Gail Race Interior Designer who creates interiors that are intelligent and elegant, sensitive and surprising.
When did you decide you wanted a career in interior design?
I originally trained as a graphics designer and have always been obsessed with colour and composition. Whilst working in London as a designer I was very lucky to be offered an exciting opportunity to work as a homeware selector for M&S, then as a consultant to Mulberry Home, sourcing and designing home accessories. I had renovated several of my own properties by this time and had always turned a good profit and enjoyed the process. After a career break to raise my two boys I became increasingly interested in the concept of home and environment and the profound effect that interior design can can on your whole wellbeing. I was hooked and Gail Race Interiors began trading in 2006.
Tell us about the first project you ever designed.
My first major refurbishment was a 1970's property that I extended and completely remodelled internally. New windows and external cladding completely updated the tired exterior whilst sympathetically grounding the property within its plot.
This was to be a hardworking family home so the internal spaces had to be practical and provide both open plan and tranquil space but key to the brief, it had to be stylish with a hint of glamour.
Internally I re-used some of the original key materials such as endangered hardwood cladding and retained the African teak central staircase. I chose a limited palette of colour and material to ensure the new layout appeared spacious and provide good flow from room to room. Bifold doors from the kitchen created an inside/outside feel, leading out onto a decked area. Large swaths of block planting were designed to extend the form of the house.
You recently worked on a major refurbishment project at the prestigious Arlington House in Piccadilly. Tell us about the project and what made it special.
Yes this was a challenge, we had a window of 5 months to refurbish 20 apartments!
To minimise loss of income to Arlington House and best control the logistical aspects of the refurbishments we focused on 4 apartments per month, project managing tightly every aspect from the installation of the new coving, decoration ,new carpets or refurbished parquet , tiling of the balconies, upholstery scheduling and finally soft dressing.
What I particularly loved about this project was designing rooms that complimented the Art Deco heritage of the building, sourcing fabrics, lighting and accessories that added a layer of glamour to a space that had to work extremely hard on a practical level too. I have a great little black book of excellent sub contractors and suppliers who all helped enormously to ensure the success of the project.
Do you have a design hero who influences your work?
No I would say not but I hugely admire many designers for their particular style.
Christian Liaigre for calm restraint and natural materials, Isle Crawford for story and soul, Piet Boon for detailing, Jean-Louis Denoit for eclectic glamour, to name a few. My coffee table is piled high with design books on ski chalets, pool houses, best hotels from around the world. I also follow design practices worldwide who's aesthetic I admire.
Tell us about your design process and what makes your style and service so special?
I am very client centric in my approach to a new project and work first and foremost on understanding what the client really wants. Often the client really doesn't know, but they have a feel and sense of how they want their environment to work for them, on both a practical and an emotional level. I then turn my attention to the space and location. Is there a certain heritage we need to respect and work with, are there practical constraints to work around? So on a so forth, until I have a good grasp of the overall project. Only then does any design work start!
When a client commissions Gail Race Interiors I want it to be an enjoyable process all round, I'm there to solve problems, advise and inspire.
So, whilst I do not adhere to a specific aesthetic, rather view each project on a case by case basis, I would say that there is a calmness and clarity and an overall contemporary feel to my work.
Arlington House painted in Onslow No.48.
Paint features quite heavily in your work, do you have any favourite colours?
This changes regularly!
For a current project I am specifying Holland Park for the internal walls of a timber frame C16 listed building. This white is warm but fresh and bright and compliments the worn oak timber beautifully.
The adjacent and newly restored piggery has a much more contemporary feel and I am very excited to be using Blueprint on a timber panelled feature wall. I'd like to introduce an element of Indian Lake here too.
How would you describe your own style?
Minimal, contemporary, natural, functional, calming, uplifting, artistic.
What are the quickest and easiest ways to update a tired living room and bedroom ready for festive entertaining?
You can make your home more welcoming for festive guests in many ways. Choose a rich, warm colour for a feature wall to set off the Christmas tree or simply touch up any tired looking paintwork. Don't be afraid of dark colours, they can look stunning with the right lighting. Painting behind an open book shelf can work beautifully, especially with reds or contrast colours. This way you can balance the amount of colour seen by arranging your books and objects and decorations until it looks right.
Lighting is absolutely key this time of year. Add dimmer switches to ceiling lights and check the wattage and tone of side lights. Are there any dark corners that would be more welcoming with additional lighting?
Candle light is wonderful for adding the final sparkling layer of light, even better if they are scented with quality oils that gently perfume the air with a festive aroma!
Gail Race, Interior Design. Photography by Eugenio Vasdeki.