“We kind of fell into the furniture business purely by accident,” says Debra Gildersleeve, owner and designer of Renee’s in Mattituck concerning her and her husband, William. What started as a small boutique in 1978 for women’s clothing and accessories (opened by Debra’s parents) has now transformed into a “full range of design services.” Debra herself is involved in clients’ interior design projects. In this interview, Debra talks about her creative process, and how she works with clients.
What is your creative process like? Do you have a specific routine, or is your approach for each individual client different?
Each project is different, and I work with the clients individually to create beautiful and functional spaces that meet their design needs. I love being able to bring different styles together, and guiding the creative process. It all starts with a conversation, and learning more about the visions of the client you are working with. It’s a collaborative effort, and my goal is to not only meet but exceed their expectations.
What are some of the questions you ask a client before you start a project?
The most important thing to discover is how the client wants the space to function – whether it is a single room or an entire home. By simply asking what their vision is, the conversation leads into uncovering other preferences regarding color palates, personal style, accessories, and more. Getting to know a client on a personal level reveals a lot about their style, and it’s fun and exciting to bring their design dreams to life.
Is there something you have, or have seen, that can serve as a client’s color inspiration?
We have numerous vignettes in our showrooms that offer inspiration on how different furnishings, accessories, and colors can work together. Whether it’s cool beachy shades of blue and green, or neutral grays and creams, each area is designed to provide style inspiration for all of our clients and customers. One can also learn how to pair different elements together, and create a purposeful look in one’s home.
How do you help people discover and communicate their style to you?
A wonderful way to help someone define their style is by walking around the store with them. They can browse the different vignettes we have set up, viewing products ranging from sofas and coffee tables to lighting and various accessories. If there are styles and designs they like that are not necessarily meeting their specifications, we are able to order many pieces in different fabrics, finishes, and configurations to meet their needs. Responding to how a client reacts to a piece of furniture or home accessory is an important part in the design process.
We all have our personal styles when decorating our home, but are there certain styles of decorating that sell better?
Living on the North Fork or in the Hamptons, there’s a certain lifestyle one expects. Homes tend to reflect the beautiful beaches and casual vibe we experience out here. Mixed with some modern elements, the beachy trend in home furnishings and accessories is certainly a top seller. It’s clean and sophisticated, yet cozy, and just wonderful to work with.
Recently you rolled out a new program for realtors. Can you tell us a little about this and why you are looking to work with realtors?
On the North Fork we know real estate is more than just selling a home; it’s about selling a lifestyle. The experience of living on the East End is unparalleled, and we understand the value of local business in the home buying decision. Many of our clients are second homeowners starting with a clean slate in regards to interior design. We partnered with other local businesses such as Lombardi’s Love Lane Market and Raphael Vineyards to offer realtors a unique gift to give their own clients. Through this collaborative effort, we offer the opportunity for the home buying process to transition into a lasting experience on the beautiful East End. We love working within the community – it’s a no brainer!