At Home: Designer driven by risk factor 

As an interior designer and event producer, it’s often Gillian Shenon’s job to encourage her clients to take risks.

“I try to encourage my clients to see things differently than just the standard way. There’s more than one way of looking at design,” she says. “Not everything has to match.”

The same philosophy holds true for her eclectic two-bedroom Cole Valley apartment, which she’s been living in for 3½ years. Common themes and textiles — such as wicker accents, Moroccan-inspired tile tables and rich-pattered fabrics — lend a connective feel throughout her home, but she doesn’t stick to just one style or aesthetic. Shenon weaves older pieces that she’s had for years with finds from antique stores, flea markets and even the likes of Pier 1 Imports and Crate & Barrel.

“When I used to work with Rebecca Bradley, she would say, ‘There should be something old in every room,’” Shenon says. “I’ve collected a lot of different pieces in here over the years, through my travels. They represent different phases in my life.”

Shenon began collecting fabrics as a teen, and her eye for patterns shows. Using fabrics, she’ll often take a piece and rework it to give it new life and color. Personal touches include recovering the pillows on a Restoration Hardware outdoor sofa that now doubles as a couch and guest bed in her office; Laura Ashley fabric that she’s had for more than 20 years covers the cushions on the window ledge in her bedroom.

Her ingenuity shows in her ability to mix and match. Her warm, inviting dining room is a perfect example: When given just four rolls of pink-and-green wallpaper from some friends, she decided to accent one wall to give the room a point of interest, offsetting more formal Asian-inspired cabinets and a refinished, round dining table.

All in all, her style is one that doesn’t stay within the box. “I’m not conservative or traditional in my design, or in any aspect of my life, really,” Shenon says. “I always try to throw something in that’s a little off.”

Style keys


Design style: Organic eclectic

Notable design elements: Brightly colored and richly patterned fabrics, flea market finds, wicker accents, pops of color, cottage-inspired furniture

Favorite room: The dining room. “I think it has a lot of personality, and I love the views on both sides of the room. It’s important to set a mood in the dining room, and this room has a great mood. My friends and I like to pull up my two wicker chairs and have a drink overlooking the view.”

Room where she spends the most time: The office. “I didn’t want it to feel too much like an office. I plucked a lot of my favorite items from my Truckee cabin to put in here.”

Favorite local stores: Coup d’Etat, Garden Court Antiques, Candace Barnes, Past Perfect, the Alameda flea market. “I also love traveling and exploring stores in New York and Los Angeles. It’s refreshing to see something new.”

Favorite design magazines: “I get all of the design magazines, like Elle Décor and House and Garden. Domino has some great real-life decorating ideas. I really love Cote Sud, Cote Est and Cote Ouest. I get them from this little store in St. Helena.”

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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