I’ve been visiting Gibson for years. Mostly because he has this crazy store with one million beautiful things curated in such a compelling way, but also because he is a such a lovely and generous person. When I was first starting out as a designer with real clients (as opposed to a stylist with corporate clients) I would go in there and basically say, ‘Hey Gary, so how do you exactly make money and charge clients?’. And he gave me real answers by a seasoned pro – stuff you can’t get in design schools and very few designers will tell you (I will, just ask me).
He is a very well-known interior designer in LA and his store is clearly his special place/studio full of vintage curiosities and original artwork that he loves. He also sells his original custom furniture collection that is beautiful. Things are not necessarily priced to sell, and I think its because he only collects and sells things he loves and maybe would kinda rather hold on to them. I can certainly relate. CERTAINLY. It’s absolutely a must-see and worth going into to just to get lost in his world full of inspiring artwork and weird, found pieces.
Click through to see the whole tour and read the interview.
Gibson, West Hollywood
Owner: Gary Gibson
About Gary: Gary started some 40 years ago as a fine art painter, but with his natural design aptitude, quickly led him into the Interior Design field. After studying at UCLA, his talents allowed him to work with a couple of the top design firms of the day, Landa-Poet and Rowen and Mentzer. Always the entrepreneur, he ventured out on his own and over the years was able to work throughout the country. Gary has worked with many of his clients on multiple homes and is fortunate to this day, to still be working with them. Gary started his furniture collection, Gibson Studio, some 15 years ago with the encouragement of many of his colleagues, and then about 10 years Gibson came to fruition with Gary’s love of vintage and collecting.
1. Why did you choose this location to open your business?
I had interior design offices on La Cienega for many years, and then a storefront became available downstairs from our offices. I wanted the space but did not feel it was right — in regards to foot traffic and the overall climate of other businesses, in regards to people’s lifestyles. So I literally rode my bike down La Brea, Melrose and Beverly. I saw a little ‘for lease’ sign on the space next door to our current location. I knew this was the space, but 10 other people wanted it!! I told them I must have it!! After a couple of weeks being vetted, I got the space!! It was meant to be. It is such a great neighborhood, and only gets better with time. We have all that one needs for upscale, but not over-the-top, lifestyle: home, restaurants, and fashion.
2. How would you describe your store’s style/aesthetic?
Our store is truly things that I love, based on the story behind the object, furniture, art etc. It is a collective of items that are of no specific provenance or period. I guess if I had to give a description it would be eclectic. I am really drawn to things that have great patina, texture, things that were made by hand from the past that we don’t see anymore. Things that were used by a craftsman or artisan for utilitarian purposes, that now we have made decorative, or at least we find these objects to desire. I also think that the way we curate or put stuff together is the art. People for the most part would not know what to do with some of the things we have here, if we did not put together and show them. This is what we do for our clients across the country in our design projects.
3. Where did you get your name from and what other names did you consider?
Name! THAT was easy: Gibson!! My design firm is Gary Gibson Interior Design, and our furniture collection GIBSON STUDIO already. I wanted to keep the brand reference with the name (and our Logo which is the offset G), that way all the different identities we have are related. And besides I just like how it sounds and is easy for people to remember, which is important in branding yourself or your products.
4. What types of items are your best sellers?
You never know what is going to sell… just when you think it will fly out the door, it sits there. But I must say, stay true to your vision and it will sell. I have had pieces that I love and have sat here for a year, and then one day the right person comes in and has to have it. I think it is important to have that vision for a shop! We do, and it has worked really well for us. I have people bring me stuff that they think I will like every day, and if does not fit or I don’t like into my aesthetic, I don’t want it. You have stay true to yourself, it works. I don’t want it to look like a junk shop and just have clutter. We like to say: it’s all about organized chaos!
5. What item do you have in the store now that you would want to have in your home?
The funny thing is that with all the interior design projects we do all over the country, and then buying for projects and the shop (which is never ending!), there are very few things I buy that I want in the shop and vice versa. It’s funny, I am pretty minimal at home, believe or not. I have bought things on trips, thinking I would take them home but then they don’t work, so I bring them to the shop. With all the things I do buy, which are mainly for the shop, there are items that I love. And it may not appear to most people, but there is a method to the madness on how I buy things, but if I told you, I would have to kill you!! LOL.
6. What have you been inspired by lately?
What inspires me!? Well every day, I am inspired by something. It can be the simplest thing too. One big inspiration is nature — the color, textures…it’s all amazing to me. It’s funny the interaction I get in the shop, can also inspire me. The people and conversations can be inspiring.
7. Is there something you thought would sell really well but didn’t?
8. Where do you mainly source your items from?
Our inventory comes from everywhere! My travels, an occasional flea market, pickers, you never know where things are coming from. The beauty of our shop is that people who like the shop either have stuff or know people.
9. What was the first big lesson you learned from opening your store?
The work involved to maintain a certain level of merchandise that is interesting, unusual, at a good price point, and the never ending moving of things. You better be passionate about this because, with any successful business, you must live and breathe what you are doing. It is funny because it can be bittersweet when you spend time arranging shop and then people love it and buy it!! That’s what you want, but it makes more work!! That’s where the passion comes in.
10. What would your one piece of advice you would give to small businesses
Be passionate, like I mentioned, because it is all consuming. Be aware that with passion comes the feeling that it is not work…well, it is!! But it’s ok, because you love it. Have deep pockets and be well capitalized because it takes a lot of money!! We are fortunate to have the interior design business and furniture business to compliment the shop, which, for me, is crucial. To be able to move from one aspect to the other.
11. What stores do you shop at?
In the Interior Design Market, I like to shop at Kneedler Fauchere, Holly Hunt, and Thomas Lavin. On the street, too many to count, but I love Blackman Cruz, JHChen, Gibson, IGE, Lee Stanton, Pat McGann.
12. Do you have any plans to expand your inventory?
We always add to our inventory! Love to buy stuff!!
13. What trends, if any, are you tired of?
I don’t believe in trends! In our design work it’s about the client and location. How property is used has nothing to do with what others like or are doing. It is the same for my buying for the shop. It’s what I like and it has worked for us. A lot of people like what we have to offer.
In this store, in particular, I pretty much want everything. It’s all one of a kind, unique, and weird – but here are my current favorites right now.
Thanks, Gary. Stay weird and wonderful. You can visit Gibson at 7350 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles.
*All photos by Jessica Issac for EHD.