Style Talk: Elaine Griffin

elaine griffin

Name: Elaine Griffin
Place: New York, NY
Design Firm: Elaine Griffin Interior Design

I am so excited to bring you the first Style Talk Interview of 2010! I had the pleasure of connecting with New York interior designer Elaine Griffin. Last year I gave away a copy of Elaine’s new book, Design Rules: The Professional’s Guide To Do-It-Yourself Home Style. And today, Elaine has been kind enough to share with us her journey to interior design and some of her best kept secrets for creating the perfect space.

A southern gal with chic style and sensibility that has been translated to her New York firm, Elaine creates warm, inviting and elegant interiors filled with personal touches that reflect the individual who lives in them. And with southern charm and whit, Elaine is an open book on the thing she is most passionate about, designing beautiful spaces.

Tell us about your design philosophy.
My design philosophy: houses should look like the people who live in them. Rooms – whether modern or traditional – should be warm and inviting. Style matters and you should never live without lots of it in every nook and cranny of your home.

elaine griffin interior design

What first inspired you to become an interior designer?
I was a fashion publicist after graduating from Yale. I got into a huge fight with my Vogue editor (very Devil Wears Prada, dahling), and was whining to my mother, who said, “You know, you should take a hobby and make it the job you love.” Design and lifestyle had always been my biggest hobbies, and I was already the go-to girlfriend for pals who had Wall Street jobs but no time to style-up the groovy pads they could afford to live in. So at age 28, off I went to the New York School of Interior Design, and then miraculously landed a job with Peter Marino. But know that I went from having two assistants to being one, and making less than I had my first year out of college. And I wouldn’t change a thing about that today.

You are originally from Georgia, but now live in New York. Does your style blend the cultures of each region?
Absolutely! The biggest influences in how we choose to live in our adult homes are the houses we grew up in and where we’ve lived and visited after that. It’s unequivocally either love or hate: either you have such fond memories of your childhood home that you want to recreate it, or it was a stylistic and/or emotional nightmare, and you want to go 180° in the opposite direction.

Being Southern is a lifestyle, and no matter how many years you live north of the Mason-Dixon line (and technically, I’ve spent more time Up North now than I have Down South), you never become a Yankee (although you do move a lot faster than we do in that heat). So you’ll see the Southern hospitality thing the minute you hit my front door. There’s also the same emphasis on warmth and comfort that we have down in Dixie too.

For my clients, I bring a little of that Southern hospitality to them as well. They will unequivocally have living rooms perfect for entertaining, and oodles of options to pull up a chair and sit a spell, like we do down home.

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Do you have a design signature?
The one design rule I’ll never break is that homes should look like the people who live in them. So I would want RuPaul’s boudoir to look campy (if that’s who he is in his private life, otherwise we’d just have one campy room for his public alter ego); Snoop Dogg’s doggy pound to be so, so Snoopy; and Diahann Carroll’s lair to look very grand dame.

When you walk into a room I’ve designed, you should first think, “Wow, this really looks like…” After that, I want you to feel warm and cozy. I want you to want to linger and not leave. What I don’t want you to ever do is notice is how pricey stuff is, even if I robbed the Met for every piece of furniture in the room and the walls are tricked out with a gazillion Picassos.

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What was the inspiration behind your new book Design Rules?
I am all about keeping it real. Very few folks in America actually use decorators, so I wanted to give people the best of what the pros bring to every job. Design Rules is filled with the tips, rules and trade secrets that professionals learn in design school and, moreover, on the job and from colleagues. I wrote it in a super-girlfriendy tone of voice, so it’s like sitting with me over coffee while I tell you everything I know . . . all for 25 bucks!!!

It’s the start of a new year, and many of our readers will be reading your book to help get their homes in order for the year. Do you have any tips you can share with them?
Dahlings, de-clutter!!! Step Number One in every makeover I do is toss the 10,000 tons of stuff that people have been living with for years! You know, Americans love to shop, but we always forget the golden rule of clutter-free living: when you acquire, you must also discard. Step Number Two, organize! After you’ve de-cluttered and organized, then it’s time to decorate. But sugar, not before!

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If there was one thing for readers to take-away about how to create a great space, what would that be?
The secret to creating great-looking spaces is about contrast and proportion. Proportion can be tricky to get right, but contrast is a cinch. You want to mix nubby and sleek, shiny and matte, dark and light, wood and non-wood. Contrast the wall color with the floor color — darker walls call for lighter floors, and vice-versa. Sit dark-upholstered furniture on a lighter floor or rug and vice-versa. On a nubby chenille sofa, put shiny and silky throw pillows, plus one in an in-between texture.

Thank you so much Elaine for sharing your design secrets with us. For more, pick up a copy of Elaine’s amazing style bible, Design Rules. I promise, you are going to love it.

{Images: Elaine Griffin Interior Design}

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