You might think that a designer based in and around the Hamptons would bring a breezy influence to her work—and you would be right. Debbie Gildersleeve’s designs often underscore a deep love of the ocean, with calm, cool color palettes and coastal charms. But the self-taught designer brings a unique flair to all of her endeavors, whether she is designing a cottage on the sand and a sleek apartment in the sky or sourcing new furnishings for Renee’s, her store in the Long Island hamlet of Mattituck. Gildersleeve’s distinctive eye, dexterity with color and scale, and her unique ability to mingle eclectic items and styles into a cohesive design belie her lack of formal training; they have also made her a favorite of discerning clients spanning from Long Island to Manhattan.
As we start to psychologically transition from lazy, sandy, summer days to autumn’s expectation and have-tos, we asked Gildersleeve to help us ease the interiors of our homes into a new season of chic.
Previews Inside Out What is your design mantra?
Debbie Gildersleeve I have a strong philosophy of designing homes for my clients, not myself. It is their vision I am bringing to life. I will guide a client in a direction I think not only meets their needs, but the needs and functionality of a specific room. By getting to know my clients, I can make their design dreams a reality.
Previews Inside Out What are some of your favorite ways to bring warmth into a space?
Debbie Gildersleeve I absolutely love mixing different types of lighting. High hats, accent lamps, dimmers, placing lighting on different levels in the same room, and so much more can create such a cozy and relaxing environment. I also love using candles for light to add a glow to a room. Cozy pillows and throws on a couch also bring warmth to a space.
Previews Inside Out Which decorating trends do you most love for fall?
Debbie Gildersleeve For fall, I love deeper tones of summer colors in furniture and décor, but in styles that will last. Popular summer colors like sea glass and shades of blue look great in deeper shades for fall as well. The problem with trends is they tend to move in and out quickly, and I try to choose pieces that are in style now, and will be in style for years to come.
Previews Inside Out What is your current fall obsession, fashion- or style-wise?
Debbie Gildersleeve One of the great things about fall is you have the opportunity to mix more materials in home décor and fashion as well. I love mixing suede and leather accent pieces with classic linens or canvas. Seemingly random things come together when done properly – like adding a leather chair to a room with a beige slipcover sofa. It adds layers and textures that are unexpectedly pleasant.
Previews Inside Out Which of your summer must-haves would you keep in your house as the leaves turn?
Debbie Gildersleeve Living on the East End of Long Island, there is a lot of beach-inspired décor in homes. Driftwood pieces are great in summer and fall, and of course candles are a must all year round. One other thing people may not realize is that your outdoor environment is part of the interior environment of your home. An outdoor fire pit in the fall is just as enjoyable, if not more so because you can make it cozier with outdoor sectionals on your porch, or even in the sand, adding pillows and a throw. I hold onto my outdoor décor as long as I can!
Previews Inside Out When we think of autumn, we tend to envision browns and burnt oranges. How would you reinterpret the traditional autumn color palette?
Debbie Gildersleeve I would reinterpret the traditional autumn color palette as leaning towards cooler colors in darker tones. Shades of sage green, coastal blues, and sea glass are great for fall and work well into the winter season also. Browns will always be popular in the autumn season, so I see darker wood tones and deeper sand colors as staples on the color palette as well.
Previews Inside Out You’ve described your personal style as “cozy-casual with clean lines.” How would you bring a touch of the Hamptons into the city?
Debbie Gildersleeve There are so many ways to bring a piece of the Hamptons into the city without overdoing it. Gray is a popular color right now for walls and furniture. It is a modern, neutral color that can be dressed up or down easily. To add the casual, beachy vibe, slipcover sofas are great for living rooms, along with accent pieces in beach-inspired colors like cool shades of blue, sand, and again sea glass. Driftwood accents such as lanterns, end tables, and trays are subtle additions as well. Mixing the textures freshens up the modern-city look.
Previews Inside Out The one space that everyone seems to gravitate to in the home is the kitchen—especially around the holidays. Do you have any ideas for quickly freshening up a kitchen?
Debbie Gildersleeve A quick and easy way to freshen up the kitchen is adding new accessories. Ceramic canisters, interesting platters, and new dishes bring fresh life to a kitchen. De-cluttering is important also – it’s amazing how different any space can look when you remove all of the unnecessary items. For those who are more ambitious, you can install a new backsplash, which there are several options that can be done yourself, or even paint the cabinets.
Previews Inside Out We’ve been hearing that the end of the open concept kitchen—the heart of the home—is near. What are your thoughts on that? Are your clients asking for open kitchens more or less than they were a few years ago?
Debbie Gildersleeve A lot of my clients are second homeowners from Manhattan and Nassau County, and I personally find they like the open-concept floor plan in general. I’ve worked with several clients on their renovations as part of the interior design process, and am finding they are opting to knocking down walls to open up the rooms. In my business, it is rare that a client would not want an open kitchen. It’s a concept I love myself, and I don’t think it will phase out just yet.
Previews Inside Out As a designer, what inspires you most about fall?
Debbie Gildersleeve The air gets crisper and cooler in the fall, which is inspiring because you can create a cozy ambience for your home. There’s so much you can do to create a warm atmosphere whether it be lighting the fireplace and adding more candles to a room, or subtly changing a room’s color by adding the darker accent pieces for fall. The holidays are around the corner, so you know you will be spending a lot more time with family and friends, and it’s great to have everyone together in a cozy, heartwarming place.
Previews Inside Out What are your favorite fall traditions in the Hamptons?
Debbie Gildersleeve The Maritime Festival in Greenport [September 25-27, 2015] really starts the fall season for me. It is a small harbor-side town, and there are many restaurants and shops that set up along the main streets for the weekend. Of course you have the corn mazes and pumpkin picking, and Briermere pies (a must try!). The East End is home to a lot of great wineries, and fall is the harvest season out here, so wine tasting is definitely a fun fall activity.