new perspective.
NYS: How do you get inspiration from these two unique places that were such a big part of your upbringing?
Ghislaine Vinas: It's great to pull inspiration from two cultures that I know so well. Trips to these familiar places, South Africa and the Netherlands, always allow me to return with new ideas and attitudes. When I first moved to New York, I was trying to figure out how to "design like a New Yorker" (whatever that means) but having the right clients really allowed me to look for my individual voice. It was eye-opening to find that there were clients out there who let me express my vision. I have never worked foranother designer so I learned the ins and outs of interior design myself through years of experience—and I still continue to learn. I think this is why I have such a unique attitude towards design.
NYS: Did you always identify yourself as a designer who worked particularly well with color?
Ghislaine Vinas: It was only after a couple of years of being published that it occurred to me that my use of color actually was something distinct about me. Perhaps after the third or fourth time that I was being listed as a designer with a bold colorful attitude, it finally clicked that this was something that made me stand out. While to many this was originality, to me this was simple a natural tendency. I think being over-the-top and using color in an overwhelming way was easy. It felt more difficult to be subtle and design in a "whisper" rather than to be loud. My biggest challenge in the early stage was finding clients who were like-minded and happy to embrace the color I wanted to bring to their home.
NYS: What does happiness look like in the context of interior design?
Ghislaine Vinas: We live in a complicated climate at the moment and through the years, my neighborhood has been the target of too many tragedies. Between terrorist attacks and natural disasters, I continue to call New York my home and love this city deeply. My husband and I are raising our two amazing teenage girls in Tribeca and I've lived there for the last 28 years. The neighborhood is comparable to a small village within the city and only if you've lived there long enough do you really understand the incredible sense of community that exists. It's been challenging to fully embrace all the changes to the neighborhood; from a dirty place filled with artists, to the fancy and posh residential nook it's become, but I am very grateful that with the gentrification I have had the opportunity to design so many apartments and lofts in the area.
I believe that I am able to bring happiness into people's lives through my interior design. My passion and belief in
"the aesthetics of happiness" revolves around the importance of creating environments that are practical and easy to live in—where people simply feel good and want to spend their time. The interior design business is not about saving lives, but rather doing our best to make lives better for the individuals who inhabit them! Our projects, whether commercial or residential, breathe warmth, personality and a quirkiness that is intended to produce smiles and conversation. My team and I invest a lot of time and passion in our projects and I feel very lucky to work with an incredible group of young women every day to make our projects happen.
NYS: Are there other ways you add a personal touch to the work you do?
Ghislaine Vinas: I love creating narratives about the projects we embark on and this often involves getting lots of information from our clients—their history, their habits and hobbies, and anything that is unusual or inspiring about their lives. Fortunately for us, this extraction of personal information fuels endless clever possibilities of extremely personal design in every project. This results in a unique and personal outcome for each space we work on. Creating these personal interiors, whether it's for a family or a business, is the fun part of what I do. I love incorporating designs with personal information and touches that might go unnoticed by most but carry a lot of meaning for the client. We once designed a rug with numbers running along one side and although the numbers looked random, they were actually all the birthdays of the family members. In a similar vein, we designed a neon light at the entrance of an apartment for the Goldstein family that reads SOLID GOLDstein. Their powder room was adorned with a gold mosaic tile to add to the theme.
NYS: Does the custom work you do ever translate to design collaborations?
Ghislaine Vinas: This dedication to personalize design, means we end up doing a lot of custom work for our clients from furniture to wallpaper, rug design and so much more. We had been doing this for several years when Flavor Paper invited us to design several permanent lines for their collections.This collaboration resulted in four beautiful designs, with new patterns currently in production. We also worked on a furniture line for Loll Designs with a good friend and collaborator Brad Ascalon. Currently, we are in the final stages of a line of rugs for Aronson's and a fabric collection for HBF Textiles. These exciting collaborations, worked on simultaneously while we continue design work are another way in which we share our design with the public.
NYS: How do you keep challenging yourself through your work?
Ghislaine Vinas: Our interiors have seldom been described as subtle and up to now I've been obsessed with exaggerated scale and pattern, color blocking and other strategies. No matter what we are working on, I am always learning, changing and discovering to ensure my work evolves in interesting ways as well. Currently, we are working on a project that involves creating hybrids using furnishings from many different eras to create an unexpected look. Nicknamed "The 1895 House", the client has suggested that the interiors are furnished with finds from his extensive fictional travels from 1895 to present. Of course he is expecting our creative interpretation of this theme but this makes for an exciting and challenging project. I find this inspiration fascinating because it allows me to delve into Art Deco and Chinoiserie while mixing those styles with pieces from the 70's and finally combining it all with a unique and slightly gauche use of color. I'm happy to keep on growing as a designer and learning to be the best that I can be. What more can a girl ask for?
*Interested in more articles like this? Sign up for our Newsletter!