Ep. 22: Ghislaine Viñas

Interior designer Ghislaine Viñas talks to us about what it was like to grow up in apartheid South Africa, how she accidentally landed her first real interior design job, and how she’s too adventurous to work for anyone but herself. Plus, she's not scared of anything.

Photo by Bill Zules 

Photo by Bill Zules 

We wanted to bring you more of Ghislaine so we asked her some extra questions we didn't have a chance to talk about on the podcast:

What is your earliest memory?

My earliest memory is laying in my bed in my room and watching the passing cars' headlights create streaks on the ceiling.  It's a very vivid visual.

A snap from Ghislaine's early days in South Africa.

A snap from Ghislaine's early days in South Africa.

The Viñas family

The Viñas family

Ghislaine Viñas and Brad Ascalon's outdoor furniture collaboration with Loll Designs.

Ghislaine Viñas and Brad Ascalon's outdoor furniture collaboration with Loll Designs.

How do you feel about democratic design?

As a designer, I think democratic design is what we strive for. The Netherlands and other some other European countries—especially the Scandinavian countries—have achieved great success. In America, we are definitely behind, but catching up for sure. Contemporary furniture companies are making modern design more affordable and it's great to see some of them hiring great designers instead of ripping off designs. I am always encouraged when I see big brands like Target hiring designers to design for them. I remember years ago that Marcel Wanders designed a Holiday line for Target... I ran over there and picked up a bunch of great items. I think more and more, big companies are promoting their goods through the designers by name and that’s a step in the right direction.

Ghislaine and her team: Katie McVittie, Anne Brown, Johanekke Hogendoorn (intern), Jenna Pino, and Zoe Hsieh. Photo by Bill Zules.

Ghislaine and her team: Katie McVittie, Anne Brown, Johanekke Hogendoorn (intern), Jenna Pino, and Zoe Hsieh. Photo by Bill Zules.

Ghislaine's first project

Ghislaine's first project

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

BE PATIENT... Cindy Allen, Editor in Chief of Interior Design, has been an amazing friend and mentor to me for the last seventeen years. At times, I have been impatient when I felt that things were not moving quickly enough. Sometimes I get something in my head and want immediate results and it doesn’t always happen that way, and that’s also not how the design industry works. You’ve got to earn your stripes. In hindsight, I see what she meant when she told me to “be patient.” Building your brand and your identity takes time.

How do you record your ideas?

I jot down words and random works in my day planner on my desk. I just wrote down “velum” I hoard images on secret Pinterest boards that I share with my designers in the office. I tear pages out of magazines, but mostly I take photos with my iPhone and image capture from social media sites. My photo library is my visual brain.

Some of Ghislaine's dramatic and bold interior projects. Clockwise from top left: Skyhouse / Photo by Eric Laignel; Happy Bones coffee shop / Photo by Francis Dzikowski; Barrows office design / Photo by Garrett Rowland; Warren St. Townhouse / Photo by Eric Laignel

Some of Ghislaine's dramatic and bold interior projects. Clockwise from top left: Skyhouse / Photo by Eric Laignel; Happy Bones coffee shop / Photo by Francis Dzikowski; Barrows office design / Photo by Garrett Rowland; Warren St. Townhouse / Photo by Eric Laignel

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

Sketching quick ideas is still the most effective way to share ideas with my team.

Also ready to start delving into ceramics for lighting etc—it feels like an exciting medium to explore. I have some sconces from the 70’s that are fascinating to me.  

What book is on your nightstand? 

It's not on my nightstand because it's too big but Tham ma da by Paola Navone is a huge inspiration. I so admire her work and her attitude. So great to read about her process and what goes on in her head. I really truly relate to her.

Floritauk home interior design / Photo by Garrett Rowland

Floritauk home interior design / Photo by Garrett Rowland

Why is authenticity in design important?

Being a designer, staying authentic and unique is my job. It’s what I do to stand out and differentiate myself from what others are doing. You can be inspired by peers or those who came before you, but you need to bring your unique flavor to the work you do.

Favorite restaurant in your city?

Urgghhhh...I live in NYC so that’s an impossible question to answer. Sometimes I love to go places because of the food and sometimes because of the ambiance. My main focus is to avoid noisy establishments (I must be getting old). My favorite lunch place is Mercer Kitchen in Soho and I always have the poached shrimp salad. Favorite local place for dinner with my family is Terra in Tribeca because its insanely “gezellig” (Dutch for cosy, fun, intimate, great atmosphere...one word for all those things).

Mock Rock wallpaper designed for Flavor Paper. Photo by Jaime Viñas

Mock Rock wallpaper designed for Flavor Paper. Photo by Jaime Viñas

What might we find on your desk right now?

Too many notebooks...why cant I just stick to one????

My iPhone and a licorice wrapper (I love black licorice).

Who do you look up to and why?

I look up to my mom because she has such a positive spin on life and she is someone who I love being with. I also adore that she is so fit and hip and will always have a bright shining attitude.

I look up to my husband Jaime because he keeps me in check (I need a tethering force in my life) and he always has my back no matter what. He always comes through for me and I know he is so proud of the work I do and the work we do together. It is very easy to go galavanting around knowing that he holds our family together.

I look up to Paige West because not only is she an amazing friend, client and collaborator but she always wants to explore unchartered design territory. I love that she is always looking for her next project and mostly that she always invites me to be a part of them. She will never know how much I love and appreciate that she brings me along on all her adventures. I am always in awe of her generosity and faith in me.

Wild Thing wallpaper designed for Flavor Paper. Photo by Garrett Rowland

Wild Thing wallpaper designed for Flavor Paper. Photo by Garrett Rowland

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

At the end of the day, for me, it’s more about looking back at the design process and experience. I could have the most beautiful project but if the process was painful and I didn’t jive with the client, I see that in the work. I love collaborating with my team and also with clients and other designers and architects. This is what it is about for me. I don’t like to list my favorite project.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

You’re the One by Kaytranada
Lost in the Light by Bahamas
Cranes in the Sky by Solange
Playing for You by Joe Hertz
Back Around by Dessert

We love to visit Ghislaine's colorful Instagram world.

We love to visit Ghislaine's colorful Instagram world.


Follow the adventures of Ghislaine and co at gvinteriors.com and keep tabs on her adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.


Special thanks to Chris Modl of Yore Studio for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.