Northern Virginia-based boutique full-service interior design firm, Alison Giese Interiors (AGI) specializes in an eclectic, yet timeless aesthetic. Influenced by her travels, Alison is inspired to create interiors with a sense of place, incorporating unique and worldly elements.
Joy: What are some of the style influences you’ve incorporated from your travels?
Alison: When I was in college, I’d tag along with my Mom and her friends on antiquing trips to Mexico and RoundTop, Texas which gave me a taste for old, “crusty” things like pottery, wood, and artifacts. Traveling Europe as a young married woman furthered that love of things that are worn well, and have a story. Our time living in Brazil introduced me to classic mid-century elements juxtaposed in a lush, tropical environment, and I love working in similar eclectic mixes in my home and work.
Joy: Your clients can select cabinet details online. Tell us more about your collaboration with Unique Kitchen & Bath Designs.
Alison: About 18 months ago, a kitchen project I was working on connected me with UKB. The owner, Tanya Smith-Shiflett, and I developed a mutual appreciation for each other’s work and business, and she approached me about collaborating on a cabinet line. We worked together to hand-select paint colors and stains that reflect the timeless, soulful style for which AGI is known. The cabinets are so well made, and with the proprietary, butter-matte finish UKB pioneered, they are truly one-of-a-kind. As a designer, it’s such an honor to have UKB, a high-quality cabinet manufacturer, believe in my talent, and want to share it vis a vis their product.
Joy: What’s the most rewarding phase of the design process?
Alison: That’s a tough one! I love the point of the presentation, when we can show clients what we’ve been tucking away working on, and see the excitement in their faces, but ultimately, the “reveal” is what it’s all about – all the blood, sweat, and (sometimes!) tears are all worth it when the clients see a space as it was designed/intended.
Joy: You offer on-line resources for budding interior design professionals for everything from style and budget to a toolkit. What inspired you to share your experiences?
Alison: I don’t regret my rather circuitous path to being a design professional, but DO wish I had worked for another designer before stepping out on my own, simply to have witnessed the business portion of the work, which, by the way, is the majority! I’ve had a steep learning curve, and have had to reinvent some wheels, which is hard. If I can help someone else who’s starting out, so that maybe they don’t have to do that, I’m happy for it. I also believe it’s great to put products out there that can help potential clients envision working with us, and what that entails.
Joy: What’s the biggest mistake you save your clients from making?
Alison: Purchasing incorrectly for their room size, taste, budget, etc. There’s been times when a client hired us after making a big furniture purchase they regretted, only to learn that the best design wasn’t one that included the piece. Hiring us saves clients in the long run.
Joy: We noticed a lot of foliage and wood in your interiors. How important is incorporating natural elements in your design work?
Alison: I honestly feel like a room is incomplete if there’s not some sort of greenery or natural element. I personally gravitate towards statement plants, but when that isn’t feasible, clippings and foraged elements can certainly work! A room needs the life only something from nature can impart.
Joy: What are the top three requests your clients most often make?
Alison: Clients most often request:
a) A home that feels “put together,” but in an approachable, not overly “designer-y” way.
b) A style that is tailored, unfussy, but with meaning and depth.
c) Nothing cookie cutter!
Joy: What element in a room do you usually start with?
Alison: It really depends – if there’s something of import to the client – a piece of art, an heirloom, a fantastic rug can all act as great jumping-off points. Ultimately, we first have to determine the “language” we want the home to speak, and work to select elements that speak to that.
Joy: What’s one of your favorite projects, and why?
Alison: One of our projects was a home on a beautiful, wooded lot. The scope involved a major kitchen renovation, and main living level design/decorating. It’s a favorite because I believe we were able to “read” what the house wanted and needed to connect the interior to the landscape. We took cues from existing materials in the house: fantastic stone for one, to guide the mood and selections. Now, it looks like the spaces are as they should be!