Interview on Interior Design with Marcelle Guilbeau



Many people tell me that they would like to redecorate their home. I am not an interior design expert, so I took the liberty of interviewing Nashville area interior designer, Marcelle Guilbeau for some of her thoughts on what people should know about interior design.

James: So what do you think is important for people to know about interior design, from a practical perspective?   After all, a lot of life’s decisions, no matter how we care to admit it, have to do with emotions.  Wouldn’t you say that putting together the home décor at least in some part involves emotion in order to truly be practical?  For example, say I buy a sweater, but then it turns out I hate it.  Consequently, there is no utility for me as it just sits in my closet!

Marcelle:  Right!  Say you’ve just bought your first home, and you need a living room full of furniture.  So you go out and buy it all for a deal.  Then a few weeks pass by, and now it’s not working – you just don’t know what’s wrong.  You’ve spent $300 or $3,000 or even $30,000 – but now that money’s gone.  So yeah, it’s like the sweater.  Only the sweater can sit in the closet, but the living room furniture is now making you miserable!

James:   Given that we really should give some thought to the stuff we have in our houses – if we’re going to be spending all this money on it – how important is it that we discover our own style?

Marcelle:  It’s just like your wardrobe:  if you get it right, you feel good about yourself, confident and comfortable.  And when you do get it right, you save yourself the time and money of making costly mistakes.

James:  What are some indicators that someone’s not living their own style?

Marcelle:  Some things I hear are, “I need to get the grandma out of my house”:  That means you’ve inherited family furniture that’s outdated and not you.  Or, “I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but it still feels unfinished”:  You’re looking for clarity and a sense of your own identity.  Or, “I just want to feel like a grownup”:  You’re ready to get grounded in your own house– your own life!   Or, “I can’t believe I did it again!” – splurged on a bunch of tchotchkes, but it didn’t do the trick.

James:  So how do you help someone discover their own style?

Marcelle:  It’s a very back-and-forth process.  When I meet with someone, I have in the back of my mind four design styles:  traditional, modern, practical, and whimsical.  I like to help people not only find their own style, but blend it with other tastes in their own way – and that’s what makes it their own personal style.  So for instance, I had a client recently who asked, “Can you combine the Shaker (traditional, practical) style with Modern?”  She had lots of inherited family pieces from her family that were in that simple Shaker style, and she wanted to update her master bedroom to be very urban loft feeling, with some lush sensuality (whimsical style – good for “rejuvenation) sprinkled in.  What we came up with was so cool, and so totally her!

James:  What about couples, where each individual has a very different sense of style?  How do you blend those two so each is happy?

Marcelle:  I get a lot of detail on their individual “styles”.  Then I find likes they share in common.  We start building a design palette that they both like, together.  For instance, one husband’s taste was “modern” and the wife’s was “traditional”.  She likes furniture that looks like furniture.  But it turns out the husband doesn’t mind the overall traditional shape of traditional style furniture.  He’s more of a minimalist who prefers simple forms over lots of detail.  In exploring the wife’s definition of “traditional”, she was really part traditional, and part “whimsical” – sensual and romantic. So we found some midcentury furniture styles that they both liked.  He appreciated the simplified forms and clean color palette we put together;  she got to have her whimsy channeled in rich colors, textures and patterns in the fabrics and wallpapers.

James:  Let’s say someone has gone through the entire process, figuring out their style and implementing it.  Do you find people feel more comfortable, and less inclined to escape?  Do you think they are more in balance, at peace?

Marcelle:  Absolutely.  One woman who worked with me recently said, “I can’t believe it.  I just want to come home, and be in my living room.  I never want to go out!”  Another lovely couple, some empty nesters, designed a dream home with me and David, in the English Country style on some property they love.  They are “traditional” (they love their family, and wanted all to feel welcome to visit) yet “practical” – they wanted a house that was easy to clean and maintain.  Since they’ve moved in, certain aging family members have fallen ill, and they have been able to take them in and care for them in their home in relative comfort.  Though it may sound sad, I think they are getting tremendous value out of this.

James:  Would it then be fair to say if you truly find your own style, you become at peace with your home, and you may not need as much?  That’s to say, you may not be spending time and money to scratch some itch that can’t be satisfied otherwise.

Marcelle:  Absolutely, that’s absolutely right.

James:   Marcelle’s going to be giving a workshop soon on “finding your own style”, where you too can become at peace with your home.  It’ll be on February 2nd, at the University School of Nashville’s Evening Classes.  You can register for it at

If you want to know more about the class itself, check out Marcelle’s website at