Q&A With Breeze Giannasio
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Breeze Giannasio: I remember being design-obsessed as far back as my memory allows. I was one of those kids pushing furniture around the house from the moment I was strong enough and designing Ewok villages in the trees nonstop. When our palm trees were cleaned (I’m from Hawaii), I was the first out in the yard, claiming palm fronds for outdoor forts and other creations. In junior high, I even biked to Home Depot and designed, cut, and painted robin’s egg blue panels in a gilt frame to lend architectural detail to my childhood bedroom! Thankfully, my parents tolerated me treating our house like my personal canvas.
Given these proclivities, law school was an unusual choice. After 10 years of practice post-Harvard Law, I came to my senses and went back to school in DC and Denmark for a Masters in Interior Architecture. I honed my skills at an architecture firm for a few years, mentored with hospitality icon Michael Bedner and then opened my own firm, and I loved every moment of the circuitous journey. Life is too short not to pursue your passion!
C: How would you describe your style?
BG: Timeless, thoughtfully crafted and full of meaning. I work in a variety of styles, but I’m a collector at heart and a curator of meaning and beauty. I like my interiors to tell the story of their inhabitant – there is nothing more personal than how we live. It weaves together personal narrative – where we’ve been and where we want to go. It’s both testimonial and aspirational.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
BG: I’m constantly inspired by travel, by art and nature. I’m an observer and visually encyclopedic so I find I’m constantly taking mental snapshots and filing them away for future use.
C: Favorite room in the house?
BG: I absolutely adore libraries. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with books and have a huge collection in my own home. Bookstores feel like modern day temples to me. In this day and age, many people are eliminating paper from their lives, but when I get to do a library or home office for that matter, I absolutely revel in it. A handsome paneled room with excellent lighting and beautiful detailing, composed to celebrate special collections… What’s not to love? Quiet, intimate, contemplative spaces resonate with my bookish, introverted, artistic personality.
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
BG: Rules are made to be broken! That said, you have to know and understand “the rules” to run counter to them effectively. The most innovative design is often at odds in one way or another with design convention… Perhaps it’s playing with scale, direction, pattern or color in an unexpected way.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
BG: I tend to focus on residential work, though I’m working on a proposal for a new hotel in Hawaii now that is near and dear to my heart. We’re coming up with a new vocabulary of modern Hawaiian chic – I find myself drawing on my Hawaiian upbringing, my global nomadic life and my background in modern architecture and hospitality design. It’s an extremely personal project that has taken a lifetime to be prepared to undertake!
C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
BG: I have so many favorites! In tone on tone, monochromatic or modern rooms, texture becomes key to create visual layers and warmth. I’ve been gravitating towards luxe Belgian linens, nubby white shearlings, and distressed saddle leather recently. In terms of pattern, I love a chevron, herringbone or houndstooth! I’m always inspired by ancient geometries as well (Greek, Phoenician, Islamic, etc). Color? Moody blues, grays, inky blacks, but as a former painter, I love an inventive or unexpected palette – usually in sophisticated, desaturated hues!
C: What is “good design” to you?
BG: Good design solves problems. It’s not about looking good, though it does indeed look good! I’m a believer in Dieter Rams’ iconic tenets of good design as applied to interiors. It’s innovative, aesthetic, honest, thorough, and in addition to all of these things, it’s responsive to concrete needs, functional, and high performing. I start with function with all of my projects and ensure that the goals of the project and client are met while looking beautiful!
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
BG: Oooo – I’d live at the Louisiana Museum outside of Copenhagen! It was built upon a charming historic villa with a juxtaposition of modern wings that seamlessly integrate nature. Breathtaking views of Sweden across the sound, sculpture gardens, and amazing Danish design make it hard to beat. All my favorite things in one place!
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
BG: Lighting is key! Avoid harsh overhead lighting – you want your guest looking and feeling good, after all and downward shadows cast from above doesn’t do favors for anyone! Having a low, dimmable light coming from a multiplicity of sources in warm tones is best. And candle light is always a nice touch for that extra warm, cozy glow.
C: Best advice for DIYers?
BG: Know your limits and enlist experienced help where needed! We’ve all had those well-meaning but botched exercises, inspired by Pinterest, Instagram, etc. I consider myself a crafty person and am a wizard with a staple gun, but I let my upholsterer handle custom pillows with leather piping, for example.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
BG: Do your research and hire folks with great reviews and an aesthetic that you love and extensive experience in what you’re asking them to do. People do their best work when the design resonates with their taste and aesthetic. Avoid the square peg, round hole conundrum.
C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
BG: Timeless design is always in style. I try to avoid trends! That said, I’m digging the resurgence of the curved minimal sofas of the ’70’s, done in a modern palette.
C: How do you take your coffee?
BG: First thing in the morning, religiously. Two shots of espresso with whole milk in a Royal Copenhagen cup on a lovely inlay tray. In bed. With my dog, Jackie, at my feet.