I recently discovered designer Guillaume Gentet via Instagram, and I was immediately infatuated with his work, which can be described as old-world French elegance softened by American comfort and sprinkled with Palm Beach whimsicality. Guillaume loves to use color, particularly pale pink – one of his signature colors – which he tries to use in every project.
Born in France, Guillaume is the eldest son of an architect and teacher. His father exposed him to the elements of home-building, both inside and out, and his mother taught him many of the traditions and crafts of fine homemaking. Guillaume attended design schools in Bordeaux and Paris, and he was chosen among a select group to work for a fashion trend forecasting agency in Paris. By the early 1990s, unsatisfied with the limitations of the fashion industry, he emigrated to the United States to perfect his English. He developed and refined his skills as a faux painter with the European Décor Studio in Palm Beach before moving to New York, where he worked closely with Rachel Ashwell. Guillaume has created a unique line of furniture that incorporates artifacts and faux finishing techniques, and he will soon be announcing his interior design store, La Décoratique.
Intrigued to learn more, I was thrilled when Guillaume agreed to a Q&A… Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite highlights from his portfolio and get to know this talented designer!
Q: How did you become interested in interior design?
A: I’ve been tinkering around with the design of rooms since I was a small child. My mother reminds me of how she used to leave me sitting (sometimes for hours) at the table (where I played creating furniture and colors for the small play-houses that I used to build); always, of course, beginning with a chandelier.
Q: Does your background in fashion influence your work, and in what way?
A: In fashion, my focus was color and color trends for designers of haute couture. I enjoy using color, especially one of my signature colors, pale pink — which I try to use, in one form or another in every project. It’s a color that looks good regardless of skin tone. I always try to think of the person that I am designing for — hair color, skin tone, etc. A room has movement and personality. We’re thinking about design in the same way a fashion designer does.
Q: How do you incorporate your painting into your designs?
A: When I first moved to the United States, I was lucky enough to work in Palm Beach alongside European Décor Studio. Their focus was murals, fine painting, églomisé (reverse-painted glass) and trompe l’oeil (creating the illusion of a 3-Dimensional object). At European Décor, I learned that every space has the potential to be a canvas. Hand-painting gives all of our work something that is difficult to replicate. Our clients like having something special that isn’t available to everyone else.
Q: Your parents were incredibly talented. How did they inspire you to become the designer you are today?
A: Merci! You are very kind. I think we all sometimes wish we had better or different parents than we have had. As I become older, I have begun to realize that my parents always tried to expose me to beautiful places in nature. My father restored the annex of a XVII Century castle in France. My mother was always rearranging, re-using and making new things; she had a great sense of being able to create many things herself (taught to her by my grandmother: who was my role model and all-time favorite person on the planet). She set a standard that I follow today when caring for fine goods and entertaining guests.
Q: What was the top takeaway you learned from working with Rachel Ashwell?
A: Rachel has a great eye for beauty found in the uncommon and the unconventional. Her adaptable inventory and loyal customer base also inspired me to open my own store.
Q: Where do you find your greatest inspiration from day to day?
A: Books (with pictures) are my #1 go to 🙂 I have hundreds of interior books — my latest book is all about parquet and wood floor designs throughout history. Great people also inspire me; People who want to make the world a better place. Last but not least, some wonderful sources of inspiration for me are auctions, galleries and museums.
Q: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
A: I am always trying to be more adaptable in my aesthetic. We have clients who lean toward the very traditional to those that are uber contemporary. I love happy homes and I love to be surrounded by happy people. Life is too short to be serious all the time. I not only listen to my client’s needs, I hear them. I take that to the next level by studying my client’s taste and that allows me to give them that something extra.
Q: You have a keen eye for fine details, and your use of finishes and trims is exquisite. How do you do it?
A: Thank you! I grew up surrounded by beautiful things so unconsciously, I learned from it. To me, an empty room should already look good. After that, it is just adding and layering. I believe that a gimp is as important as the molding on the wall.
Q: Please tell me more about your store and what type of products you will offer.
A: I love shopping. This store means a lot to me because it will be opening doors to people who love what I do and give them an opportunity to create and obtain their own Guillaume Gentet interiors. It will be a place where you can order custom home furnishings and furniture — some of my favorite things! Of course my new line of bedding made right here in the USA, will be available. We expect the store to be open and ready for business by the summer of 2017. Stay tuned!
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Yes! My business partner and husband, David G. Carpenter, AIA and I are Chairs of an incredible American Cancer Society event; Hope Lodge NYC Holiday Bash. Hope Lodge NYC is a home away from home, providing no cost lodging to cancer patients and their caregivers while receiving treatment in NYC. We first got involved when we were asked to redesign their main kitchen three years ago. Since then, we have transformed their annual holiday party into a tablescape showcase gala that combines fine wine, dining & design to raise funds for the facility. We’re proud to announce that the gala this year has doubled in size, thanks to our fantastic designers and sponsors. In addition to the gala, we are working on a designer showcase for Hope Lodge NYC. This huge renovation will involve 60 rooms organized on five floors. We’re going to have a designer redo each of these rooms. We are so very excited about this and are already beginning to collaborate with IDS (Interior Design Society) and Whirlpool on this project. Renovations will begin in 2017.