Thursday, November 19, 2009


Photos by Anna Wolf
New York based interior designer Sara Gilbane is setting the tone for a new generation of interior designers. Having just been named one of the Next Wave Designer's to watch on House Beautiful's list of 20 designers from around the country, she has been on my radar for awhile, so I am so excited to share her work. Gilbane learned the trade, developed her young trad style, and forged ahead, securing great projects and a loyal following along the way. After learning the ropes with Celerie Kemble, she struck out on her own. She loves bold yet traditional patterns and matching upholstered headboard fabric and window treatments. Her rooms come together with great antiques and fresh colors. Sara and I chatted recently about her design and what she is loving now.

Gilbane's West Village apartment, originally shot for Domino, is filled with things she loves--ikat fabric pillows and pretty prints pull her blue living room together.

Photos by Zach Desart
Brunschwig and Fils exotic red floral print jazzes up a headboard and matching bed hangings, making the room come to life. Framed French antique prints add a sense of history.

Touches of red and smaller printed fabrics complete this colorful and fresh scheme.

A well loved campaign chair sits at an antique blue Gustavian dresser with a pull down shelf that serves as a mini desk. A perfect place for jotting a thank you note.

A Florida bedroom incorporates pale grey lattice wallpaper with a glamorous purple tufted bench and jade ceramic garden seats.

An entry hall features an outstanding antique bulls eye mirror and custom Holland and Sherry fabric with pale blue border on the walls.

An interesting Antique rug mixes well with the trad bullion trim on the sofa and skirted table in this study. Since dogs add so much love and personality to a home, I had to show the client's darling Westie, who knows a good sofa when she sees it. David Easton always says dogs should be allowed on the furniture, I could not agree more.

A charming kitchen banquette with Country Swedish chairs include blue painted trim and blue and white fabrics of varying scale that is perfect for its country setting.

This formal dining room in a Florida home includes soft green lacquer walls and a full wall of antique mirror that opens up the space. Both were painted by Christopher Rollinson, the New York based decorative painter extraordinaire and friend, Christopher Rollinson. He has a great paint line called Rollinson Hues that will customize and create any paint color. A stunningly large antique silver chandelier sits above the table that seats 10. Gilbane has a great eye for antiques and color, creating a beautiful space for her clients to entertain in.

Gilbane at home, organizing books in her built in bookcase.

Her scheme boards include a mix of ethnic prints, florals, and lattice-detailed furniture.


Who did you work for/study to learn the trade?
Celerie Kemble- Kemble Interiors- invaluable experience. She taught me everything I know.

What is your signature look? How would you define it?

Traditional with a modern twist. I like spaces to be warm, sophisticated and livable. The space should reflect my client not me! Many people think modern is hard clean lines or that is is cold. Modern is taking pieces from all periods and rearranging them, reupholstering them, refinishing them in a modern way. I love to use unique and sassy wallpapers in unexpected places for a bit of fun.

When did you know this was your calling in life?

At a young age, I was very happy rearranging my bedroom my siblings bedrooms, in college I took on my friends bedrooms. Growing up with my father in real estate and development I was constantly on job sights and I realized the importance of design on a large scale. You big picture vision is very helpful in pulling together an entire home.

What other designer and or architect do you most admire and why ?

Peter Dunham, Ruthie Sommers, Miles Redd, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Kelly Wearstler, Carrier and Co. Their use of color, scale, and the ability to give you something unexpected is very inspiring to me.
Architect: Gil Schafer. I adore his work. He knows that the details are what makes the end product amazing.

What is your favorite go to fabric house/collection or singular fabric?

John Rosselli NYC for fabrics- they have SO MANY amazing designers in their showroom.
Robert Kime, John Robshaw, Kathryn Ireland, Sister Parish, Elizabeth Eakins, Michael Devine, Peter Dunham...there are too many to name just one.

What material do you love?

I love thick high quality linen. Plain or with a wild pattern. The linen gives the pattern ( floral, graphic) depth and is always nice and soft. I am also a huge fan of grass cloth. It lends instant warmth to a room when a simple ivory grass cloth is used or high drama when using a saturated jewel tone grass cloth. Texture keeps the eye interested. With these textures I like to throw in a whole myriad of materials - wood, metal, shell, sisal, bone, antiques mirror. You always need a mix to make a space feel like home.

What is your favorite antique you own and reproduction collection you constantly use as a resource?

My favorite antique I own is a pair of white alabaster lamps with black shades that flank a sofa in my living room. Gorgeous and so heavy you would not believe! I LOVE Chelsea Textiles furniture collection. Fabulous Gustavian reproductions without the naughty bill. Oscar De La Renta's collection for century is another fave.

What is your favorite project and why?

It is tough to pick a favorite.....any project where my client gets excited about the end product is a huge reward for me. I get so excited about the new drapes or wallpaper and when I client walks in and loves it as much as I do it is a great feeling. Interior design is about giving the client a polished, pulled together version of their dream space, not forcing my vision down their throats. It is wonderful to be able to collaborate with someone, get inside their head, and give them a bedroom, living room, or dining room that they have been dreaming about. Layering is another very important aspect of design. My website,,
includes some of my favorite projects where I was able to layer till my hearts content.

What trade or retail store inspires you most?

Lee Jofa and John Rosselli are my two favorite trade sources because they upholster their furniture line and dress their walls in all of their amazing fabrics. Mecox Gardens is a great store- it has locations all over the country and carries a huge selection of vendors so you have the ability to look for several clients at once! Sentimento Antiques is drool worthy. Their antique furnishings and accessories are stunning and make all the difference in my clients homes. Treillage is their antiques store on Lexington and their furniture store on 75th Street has wonderful unique pieces ( modern and antique) and of course 1st dibs. This website is amazing. I can shop for one of a kind items for clients looking through antiques stores all over the world while sitting on my sofa!

What is your favorite new and old interior book?

Favorite new book- Jeffrey Bilhuber Defining Luxury- the colors, the fabrics, the details. I love it.
Though not too old Bunny Williams An Affair with a House. This is rural bliss. So chic and lots of beautiful photos of the grounds of her home.

What country house in America do you most love?

Oscar de La Rentas in Kent is pretty spectacular..... I also love the old homes in Newport, RI.

If you were not doing this what would you do?

Hmmmm, I would probably be an art teacher for kids or a DJ- art and music are two huge influences. Both fields involve creativity, passion, and fun.

What city or town do you visit to inspire you?

Traveling anywhere is inspiring! Though I live in New York City it is still top of the list. Paris, the Greek islands, Hawaii, London....I could go on forever. I think it is very important to get a fresh perspective. It jolts my creative side into high gear and I can't wait to start my next project. In between clients I like to hop on a plane and visit somewhere new and exciting. It is great to be out of your element/ comfort zone.

What are your favorite shops?

John Derian’s shop on the Lower East Side
Bergdorf Goodman
Sharyn Blond linens
Oscar De La Renta
Blair Voltz Clarke for art -
John Robshaw


Dumbwit Tellher said...

What a great, great post on a very talented young designer. I love her style. Comes across as effortless, livable, and timeless. Looking forward to years of exciting designs from Sara. Thanks for sharing more about her. x

A.A.B.B. said...

So excited to see you feature Sara - she is a true talent!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Modern Furniture

What Antique Furniture said...

I like your style Anna and i hope i will become one of your followers

vineshkumar said...

Thanks for posting this very informative article. I have learned a lot. Cheers to a wonderful 2010!
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Unknown said...

Just saw this after her lonny magazine article and house beautiful mention. Wow- super talented and gorgeous to boot! Have you seen her new blog- travel for design on her website totally inspiring!

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