Hunter GathererGlobe-Trotting Interior Designer Opens East Hampton Design Emporium
Julia Grayson, who has designed houses in London (where she lived for many years), Paris, New York, Montana, Italy and Greenwich, Connecticut (where she lives), has hung her shingle in the Hamptons. Not only is she available for interior design, but she also opened her first retail space in the heart of East Hampton this past summer. Having spent childhood summers here, it felt like the right place.
The shop, called Grayson De Vere (after family names on her maternal line), is a reflection of its proprietor’s seasoned aesthetic. The soi-disant “hunter gatherer” feels that her store is more about “sharing than selling” the myriad of items she discovers from her many sources. Her hope is that customers will find a piece “that speaks to them and gives them that quick intake of breath,” she says.
“I see beauty in the design of so many things whether it’s architecture, furniture, fabric or artisanal goods,” she says. “I’m drawn to texture, tone, pattern, scale.” And all those characteristics are very much in evidence at her charming shop. During a tour Grayson exhibits great lashings of enthusiasm as she points out objects. Never mind point, she can’t seem to resist touching and holding the pieces as she shows them off.
There are the handsome lacquered lanterns from the Netherlands, great for summer and winter. They are colored chalk, one of the designer’s favorite colors. Not off-white, but very specifically chalk. The hue is everywhere from the Sunbrella upholstery on a chair made from recycled wood to a chalk and charcoal painting by Connecticut artist Margot Nimiroski.
Then there’s the boldly knit throw pillow by British fabric designer Rosemary Hallgarten. “There’s a rhythm to the knit.” Her fingers play with a sexy basket made of neoprene by neó design, an Italian company whose pieces including jewelry can be found at MOMA and the Guggenheim Museum. “Not everything has to be expensive.”
She shows a vase, by a Los Angeles potter, whose “fluidity” she loves. The stunning items keep coming. Another vase, this one glass, is from Germany and glazed with “subtle texture and tone.” A citronella candle with multiple wicks is “one of Oprah Winfrey’s favorite things.”
This shop is my opportunity to share the things I like best and hope they resonate with others. I offer the ability to combine a series of pieces that together settle into a space and give a certain finish.” She plans to open another shop in Greenwich.
A former investment banker at such firms as Bear Stearns, Grayson switched careers after working on her London home, which had belonged to John Lennon. While the architect she hired to transform the residence was “good on paper,” he fell down on the job in many ways. So she took classes at the Inchbald School of Design in Belgravia and became part of the design process, going so far as to do the lighting and plumbing schematics for the project. It helped that she had been a mathematician in her youth. “It was trial by fire.” But it’s what made her “passionate about interior architecture and interior design.”
When she moved back stateside in 2013 she found herself being pulled into luxury staging, a field that has become mandatory she believes due to the computer age. “We’re so used to images shown in rapid fire succession that it’s critical to present [the buyer with] the entire visual experience.”
Staging allows “homeowners to capture market attention, maximize property value and captivate a timely and dedicated buyer for those in the market.” Her 200,000-cubic-foot warehouse enables her to gather a mix of elements from her always evolving inventory of designer furnishings. “The result,” she says, “never appears staged.” But best of all: Her staged properties “sell well compared to others on the market.”
As part of her entrée into the Hamptons Grayson participated in this past summer’s Hampton Designer Showhouse. She was assigned the lower level, a challenging project because of its length. Her goal was “to create an immersive space that could hold its own but also break down into intimate areas.” She installed indigo wallpaper woven with a basket weave pattern (more of the texture she so adores); William Yeoward fabrics and rugs from London; chalk-colored sofas, and an assortment of spiky charcoal lamps and pottery. Of the pottery she says all pieces were chosen by intuition. It was only later that she realized the similarities. But they all worked to “create a cohesive sense of overall space despite the splitting up of areas.
“I love the art of transformation,” she says. “Design is meant to be something that evokes an emotive response. When you walk into a room you should feel it not just see it. Design is a serious art form but it should also be joyful, engaging, fun.”