Eclectic Chemistry: The Colorful Interior Designs of Ghislaine Viñas

This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s blog Luxury Defined.

Decorating and designing have always been important to Ghislaine Viñas, who was born in the Netherlands, before moving to South Africa as a child, and on to New York as an adult. “I’ve always been intrigued by how interiors impact our lives,” she says. “Channeling my creative energies and creating amazing, customized environments really excites me”. That trademark Viñas passion translates into bold, colorful interior designs—and has earned her Interior Design magazine’s Best of Year award no fewer than five times.

Ghislaine Vinas is known for her colorful interior designs

“It was simply my calling,” Viñas says of her chosen profession. “At my core, I am a creative person and it spills into all aspects of what I do—I see the world in how creative solutions can improve people’s lives.”

Viñas established her firm in 1999 with a commission to oversee the build-out of an office and art gallery in New York City’s Chelsea, and she and her team have gone on to design homes, offices, and hospitality projects in New York, Los Angeles, South Carolina, and Chicago.

But her need to create beautiful spaces began in childhood: “My first design project was my closet, clearing out my shoes and turning it into my Barbie dolls’ loft,” she laughs. “It had furniture and art. I think my first client—Barbie—was quite happy with the outcome.”

The living room of Skyhouse in New York City

Fun and humor are injected into every Viñas project, such as the living room at Sky House in New York City, which features a built-in slide.

Today, she injects that same sense of playfulness into all her designs—a Viñas interior will often feature bright hues, so it’s no surprise that color theory was one of her favorite classes at college. “Color is almost like chemistry to me,” she explains. “It really is about the science of the combinations, and often the subtlety of how those work together to evoke emotion.”

“I like messing with things and injecting humor into what we do,” she adds. This sense of fun is also evident in her collaborations with brands such as Flavor Paper, for whom she created Wild Thing, an oversized-leaf wallpaper design inspired by a trip back to South Africa. “I’m drawn to things that seem playful, unique, and original. I think having lived in multiple countries has made me open to a variety of influences,” she explains.

Bright green stairs—and Wild Thing, the wallpaper created for brand Flavor Paper—feature at Barrows, an advertising agency in New York. Image: Garrett Rowland

Her approach to commissions is equally original. “It’s hard to design for someone, or a brand, you don’t know. So, for me, the beginning of a project is really about understanding the personalities, the histories, the passions. We work really hard to ask questions and understand a client—the better we understand them the more uniquely we can design for them. And we only start designing once we have a good handle on that.

“I also really enjoy creating hybrids—marrying two ideas or visions. For example: a house we did in Montauk was named Floritauk because the client’s family history went back to Florida. The design we created was a hybrid drawn from kitschy Floridian interiors from the ’60s combined with a cool, modern surfer vibe. My aim is always for my interiors to feel sophisticated and refreshing at once.”

A white and blue dining room with many colorful ceiling lamps

The “cool, modern surfer vibe” at Montauk Beach House. “For me, color isn’t necessarily about intensity but about the complexity and experimentation of what works together,” Viñas explains. Image: Garrett Rowland

When it comes to her own homes, Viñas admits that her Tribeca loft, where she lived for 30 years “was very crazy and nuts—we used it as a design lab. But, since moving to the Lower East Side, I felt like everything was so crazy in my day-to-day life that I really wanted to find solace at home. My entire apartment is cream and white and soft. It does have ‘wacky’ too, but it’s much gentler.”

As for upcoming work, along with the latest residential projects, Viñas and her team are about to unveil some rug designs—”I have a very specific idea of what I want, so allowing us to customize lets me get exactly what I’m envisioning.” But that’s not all, she says, they also have “two exciting hospitality projects in the works. Stay tuned to hear more!”