Designer Crush: Cari Giannoulias


1. How did you get your start in design?

I moved to Chicago from LA where my husband and I decided to build our first home. I looked for a designer here but felt no one had my laid back LA sensibility. I wanted a home that felt beautiful but casual at the same time and so decided to try my hand at it.  It was an easy transition from my creative jobs in Los Angeles and fulfilled that artistic itch that I so desperately wanted to scratch. From there, it was friends and referrals that saw my work and really helped kick start my life in design.

2. Tell us about the time you spent working in the film and music industries.

What a ride…and I loved every minute of it. I had a wonderful experience in LA in the film and music businesses. I started at CAA as an assistant and from there went to work for Jersey Films and Records for their music division. My boss at the time also managed the Sex Pistols so I worked with them as well. Danny DeVito and Stacey Sher were the heads of Jersey and were truly amazing to work for. I also met my very best friend in the world working there and we are still thick as thieves today. From there, I went to work for Universal Pictures in the Motion Picture Marketing Department and oversaw the creative between big brands, talent, the film and the studio. Again, I was fortunate to work with some of the greatest people in the industry and will always have a very special place in my heart for all of them. Every job or experience I have had or place I have lived has added a layer to who I am as a designer today.

3. What are some of the travel destinations that have inspired you most and why?

Italy is a beautiful country and has such effortless style. Between the history, the architecture, the countryside- what isn’t there to love about it.  I have seen some of the best marblework in Italy and I’m constantly in awe of the vintage pieces I find from there.  

I would have to say though that I am most inspired by Greece and not because we spend a lot of time there, but because it has this way of being beautiful but grounded at the same time.  The ruins are monolithic but back dropped by the simplicity of the sea or the landscape.  The homes, the villages, the stores are charming without even trying.  It’s this idea of beauty undone.

4. What’s your process for getting to know a client?

I spend a lot of time in the initial meetings getting to know them- showing them images and seeing what they gravitate towards.  Asking questions about their lifestyle and how they spend time in their home is key.  This is most important because making a room look gorgeous is one thing but making it functional as well is much more difficult.  I think that most of my clients would say to you that they really do live in every space of their home.  My mantra is “Livable Luxury” because everyone wants their home to be beautiful but comfortable as well.

5. Who are some of your biggest influences and why?

I am constantly in awe of many designers work. Instagram is my new inspiration board because you are exposed to so many talented designers work from all over the world. I would say though that I have always been in love with Axel Vervoordt’s simplicity. Kathleen Clements is genius at mixing all design elements and Kelly Behun’s work is stunning.

6. If you could design the set of any movie, which would it be and why?

Boogie Nights is the first film that comes to mind- it has all the elements I need: Los Angeles, a mixture of the 70’s and 80’s and the transitions from casual to glam.

7. Dream celebrity client and why?

George and Amal Clooney hands down.  They both have an incredible sense of style so this would certainly translate to their home as well. They are both well-traveled so their collection of troves from over the years is most likely remarkable. Most importantly however is that they both seem to be lovely people with a sense of humor which would make the design process exactly what it should be- enjoyable.

Lightning round!

8. Skittles or M&Ms?


9. Early bird or night owl?

Early Bird.

10. Hit the gym or hit da club?

Would love to hit da club but should be at da gym.

11. T-shirt and jeans or dress and heels?

T-shirt and jeans.

12. Coffee or tea?

Coffee to perk me up, tea to make me go to bed. I have a lot of energy.

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