Designer Crush: Marc Normand Gelinas


1. How did you get your start in the design world?

In the seventh grade, my art teacher took me to Providence, Rhode Island to get good art supplies. I saw this magazine with a picture of a four-poster canopy bed and dolls. The magazine was Architectural Digest. I looked through the magazine and thought, “I would love to design like this.” I’ve always been interested in housing and floor plans. I eventually applied to Pratt Institute, was hired right out of school by a society designer, and I’m been doing high-end interior design for the past 30 years.

2. How did living in New York and Paris influence your perspective on style and design?

In New York, I went to work for designer Gary Crain — he helped influence the importance of antiques and fabric in design. I love the grace of pre-war buildings and scale of the rooms. I think in New York, we certainly design for nighttime living. In 1993, I went to Paris for the first time and fell in love with French design. I’ve spent a lot of time there, and it’s my go-to place for recharging and shopping for both fashion and products. I also love antique shopping; the French have a fluidity to their architecture and pieces with this natural ease and elegance that I love. This is what I try to bring to all my projects, no matter the style — a lightness.

3. What is your process for getting to know clients and personalizing each project to fit their needs?

I think I have an innate sense of clients’ personalities from the onset, how they carry themselves, etc. I always walk through empty houses clients are considering purchasing. I listen to clients talk about themselves, their past, and the home itself to get a sense of who they are. I present finishes at the job site in the light of the home. I always ask the same questions: “How do you live? Do you entertain formally or informally? Do you put your feet up on coffee table or sit more proper?” This leads to how furniture should feel and look. This helps me tailor each home to my clients.

4.  Having consulted on projects on both coasts, how do you feel East Coast and West Coast interior design aesthetics differ?

Natural lighting is different, but seasons are important — one must design a house to look good in all four seasons. So in New York, you make the house warmer, in L.A., bring outside colors in: the ocean landscape, greens, sands, beiges. When designing with color, I use those as the influence; if there are reds, I make sure to use blue. On the East Coast, I design around nighttime living and entertaining because people mostly work in offices rather than their apartments.

5. What’s your idea of a dream vacation and why?

Paris — I always enjoy Paris. I feel comfortable there. I love the culture and the people. I also love going someplace with architecture I’ve rarely seen — India or Granada, Spain.

6. What is the one movie you wish you could have designed the set for and why?

Farewell my Queen — I love historic architecture and period rooms! I would love to design an escape, so it would be great to do a movie.

7. Who would be your dream celebrity client and why? Any ideas for how you’d outfit their home?

Coco Chanel — it would be incredible to design a California residence for her with her Paris aesthetic. I’d love to take her classic French antiques with modern upholstery from browns, gold, and cremes to brighter colors. I’d give her home more of a daytime feel. Nothing like a rock crystal chandelier in California light.

8. Ice cream or fro yo?

Ice cream.

9. Camping or glamping?

Glamping but my idea of glamping is the George Sanc in Paris during a black out.

10. Yoga or bootcamp?

Cooking school, please.

11. Jewel tones or pastels?

Jewel tones.

12. Rock or hip hop?

Rock. Ella Fitzgerald on my record.

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