Tispr Stories: Gabrielle Santiago Is Honing the Art of Story Telling

Every Friday we check in with a freelancer or small business person who is following their dreams and doing what they love. This week, we’re focusing on Gabrielle Santiago, an award-winning and Congressionally nominated Interior Designer who bases her work on an authentic process that encapsulates elegant and timeless design. Together with her team at Gabrielle Santiago Design (GSD), she brings an unparalleled commitment to creating one of a kind designs for her high-end clientele.

Gabrielle’s assistant and GSD team member Alexis Perez gave us some insight into how Gabrielle approaches her process, storytelling, and how to make a name for yourself.

Who is Gabrielle as a person or what makes Gabrielle...Gabrielle?

If you were to ask anyone who Gabrielle is, they would tell you that she's a positive force of energy in the most non-abrasive way. She's the most dedicated, loyal, motivated, relentless, and giving human being I know. Gabrielle has this calmness and welcoming nature that makes you immediately feel comfortable around her. When meeting her for the first time it's almost as if you've known her for years. I think that's why she is so good at her job. Clients open their homes and their hearts almost immediately upon meeting her and she dives head first into everything she does.

Why does she do what she does?

Gabrielle believes Interior Design is a moving, emotional, and enthusiastic self discovery process for her clients. Through Gabrielle's esoteric design process she has clients provide two items—one item from their past, and one item from their present. Through this process, heartwarming stories are told with an attached sense of history. It's passionate, sensitive and spontaneous, yet temperamental and raw. This allows Gabrielle to relate to the clients and break down the walls so she can create something outside the box, well thought out and meaningful. Its personal. She designs with intention. 

Tell us a bit about how Gabrielle got to where she is today.

Gabrielle started her career working as a Celebrity "Ghost" Designer. She designed home decor products for many well known celebrities. Gabrielle decided to launch her own firm at age 23, and has since begun building an empire. Gabrielle can be seen on HGTV's House Hunters Renovations, KTLA, and has a new TV show in development with the producer of The Bachelorette, Tiny House Hunters, and Vanderpump Rules. Gabrielle has designed homes for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. 

“Never stop knocking on doors. They will eventually break down before you do." 

Can you describe Gabrielle’s work process?

To be honest, I don't think any members of our team have ever seen Gabrielle not working. Once she gets started on something she's not stopping until she's finished. It's inspirational and motivating to see what she can accomplish in just one day let alone a month. Gabrielle is always saying to everyone in the office, "Can you believe we get to do this for a living?!” Her mentality is infectious. We all love and feel honored to work alongside her. 

Where does she draw design inspiration from?

Gabrielle designs around emotion, so each design pitched to the client by Gabrielle Santiago Design encapsulates a feeling. Through those designs Gabrielle tells their story. The emotional connections and feelings associated with Gabrielle's design comes from a variety of places and things. Sometimes these emotions are within Gabrielle's control with elements such as color and tone and other visual cues that have been hidden within custom design (i.e wallpaper, textiles etc.) The highest level of the emotional visual thought process is reflective. It's an interpretation, an understanding of a visual element combined with feelings about it.

“Gabrielle believes Interior Design is a moving, emotional, and enthusiastic self discovery process for her clients.”

What it's like being in this line of work?

Competitive, Challenging, Proactive, Rewarding. Gabrielle is one of the only female interior designers at her age doing what she does. Although she has surpassed many veteran designers thus far, it can be a bit of a challenge. With ongoing trends and Pinterest boards, there's almost a constant need to re-invent stylistically in order to keep up. However, Gabrielle remains true to her process and does things differently through custom design. Her designs are timeless and can be projected into the future seamlessly. 

After having done designs for the White House and on various TV shows, how did Gabrielle make a name for herself in the celebrity realm?

When I asked Gabrielle this question her response was "Never stop knocking on doors. They will eventually break down before you do." 

How has interior design changed her life?

When Gabrielle takes on a client she is 100% invested. She tends to take on the perspective of her clients, so she can accurately design with intention. I think Gabrielle personally consumes the hardship and challenges of clients’ stories to allow this process to be as authentic and real as possible. We've watched her grow tremendously in her personal and professional life through the years of taking on the role as a true story teller.  

Does Gabrielle have a favorite moment in her career so far?

Gabrielle is not one to pick moments, but rather celebrate the journey. It's been an incredibly challenging yet rewarding journey that is only just getting started. I don't think she could pick one particular moment but this year a major accomplishment was being featured as "Renovation Of The Year" for a project in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

To learn more about Gabrielle and her incredible career journey, follow @gabriellesantiagodesign on Instagram or visit her website.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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