Wilmington-based interior design firm Smith + Gsell is opening its first design studio March 1 to establish a workspace where designers architects, builders, artisans and clients can work together on design projects.
The design studio, located at 216 Victory Gardens Drive, mirrors the clean, coastal design Smith + Gsell specializes in.
The design firm was co-founded by Renee Smith and Susan Gsell in 2011 who combined their west coast, east coast influences to form the business that concentrates on residential and commercial renovation projects.
“We were both so fascinated by each other's backgrounds and we just complemented each other naturally,” Gsell said.
Smith’s interior design career was influenced by her mother who dabbled in design. She went on to get an interior design degree from Cape Fear Community College. Gsell also studied interior design and worked for KNOLL International, a design firm and furniture manufacturer in New York City, for 20 years.
They have worked on designing spaces for Untappd, CastleBranch, Magnolia Greens Golf Course clubhouse, as well as residential projects at Wrightsville Beach, Figure Eight Island and Landfall.
They decided to open the design studio near Oleander Road because they noticed it’s an up-and-coming area in Wilmington, they said.
One development that encouraged them is Bradley Creek Station, a retail and office building
under construction in the 5800 block of Oleander Drive.
“Knowing that was in the works, it just made it even more appealing. There's just a lot of growth in that corridor of Oleander,” Smith said.
“There is a vocabulary of modern architecture occurring in that area,” Gsell added. “So, there are a number of buildings that complement each other architecturally.”
Because of the design similarities in that part of town, Smith and Gsell have decided to refer to that Oleander sector as the MoCo District, Gsell said.
“We're calling it the MoCo District, so to speak, which stands for modern coastal and that is a tagline that we've actually trademarked for our design style,” Gsell said.
Modern coastal is a style defined by clean lines and the beach.
“It is coastal colors and textures,” Smith said. “Sand, seagrass, water, trees and air. Very simple and not overly decorated or a highly colorful space.”
In addition to the design studio, Smith and Gsell purchased two lots adjacent to the studio to build residential spaces.
“Because we were really trying to establish this modern look, we thought it was important to go ahead and purchase those residential lots that were for sale and be able to build something that complimented our studio as opposed to something that may have been a total disconnect from what we were trying to achieve,” Smith said. “David Lisle (from Lisle Architecture & Design Inc.) was very excited to create some small affordable houses that were different and modern.”
The studio and the two homes were built by J.Long Custom Homes.
Once they move into their studio Smith and Gsell hope to use the space for art galleries and events as well as to take on more projects now that they have the space to work in.
“The studio is going to allow us to have all of our resources in one location and the ability for all the different tradespeople to gather in one and meet,” Gsell said. “It really is just kind of designed to be a hub for everybody to pull together and to give Susan and I an opportunity to have triple the resources that we've been able to have due to space.”