Gil Walsh on Why the Accessories Make the Interior

 

It’s a good time to be Gil Walsh. This spring, her design firm will move into a new office on Palm Beach’s antique row, where it will be in good company with favorite shopping destinations—like Mecox Gardens, James & Jeffery Antiques, and Heath & Company, to name a few. After several years of explosive business, the firm simply outgrew its 3,000-square-foot space and will be relocating to much roomier digs. 

That growth can be attributed in part to Walsh’s status as a preferred designer for the new Mandarin Oriental luxury residences in Boca Raton as well as One Dalton, a luxury residential project in Boston. Additionally, the 

designer is seeing an increase of projects in her home state, with many people relocating permanently to Palm Beach for the quality of life. 

Bottom line: Palm Beach design is booming. Walsh recently collaborated with the Cultural Council of Palm Beach to create an exhibit for designers. On view now at the Council, the Art & Decor exhibition pairs eight artists with eight interior designers, curated by Walsh.

Photos by Kim Sargent

The show reflects the area’s rich art and antiques culture, which is right in line with the firm’s new location. “Antique Row has been there for a long time, but it’s growing and growing. There are chic spots opening from design studios to resale shops, plus the antique stores keep coming,” she explains. “It has a bohemian feel to it.”

That cocktail of old and new is what gives the designer’s spaces such dimension and interest. “[Antiques] are what make a room really special,” Walsh says, noting that lighting is a particularly popular way to incorporate a one-of-a-kind piece and add a finishing touch. “It’s the jewelry in the room.” 

Always in search of that special “jewelry,” lighting was top of mind for the designer at January’s Winter Antiques Show in New York City. She was particularly impressed by the offerings at the James Infante booth, which included a chandelier by Italian studio Ghiro, starburst chandeliers hung in a grouping, and beautiful Pixel table lamps. Walsh says that although those pieces can be copied (unlike, say, an original Hans Wegner sofa), her clients are more concerned with good design and, most importantly, how an item will look inside their home.If lighting is the room’s jewelry, then artwork is the gorgeous scarf or handbag. “Art is integral to the interior design process,” Walsh says. “What a room is about is, first of all, good architecture. Second, its furniture we can sit on. If we didn’t have to sit, I’d just have great architecture and great art.” In line with her views on antiques, Walsh notes that all artwork doesn’t have to be Blue Chip: “We have some clients who are buying on that level but some who just want really lovely pieces and aren’t choosing to buy art as an investment.”In the local art scene, Walsh admires the work of Chris Leidy (Lilly Pulitzer’s grandson), Carmelo Blandino, and Ellen Liman, who are all known for their use of color. This comes as no surprise if you’ve seen the designer’s first book, Gil Walsh Interiors: A Case for Color, which illustrates how Walsh infuses color into spaces through artwork, rugs, and textiles. Still riding the success of the monograph, the designer reveals another book may be in the works, noting, “We’re compiling as we speak.” Get ready for more perfectly accessorized spaces.