Caroline Gidiere was raised in a small town in the South where professional decorators “were not a thing.” She learned the important principals of interior design and fashion from watching her mother, a talented seamstress who wasn’t afraid of a complicated pattern or roll of wallpaper, and knew how to match a seam. Caroline’s mother created stylish and chic interiors and clothing for the family on a budget, guided primarily by her strict adherence to all things previously sanctioned by Jaqueline Onassis, Colonial Williamsburg, Princess Diana, Vogue, or Emily Post.
About 14 years ago, Caroline was working with one of my favorite architects, James F. Carter, on the design and build of her family home in Mountain Brook, Alabama. It was then that she decided to pursue her love of design, turning away from her career as a lawyer. Today, Caroline is sought after by her friends to help with their interiors, entertaining decisions, and daily fashion, and she has become an Internet sensation with her exquisite home and elegant portfolio. I expect we will see big things from this incredibly talented designer who has quickly become one of my favorites… And I am delighted to welcome Caroline to The Glam Pad for a Q&A!
Q: How do you describe you style:
A: Classic, sophisticated, timeless, but fresh.
Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in interior design, and what was your previous profession?
About 14 years ago, I started working on designing and building our family home. During the process, I realized that I did not want to look to a decorator for direction, because I had very strong opinions on exactly how I wanted everything to look and I learned to trust my own judgment in that process. Also, being on such a tight budget, I had to roll up my sleeves up and do things, like the hardware schedule, myself. And, as I did those things, I realized not only that I could do them, but that I really enjoyed doing them – certainly much more than I enjoyed practicing law. After we built our house, friends began asking me for help choosing a paint color or a sofa, etc., and that just began to grow. On the flip side, I was kind of stuck in a moment with practicing law where it had been a safety-net but was not a good fit for where my life was then – a husband that travelled four or five days a week and two young children. My legal practice was mainly complex corporate and securities litigation, which was stressful and required long hours and a lot of extended travel, and so we were always on high alert around the house. My husband actually filed all of the paperwork to start my business and put it all in an accordion file, wrapped it, and put it under the tree one Christmas. When I opened it, he said, “It’s time.” It took me a year to get my plan together, resign, and start my design practice but I have never looked back. I am grateful for every single day in my design practice because I absolutely love it!!!
Q: Did your Southern upbringing influence your design aesthetic and style?
A: Certainly. Southern culture is built on a foundation of hospitality and entertaining. I grew up with my mother and grandmothers entertaining frequently with silver and linen napkins in their formal living rooms and dining rooms full of chintz and antiques. Although today, even in the South, everything is a bit more relaxed, I am very nostalgic for that way of life and that comes through in my design, although I am sensitive to keeping the design fresh. I am always chasing this moment for my clients between the sophistication of a formal living room and dining room and the comforts of the ubiquitous den/kitchen. I want to create amazingly beautiful living rooms and dining rooms for my clients that are inviting and are places where people want to sit down, lean back, and stay a minute, to grab a drink and catch up on what’s going on. We also live half-in- and half-outdoors because of the temperate climate in the South. Integrating the exterior seamlessly with the interior is important. How will you access the patio? How will a crowd circulate from inside to outside during a party? Where will you set up the bar? These are very important questions in the South.
Q: Your gorgeous home has become a social media star! Please tell me more about your inspiration for the architecture, the process, and what it was like working with the incredible James Carter?
A: James and I have been really good friends for a very long time, and certainly for many years before we started designing my house. I knew from day one that I wanted James to design it and that I wanted to build a Georgian, specifically, the George Wythe house on the Palace Green in Colonial Williamsburg – a classic Georgian with a hip roof. I grew up spending every summer vacation in Williamsburg and that house has always been my favorite. I also knew from the start that I wanted it to be white: white painted brick, white trim, and white shutters. At that time, James had never had an opportunity to do a Georgian and was thrilled at the prospect. At the outset, he was very concerned about the severity of the George Wythe house, particularly because of the way my house would have to be sited on the lot and the limitations of the lot itself. Given those limitations and because I wanted to paint everything white, he felt like it would end up being this very heavy white cube. We tussled back and forth a bit, because I was really sold on the perfection of the George Wythe house. James’s compromise was to add the arches, which was a stroke of brilliance. It literally took my breath away and they really make the house special. We came back a couple of years after completion – when my children got a bit older – to add the gates, which James noted was not a part of original plan. James wasn’t exactly sold on the idea. It took us over a year to land on the right note with those. James really nailed the look I was after, and I am extremely pleased with their contribution to the overall effect of the house. I loved and still love working with James. We were a good team because we really can speak frankly with each other and there is a good deal of trust between us as to each other’s taste.
Q: What interior designers and style icons – past and present – most inspire you?
A: My inspiration regularly changes. Different designers’ work speaks to me at different moments and depending on what I am currently working on. But, there are two designers, one past and one present, that I turn to time and again. First, from the past, I always look to Frances Elkins and I keep her book on my desk. Her work always hit the perfect pitch and, even today, reads fresh and modern, neither too formal or nor overwrought for how we live today. And, that is extraordinary for rooms completed almost a century ago. Present day, I think there is no one better than Daniel Romualdez. His work is varied but always perfection. As far as style icons, while I love the Babe Paleys and the Jackie Kennedys like everyone else, my personal style icons are always in the present and run from Claire Thomson Jonville – who I wish I could be – to Phoebe Philo, Jessica de Ruiter, and Virginie Mouzat. Each has an authenticity, is super chic, loves a clean line, and each walks the line between feminine and masculine in a super cool and sophisticated way.
Q: Where else do you find inspiration?
A: Certainly, travel is a jumping off point for me. I think I had been to twenty different countries before I graduated from college. I love to travel and soak up the different sights and smells and sounds, the different color palettes and textures of the different corners of the earth. I have the sense of cataloguing images in my brain for later use as I travel. But anything, really, can really fuel my creativity and kick start my flow.
Q: Do you have any favorite fabrics, paints, furnishings, etc., you particularly enjoy incorporating into your design?
A: First, I think every home is the better for the addition of a bouillotte lamp, and I really do not think you can have too many, assuming your home is not otherwise dominated by French furniture. I cannot live without Le Manach, Pierre Frey, Colefax & Fowler, and recently, Natalie Farman-Farma’s Décors Barbares. I am really having a wallpaper moment, although I really, really, really love fabric on the walls, but you do have to have the right budget for that.
Q: What are five possessions you could not live without?
A: 1) Chloe Camille Wedges, I live in them because they are comfortable and stylish;
2) My Smythson Soho Notebook, where I keep my running and never-ending To-Do list;
3) My Hermès Apple Watch, because the technology is super convenient, especially when you are walking around, but the look is fly;
4) Pilot V-Sign pens, because they unleash my best handwriting; and
5) Celine gold hoops, a Christmas gift from my husband. I wear them every single day.
Q: What are your favorite things to do when you are not designing?
A: Traveling with my husband and children is my jam, for sure. On a day-in-day-out basis, I love to cook. It helps me to unwind, allows my brain to wander, and gives me a quick sense of accomplishment. Also, I love to exercise.
Q: Anything else that you would like to add?
A: That I am so grateful and honored to be included on your blog! I have been such a huge fan for so long. It’s crazy to find myself here! Thank you for the opportunity!
Thank you so much Caroline for the kind words, and for joining us today! For additional information on Caroline Gidiere, please visit her website www.carolinegidiere.com and follow @carolinegidieredesign on Instagram for ongoing inspiration.