This June, under the Interior Designer's View section of our Journal, we are featuring a long-anticipated impact-driven Vancouver design studio founded by Creative Director Gaile Guevera of GGS STUDIO.
Gaile’s connection to design started way back, as far back as she was a little girl.
“I learned to write with a Staedtler pencil on vellum paper. My sister and I were fortunate to have a father in the graphic arts and a mother in political science & literature. As kids we grew up in Calgary Alberta and had the freedom to play outside often, TV was limited so we were left to our imagination.”
Many years on, Gaile's award-winning studio has created stunning interior design projects along the Pacific Northwest, including a magnificent multi-generational home in Vancouver and another that is becoming Canada’s first residential project to be holding 6 petal certifications under the Living Building Challenge.
Gaile's sustainable design mission is ambitious yet philanthropic. Take a read for yourself.
Tell us a little about yourself and your story in becoming an interior designer?
“From an early age, the creative freedom of drawing greatly influenced my interest in the arts and sciences. My mother enrolled me in a special art program for trauma recovery when I was eight years old—In the eighties, a typical art class was focused on craft, and very rarely the connection between art and science was made. In this special class of six girls, we studied memory by learning about patterns found in the beauty of the natural environment."
Art therapy was one of the single most influential types of learning that enabled Gaile to cope and navigate through a very confusing and difficult time during her youth. “I fall back to these basic concepts often and to this day, that understanding allows me to see behavioural patterns. I’ve since learned how the cognitive brain interprets a built environment and how our emotional connection to physical spaces is integral to our sense of safety and well-being.”
Gaile found herself fascinated with architecture and design at Kwantlen after high school and decided to apply for the interior design program. By graduation, she was employed by a local developer through her summer job. “I was fortunate to be mentored by some amazing women. Although I enjoyed high-end residential work, I started to lose interest when the focus was more on aesthetics than the actual architecture. I found I wasn’t challenged by the typography of work and I recognized I needed change.”
Gaile met her partner in New York, which allowed her to work freelance in Vancouver while exploring New York and eventually she fell in love with both cities. And later on, an opportunity opened up in Vancouver when she decided to bring what she’d learned in New York to her home city.
How did GAILE GUEVARA STUDIO come about?
Gaile Guevara Studio was founded nine years ago when her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers. “Turning down several offers to work for other architectural companies, I decided to create a design studio. I knew at that time that I wouldn’t be able to manage projects on my own and balance the care for my family in the same way.”
“Creating a studio at first was to help me manage projects so I could take on medical appointments and care programs for my family.” Not long after founding her studio, she realized that she longed to create a workplace environment where women could work on impactful projects while also have the ability to care for their own families.
The studio has grown organically as its projects grow. "We’ve been so fortunate to find team members who share the same values.”
How would your clients describe GAILE GUEVARA's design approach?
Gaile is known for her attention to detail and her understanding of the long-term impact of design decisions. “Respectful of budgets and target deadlines, always open to a collaborative working relationship.” are some of the words that reflect her service.
Clients of Gaile Guevara Studio would describe her as “Hyper-focused on the functional requirements that are unique to each client.”
One thing that separates your firm from others?
“Transparency - we believe as retail shifts to online and curated experiences, creating value comes with being transparent around how things are made and where they come from. Our goal as a studio is to empower each of our clients to access the best quality available no matter the price point. This commitment is what we hope will optimize the best results of any project.”
“Gaile Guevara Studio is an impact-driven interior design studio rooted in sustainable practices and grounded in the belief that good design should be accessible to everyone”—We just love this statement!
How do you think the pandemic has reshaped your role as an interior designer?
“As a global market, consumers have been forced to stay at home. As a result, they have learned to appreciate what they have taken for granted—The pandemic has impacted a wider range of consumers to place more value on their homes. As designers, I hope to help foster a deeper sense of connection to how improving home environments impacts mental health.”
“Our responsibility to our clients has become even greater especially when it comes to the impact of a project on the environment. While providing full turnkey design services, we’ve been fortunate to build great relationships with suppliers”
What is your take on sustainable design?
“Reduce - this is the single most impactful way each of us can help contribute to improving our impact on the environment. Consuming less and reusing what we already have.
Sustainability begins with supporting local businesses, makers and artisans wherever possible and investing more time in sourcing and selecting quality made products. Our goal is to reduce the overall consumption of clients by helping give access to better quality products and creating connections to companies that share similar values - ethically made and environmentally conscious.”
What are some of the interior trends you are seeing this year?
"Health and wellness are becoming integral to consumers. As mental and health issues arise, there is a much greater desire to become a more aware consumer- especially when it comes to sleep!”
“Sleep has become more and more important as our clients manage busy schedules. Our studio has put a greater effort to improve bedroom interiors where details range from selecting products to designing custom bed solutions to help optimize sleep. Clients are investing in the quality of their mattresses, pillows, bedding inserts, and bed linens. The introduction of sound machines and smell enhancement like essential oil diffusers to humidifiers and air filters to improve air quality. Temperature-controlled sleeping devices to moderate heat/cooling, air circulation, individual enhanced lighting controls with wider dimming ranges.”
“The bedroom is becoming an indicator of the health benefits of improving the design at home. Supporting research shows how beneficial sleep is for memory function. But sleep isn’t just good for your memory; it can actually reduce your risk of dementia.”
“Over the past decade, prioritizing work from home environments for clients in the tech industry has been an area of focus long before the pandemic. Now, we are seeing less focus on larger homes and more investment in restorative work. We are now focused on the conversion of garages into gyms, offices to guest houses, or auxiliary buildings being converted into home art studios or home schools.”
“Multi-generational living is a model of home I believe is the future for helping stabilize the ability for people to live at home for as long as possible with less impact on our health care system—By helping improve the design of homes, we can allow for the adaptability to provide care in a more sustainable process. The benefits of multi-generational living are becoming widely recognized: financial support, mutual benefits for young and old through childcare, decreased physical and emotional isolation for aging grandparents, as well as emotional bonding and closeness across generations.
Creating micro-communities within communities where families can help one another by living within a property allows for a more viable financial alternative to long-term care. Home is the new healthcare. Designing 100-year life cycles allow us to see opportunities for families to be empowered by their home.”
- “Increased interest to improve a connection to outdoor spaces is becoming more and more integral to our work. To help balance between private and personal spaces, we explore biophilic design.
What are your criteria or tips on choosing a good set of beddings?
“Invest slowly over purchasing quickly. It’s much better to invest in good bedding over time as your budget allows, rather than trying to buy all at once only to end up with a product that won’t perform. 1 set of pillowcases and a fitted sheet as your baseline, then transition as your budget allows you to invest in a duvet, coverlet, and flat sheet.”
“Whenever possible, support local companies who provide the best level of quality available to you.”
“Ultimately plan for 2 sets of bedding for each bedroom so you always have a clean set of sheets ready. We sometimes recommend a light and dark set so you can alternate and have a feeling of refreshment with each season—Lighter tones for spring-summer and darker tones for fall and winter. Colour & tonal shades can enhance how light enters a room and how one perceives natural daylight.”
- “Good Linen is worth investing in and gets better over time. Breathable textiles that help moderate temperature are some of the key essentials to quality sleep. We suggest organic linen or 100% cotton as an alternative.”
- “Depending on the amount of natural daylight that enters your bedroom we opt for natural or light colour tones so fading is reduced. Darker colours help in darker rooms to bring a sense of warmth. Colour should be chosen based on how you feel over aesthetics. If you love colour, choose what you enjoy most.”
What do you love about Sömn bedding and why?
“I lived in Gastown for over thirteen years and fell in love with the community of local restaurants and shops. I was especially delighted to have a retail shop called Örling & Wu that become an integral part of the neighbourhood.
Ever since this discovery, I’ve been an admirer of their story. We love supporting local businesses and wherever we can, we want our Vancouver clients to be more aware of what is available and easily accessible. I have great respect for business owners who have helped shape our historic Gastown. As a vulnerable neighbourhood, it’s business owners like Frederik and Julie whose efforts are to be well celebrated.
Sömn bedding is a cumulation of all their experience with quality products and so there is a sense of trust in knowing they are advocates for quality. We love companies like Sömn who are passionate about their product offerings while providing the level of customer service that reflects the quality of home we hope everyone can enjoy. Most importantly, we love their efforts to educate around sustainability as this is where we see the future of products is essential."
What kinds of projects have you been working on recently and are looking forward to?
"In the Fall of 2020, I moved into the garden suite of one of our special projects, ‘Fullhouse’—This multigenerational home was designed in collaboration with Leckie Studio and has recently won several architectural awards.
This opportunity allowed our studio to transition into a fully remote studio and I am in the process of setting up my home and workspace as a curated experience. My goal is to create a case study and a GGS STUDIO - Living Lab of all the products and companies we admire. For our design team members and clients, this living lab offers the chance to experience and test products. We are excited to set up and rotate the interior to reflect the companies we enjoy collaborating with.
In addition to multi-generational home design, we are fortunate to work on Canada’s first residential project to be registered for 6 petal certifications under the Living Building Challenge. Our collective efforts are to source sustainable products that are Red List Free. In collaboration with HCMA & Insightful Homes, our ambition with this project is to set the bar for how we move to more sustainable project builds.
The cumulative effort is to then share the project with our industry peers and the general public after 1 year of operation so that the next generation can take what we’ve learned and achieve higher building standards. Our learnings and research will be submitted to the Living Building Challenge global database as part of the ongoing open-source platform where case studies around the world share resources.
This summer we are completing 3 large projects in California: Portola Valley, Los Altos Hills, and Healdsburg."