When Experience Counts

BY ERIN HOLADAY ZIEGLER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

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As owner and chief designer of de Guise Interiors, Gigi Chapman knows a thing or two about her trade and isn’t afraid to give it to you straight. But that should come as no surprise, since Chapman has applied her renowned talents to hundreds of homes across 10 states.

“Everyone knows that a home is a big investment,” Chapman says. “A good designer will help his or her client make the right purchases to enhance that value.”

After 30 years in the business, Chapman can zero in on what’s most important when decorating a home. “A home needs to have form and function,” she says. “It’s not all about ‘making it pretty.’ In the end, a home has to work for the family’s lifestyle and age group.”

First-time homeowners, for example, have needs different from more established clients. “Younger couples are worried about raising a family in a home that functions well and looks good,” says Chapman. “They don’t want to have to worry about getting crayon art on the sofa.”

Chapman is also aware that young couples might make several moves in their lifetime. For that reason, she makes sure that the furniture her clients invest in is well loved and well matched to their personalities. Those pieces are more likely to transition to a new home.

On the other hand, established homeowners tend to entertain a lot, she says, often hosting houseguests for short periods. “Older parents may have college-age kids coming in for the holidays. Others may welcome grandchildren, out-of-town friends and extended family,” Chapman says. “They have to be ready for all types of guests—and at the spur of the moment.”

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Older homeowners are also faced with the need to downsize, a process that can be traumatic. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Chapman understands the importance of sentimental value and can elegantly incorporate treasured furnishings into a client’s new home.

The de Guise Interiors showroom in the I’On neighborhood plays a large role in Chapman’s interior design services.

The intimate showroom has the ambience of an upscale boutique. Chapman calls it a “library,” and that’s not far from the truth. She boasts that the store is the most comprehensive resource for furnishings, fabrics and home accessories in the Charleston area.

Step into the library and you’ll meet Chapman or one of her three designers, each ready to provide design advice as well as to quote prices, color and availability on any item in the store. “We offer the same lines that you see in all the big magazines,” says Chapman. “And if we don’t, we will find it.”

“Most homeowners arrive at the showroom knowing what they want, but without the vision to make it happen,” she says. “The showroom helps shoppers get their arms around their ideas. They might think they want a certain style or piece, until they actually see it.”

Chapman takes a personalized approach to her full-service, in-home consulting. The petite and fiery brunette is more than a designer; she’s an advocate for her clients. “My designers know how a space is used,” she says. “A builder or contractor might not understand how certain rooms function from a family perspective. But we’re able to convey that.”

De Guise Interiors takes care of everything from initial brainstorming to installation and setup. Chapman doesn’t think twice about hand delivering a chair to a customer close by, or reevaluating a crowded space step by step with a contractor.

There are customers who purchase Charleston homes and literally hand Chapman the keys. This is more than decorating. This is the definition of premiere interior design. “I have clients entrust me with all of their major design decisions,” Chapman explains, “even when I might have to tell them something they don’t want to hear.”

Straight talker? You bet. But after all, isn’t that what most of us are paying for?

Erin Holaday Ziegler writes about all things Charleston. E-mail her at ehzig5@gmail.com.