It’s hard to picture
Gillian Gillies’ studio once being an industrial concrete and drywall box with nothing but two fluorescent lights and one big electrical panel. The 1,100-square-foot space in Toronto’s Leaside neighborhood did have a few things going for it, though: 18-foot-high ceilings, plenty of parking and walls of windows that let sunshine stream in from both the east and west.
Scroll down for a look inside!
Prior to taking possession of the space in the fall of 2019, principal designer Gillian Gillies
(pictured) and her team of six were working out of the designer’s own house. “Most of my home was my studio, and it was getting ridiculous. My dining room was our warehouse, and my husband was losing the will to deal with our constant tech-support questions,” says Gillian, laughing.
The first order of business in the new open-concept studio was to define the space with custom millwork and split it into three functional zones: one for working, one to store samples and host client presentations, and one for the kitchen and library. “So much happens at this table: we source, design, present and have team lunches and meetings,” says Gillian.
Of course, there had to be plenty of bold color like
Bancha by Farrow & Ball (Gillian’s favorite shade of green for walls and her wardrobe), a plethora of punchy wallpapers, an impressive multihead fixture to illuminate the team’s oak meeting table — and there’s even a funky fringed swing.
“The studio is very representative of my personal taste and design preferences. It feels authentically me,” says Gillian. Graphic wallpaper is a lively backdrop for a gallery wall in the office board room.
Fabrics are stored by color in pullout baskets.
“This space offers incentive for clients to use saturated colors and bold wallpapers,” says Gillian. “And I wanted my team to have a bright and happy space to work in and to signal to my clients that they were in good hands.”
Clients often request that she write down the studio’s signature essential oil blend of wild orange, vetiver and lavender that wafts from three diffusers all day long. “I’m a big believer in the transformative power of smell, so we diffuse natural essential oils to help us with focus, creativity and clarity,” says Gillian.
Our space is a melting harmonious, comforting and cocooning — plus, it always smells great around here.” Music helps set the mood, too. Whoever arrives first in the morning picks the playlist and, most days, it’s soundtracks from the ’80s that reign supreme. “Good design should envelop all of our senses, and my studio does just that.”
“Clients can be nervous about using marble in a kitchen; I wanted to show them what was possible,” says Gillian.
The powder room features an avocado-hued marble vanity.
When the team’s not working on projects, it focuses on a new venture:
Studio Shop on the Gillian Gillies Interiors website, which features the firm’s own custom-designed blankets made in Scotland, locally woven tea towels and throw pillows created from fabric remnants that would otherwise end up in the landfill. “We take offcuts from different projects and make pillows out of them, and 100 per cent of the profits go to local charities,” says Gillian. In this workspace, design doesn’t just look, smell and sound good — it does good, too. Here, her goldendoodle Reba sits on her “throne.”
A tray of favorite samples and a carnelian stone for creativity.