Inside the Classic Coastal Home of Graham Hill Design Founder

Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Interior Design: Graham Hill Design · Photography: Madeline Harper

Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Interior Design: Graham Hill Design · Photography: Madeline Harper


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Founder of Graham Hill Design, Kerry Gillette, draws inspiration from the natural landscape of her native beach town, Santa Cruz, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. With a goal of mirroring the lives that live in the homes she designs, a light, layered, and textural aesthetic shines through her work. The project in her portfolio that most represents that style is, of course, her very own home. She’s giving us a tour today a la Madeline Harper, along with an insightful interview that digs into her muses, morning routine, and advice for designers just getting started.

Tell us a bit about the inception of Graham Hill Design. How and when did you become a designer?

I studied interior design in college but followed a marketing career path instead. A few years ago I started a blog to share the details of our home renovation and inspiring decor. I loved every part of the remodeling process from the construction dust to the final product and it re-ignited my love for interior design. Friends and family started asking me to help them and I decided to take the leap and start Graham Hill Design.

If you had to describe your design style like a cocktail, what would it be?

Hmm, I’m really more of a red wine fan myself, but if my style was a cocktail, I’d probably say something classic like a Paloma. The Latin meaning for Paloma is “peaceful” and that’s how I want my clients to feel in their homes.

Can you tell us a bit about the project we’re featuring today?

The Rincon Project is close to my heart because it’s my own home. When we first moved in, the house was a flashback to the ’80s-’90s. Think tile with little blue flowers, dated oak cabinetry, wallpaper, and blue carpeting. Oh, the blue carpeting! However, behind the dated finishes, there were character-like french doors in every room and some pretty millwork that I knew we could paint and work with. My style pulls from the Northern California coast and the Santa Cruz mountains surrounding me. I like things layered with a California casual meets classic-coastal vibe. I incorporated classic elements like white kitchen cabinetry, marble counters, and detailed white woodwork and incorporated some natural elements because I love texture. I also love to source art and photography from local artisans or places where we’ve traveled.

What does your morning ritual look like? What are a few things you do to set the tone before you begin a busy day at Graham Hill Design?

I get up early before the rest of my family, immediately make a cup of my favorite Italian roast coffee, publish my daily Instagram post, and generally just try to ease into the day. I have two daughters, a teen and a tween, so needless to say some mornings are filled with, let’s just call it “spirit”. I’m a very low key, no-drama kind of person so I need quiet time before the business of the day takes hold. During the pandemic, I’ve been practicing an every-other-day morning routine when it comes to hair, make-up, and fashion. I got to the point where I was just sick of the loungewear and un-done hair so it seemed like a good idea to add a little bit of routine.

What does a well-lived home mean to you?

A well-lived home is a place where you can slow down, enjoy time with the people you love, and hit the reset button. You want your home to be aesthetically pleasing and a reflection of you, but more importantly, it should make you feel at peace.

Where do you draw inspiration from when designing?

My parents traveled to Europe a lot when I was a kid and sometimes I’d get to go along. I think that’s how I learned to appreciate classically elegant things. I’ve always been drawn to architecture and features like millwork, moulding, and fine craftsmanship. I’m really detail-oriented, sometimes to a fault, and so I often notice little things which I believe can make or break a space.

Home should be a place where you can slow down and enjoy time with the people you love, not a revolving to-do list. It should enhance your life in a meaningful way and give you a curated backdrop for your everyday.


What’s one piece of advice you’d go back and tell yourself in your first few months of business?

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. It probably never will be so don’t let perfection hold you back. Sometimes good enough is good enough!
We’re not a big fan of the term ‘trends’, but we can get behind an appreciation for beautifully enduring design moments.

Are there any timeless design elements you’re looking forward to using in your upcoming projects?

I cannot wait to incorporate a reeded millwork detail.

Do you have any favorite podcasts/books/resources that you’ve discovered during this past year of change in our world that you recommend?

Sadly, I haven’t been reading much other than the news this year, but I have been loving all the design resources put out by The Identite Collective. Everything from LightRoom presets and brand development to inspiring weekly meal plans, I get so much inspiration from them! I’ve also been enjoying the Design Perspectives with Gail M Davis podcast.

What changes have you experienced with running a business during this pandemic and how have you shifted your process to adapt to this new norm?

Doing more virtual design and getting comfortable being on camera with video meetings!

Can you share a few Instagram accounts right now that are fueling your creativity?

@mindygayerdesign, @rosabeltrandesign, @wdesigncollective, @lisafurtado, @anthology_creative_studio, @fletcher.rhodes

Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Interior Design: Graham Hill Design · Photography: Madeline Harper

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