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Bedroom by Emily Gillis

Domain Road with Emily Gillis

Emily Gillis is a rising star, bringing the keen attention to detail she cultivated as a graphic designer and art director into her new venture in the world of interiors. With Domain Road, the Melbourne-based creative has utterly transformed a run-of-the-mill apartment into an oasis of calm, replete with custom built-ins, handmade tiles and furnishings that are as elevated as they are inviting. Below, she shares her career journey and what’s next on the horizon.

Photography by Sean Fennessy

Living room by Emily Gillis
Living room by Emily Gillis

What was the first piece of design that really mattered to you?

The Heide Museum of Modern Art, also known as ‘Heide’, was the first time I can remember being in awe of design. Heide is located in Heidelberg, in Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country, the place where I grew up. Its modernist design, situated in a rural setting, is what resonates with me. The area surrounding Heide is full of native parks, the river Birrarung (Yarra), and lots of walking tracks and creeks, which I can remember exploring as a child Heidi comprises vast masses of Mount Gambier limestone, surprising voids and tight walkways, floor-to-ceiling glass plates, and beautifully framed views of nature. It matters to me, as it was a place where artists, architecture and nature met in a harmonious manner.

Assorted textile samples

Coming from a creative family, do you think it was inevitable you’d end up working in a creative field? Or do you think creativity is something that can be cultivated?

Well, my brother has managed to dodge the creative field, so perhaps it wasn’t inevitable! However, growing up and still today, my creative interests have very much been nurtured and encouraged by my family. Anyone pursuing a creative career needs supportive people around them to really flourish. Creativity requires lots of play, some unconventional decision-making, refinement and realization. So much is built from the ground up, and original thinking usually originates outside of existing frameworks. I think creativity requires a combination of being nurtured and encouraged, as well as continuing to learn and cultivate your craft.

Kitchen designed by Emily Gillis
Bathroom designed by Emily Gillis

You’re from Melbourne, which is home to a beautiful mix of architectural styles. What are some of your favorite buildings and spaces around the city?

My favorite restaurant in Fitzroy North is called Neighbourhood Wine, which fills me with warmth as soon as I step inside. The timber-paneled walls, outstretched ceiling fans, dimly lit rooms and wines stacked to the ceiling in wrought-iron shelving, create a sense of other-worldliness. Down the road from this bar is the Melbourne suburb of Carlton North, where I live. I love it for its wide streets and late Victorian-style terrace houses. The buildings tightly shoulder up to one another and have their own names and personalities. Front door colors are carefully chosen and the small, flower-filled front yards are framed by wrought iron gates.

Living room designed by Emily Gillis

"Less has always been more for me, and I prefer quality over quantity. This is my basic design ethos, and my starting point for thinking about all projects."

You started off your career as a graphic designer and art director. How do you think that training and experience have influenced your eye as an interior designer?

My work as a graphic designer and art director gave me great foundational experience with designing and delivering creative suites for clients. These skills translate directly into my interior design work. My graphic design experience has provided me with fanatical attention to detail, layout and placement of items. I take great care to consider every aspect of a given project, from space and layout to color and texture palettes.

Once you entered the world of interiors, how did you hone your aesthetic? How would you describe your style?

Less has always been more for me, and I prefer quality over quantity. This is my basic design ethos, and my starting point for thinking about all projects. I am drawn to material and texture, intelligent and economical design, and cozy little ‘moments’ or spaces that provide comfort.

Bedroom designed by Emily Gillis
Bedroom designed by Emily Gillis

We’re enamored with your Domain Road project! What was your brief, and which design elements do you think really brought the space to life?

My brief was to transform a compact, ground-floor apartment with a south-facing aspect, into an urban retreat. It was an opportunity to celebrate small, domestic environments by focusing on the core elements of space, tactility and tone.

The apartment features a new built-in banquette seat under the window that offers a cozy reading nook/afternoon drink perch with hidden storage, a built-in Botticino marble dining table in the place of a pre-existing wall, and a poky bathroom re-imagined as a ‘day spa’, with tactile Moroccan Zellige tiling to the ceiling, a custom travertine wash trough and a cobblestone floor.

Bathroom designed by Emily Gillis

We’re honored to have our Etoile rug featured in the living room. What considerations are front of mind when you are choosing a rug for a space?

Rugs have personalities, and I particularly like large rugs, as they add warmth underfoot. I knew straight away that Etoile was the perfect fit for Domain Road, as it has interesting texture breakups and an elegant grey color that echoes the rest of the interior.

We strongly believe in buying fewer but better things. What are your reasons for investing in quality, timeless pieces?

It is important to steer away from disposable trends that encourage perpetual spending and, consequently, environmental waste. Well-made, considered pieces also create a sense of groundedness and stability in the home. If you spend time selecting good-quality pieces that you love, you will feel joy and satisfaction every time you enter the space.

Brass handles and knobs
Brass knobs

Tell us a bit about your collaboration with Zachary Frankel on a capsule range of bespoke hardware. How did that come about? Is it something you are looking to expand on?

A large part of my work involves sourcing fixtures for residential and commercial projects. Unique and intriguing designs are much harder to come by than off-the-shelf products, so I have teamed up with furniture maker and sculptor Zachary Frankel to design a bespoke range. We have come up with ‘The Egg’ and ‘The Croissant’. The Egg is a smooth, minimal cabinet knob brimming with texture and a buoyant character. The Croissant offers an elegant geometric design with a lively character. They are both bronze cast and come in a variety of sizes and patinas. They have been flying off the shelf, and we are so excited to design the next series!

Living room designed by Emily Gillis

What’s keeping you creatively stimulated right now?

I have been building up my design book library during lockdown. I am currently reading a book on the French architect and designer Charlotte Perriand. It’s a great companion and source of inspiration for thinking about beautiful and functional contemporary design. I also find it important to spend time reflecting at the end of each day. I usually go for a walk or have a bath to unwind and let my thoughts gather and regenerate. These daily practices help me to mark my progress and make space for thinking about ideas that may have otherwise gone unattended.

Finally, we can’t help but ask – what’s your favorite Armadillo rug to have underfoot?

I really love the Heirloom Collection. These rugs are made from luxurious hand-knotted wool, which reflects the light to create a distinctive yet timeless look and feel. I’m drawn to the restrained aesthetic and texture of these rugs; they reflect my own design ethos in their quality and longevity.

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