I came to visit Gary Riggs in his office, located in the depth of his expansive showroom in Dallas. The new space was in flux in preparation for the upcoming Preview Party organized to celebrate a milestone in the designer’s career and offer a sneak peak of the 40,000 square foot retail showroom. The big event is scheduled for June 23rd and will also feature an Art Exhibition comprised of over 100 original contemporary works of art. I browsed among the yet unfinished spaces and marveled at the “magic” of the design process that unfolded in front of me.
Gary, I can honestly say that your showroom is a feast to the eyes. There is so much to see! So many exquisite details! How do you feel when you walk through the space? Do you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment? I see it as a tremendous achievement.
I don’t think I ever really think about it. I always see this space as work in progress. When I am here, I see things that need to be done; I continuously want to improve, to bring in something new. In fact, since we sell off the showroom floor, things do need to be constantly changed, rearranged, updated… I feel that this showroom is design in process, so to speak.
Of course, then tell me how you started. What made you become a designer? Is it a calling?
I started my career as an artist. My work was doing quite well; I was represented by a very reputable gallery. I developed a clientele; one may even say a following. One time a client came to my house – she was in the process of home remodeling – and she remarked how much she liked the feel of my home. She asked if I would help her recreate something similar. So I did. It went well, and then one after another I started getting referrals. I went on to do design, as well as continuing my artistic career. A little later I was offered a job as a designer, and further developed my own clientele. One thing led to another, and eventually I was able to start the business on my own.
What is the relation between art and design in your opinion? How different is the process of creating a painting as opposed to designing a space?
It may not seem the same, but in reality, the creative process is very similar, only artistically you are working in 2D format, and in design you develop a 3D concept. The most important elements remain – it is all about composition, proportion, colors, textures and shapes.
Do you have a signature style? Or, perhaps, would you say you prefer to work in a certain style? Where do you draw the inspiration?
I do work in any style. My design is not about me, it is first and foremost about my customers. I draw my vision from them – from their likes and dislikes, from their lifestyles, from the collections of objects that they have accumulated through their lives and that they consider important. My objective is to understand them first, and then present the best option of what they would find appealing and functional. I never insist on my vision. If my client doesn’t like some of my suggestions, I always find an alternative that works well in the design and satisfies their personal aesthetic.
What do you think of trends?
Every decade brings its own influence on interior design – colors, for example, noticeably shift every few years. I don’t like thinking in terms of trends. My objective is to stay ahead of the game, not follow somebody’s direction. When I do a room, I want it to not only be current now, but also look fresh and appealing in five years. I never go for fads, it is important to select items that are both beautiful and high quality, so that they can last for a decade or more. I also don’t believe in insisting on a particular choice of colors based on current industry preferences. I select color palettes based on each customer’s taste; the environment must speak to them, be inviting and reflect their personality. A design may be beautiful, but if it is not emotionally representative of the home’s owners – in my book, it is a failure.
Obviously, art plays a major part in your designs. What is your approach to art selection and presentation? Do you prefer to make it a focal point in a room, or is it simply an accent that pulls things together?
First, there are two types of art – investment art and decorative art. If a customer has, or wants to purchase an investment piece, it normally becomes a focal point of a room. We may even select colors that complement the painting. If the design speaks to the usage of decorative art, then the pieces may be selected to balance other elements of the design in color or style. However, I don’t believe in precisely matching the room to the art, or the art to the room; the combination should be organic, not forced. There must be a relation between the atmosphere of the space and the feel of the artwork. I wouldn’t put coral decorations in a mountain lodge, for example. Interiors should somehow reflect the area around, not clash with it.
Let’s talk about fashion now. Do you follow fashion? Is there a relationship between fashion influences and interior design?
Fashion is a huge influence. Clothing design changes much faster, and experimentation in fashion is a continuous process, whereas interior design is more conservative in its nature. I am very interested in fashion, because by following it, I can draw the inspiration on the new fabrics, textures, colors and re-envision them in the context of space. I attend fabric shows in Italy, and make regular visits to New York to absorb all the fresh ideas that are being presented on the market. I call it “feasting”. Four days in New York fill me up with new inspirations to last me a few months. I am able to re-interpret what I have seen and include it in my on-going projects. Inspiration can be drawn from many sources: architecture, magazines, shopping, museums… I need to take time to absorb, soak in what is happening on the creative scene. Yes, fashion is extremely important.
Now, tell us about your upcoming event. June 23rd is going to be a big day for Gary Riggs Home. What is the occasion?
Several factors played the part in our decision to make it a special occasion. First, we want to unveil the completion of Phase 1 of our 40,000 square foot retail showroom. We have moved to our new location about a year ago. It has truly been a labor of love. We have now finished the renovation and composition of the first half of the space, but there is still a lot more to come: second half of the building development, new parking and landscaping – those are still in the future. We want our customers to be excited, we want to create a sense of anticipation. The second reason for a special event is the opening of an ART EXHIBIT that we have brought to Dallas in collaboration with an art gallery from Florida. Over the week-end we are going to showcase more than 100 pieces of high quality contemporary works of art. Some of them will remain with us after the event, but most will be in Dallas only for a short period of time. This is a great opportunity to make a good investment.
This is exciting. I can’t wait to see the exhibit. What else can you share with our readers? What does being a designer mean to you?
Design is about creating, about having a vision and meticulously bringing it to life. There is no better job for me in this world than going out there and making someone’s life, someone’s surroundings beautiful. Beauty touches our souls. The best rewards come from seeing reactions of clients when they walk into their transformed homes for the first time. Seeing tears of happiness in someone’s eyes – what can be more rewarding? This is my mission and my motivation in life, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to make people happy.