If you’ve eaten at some of the most popular restaurants in Memphis, then chances are you have experienced the design of today’s Designer Crush, Glennys Bryant of GCD Interiors. From the simplicity of the design at Ultimate Foods to the whimsical Belly Acres, her interiors have enchanted diners across the city. Glennys brings that same sense of identifying and translating a client’s personality and aura into residential design as well, proving this Australian-born designer who has lived in Memphis most of her life is as versatile as they come. She attended design school at Stephens College and finished at the University of Mississippi, eventually moving to Sweden for several years. “Much of my work is influenced from European design,” says Glennys. “I owe many design accomplishments to Sweden.” Glennys and her team are headquartered in a studio in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, which is also home to another Bryant family business, Young Avenue Deli. We are thrilled to introduce you to the fascinating Glennys Bryant!
What drew you to interior design?
I used to draw homes and cities when I was only five years old. I drew cities on shag carpet (picture me on the floor with marbles, construction paper, and Matchbox cars). I also designed and built furniture for my Barbie dolls. I was not even interested in playing with the Barbies, just building their furniture. I actually have a construction background. When I graduated from college my parents gave me a condemned house and said I could either turn it around and sell it or completely renovate it and put it back on the market. My main stipulation for renovating that house was that I was the assistant to all of the subcontractors. I am a hands-on learner and knew that the tactile experience would allow me to have a stronger idea of all aspects of design. I think that having a background in construction is unique and has bettered me as a designer.
You designed Belly Acres and Soul Fish. Tell us about those interiors.
Both spaces are uniquely different. In Belly Acres, I wanted diners to feel like they were on a farm. If a child had never been to a farm, I wanted it to have enough items that would make them feel as if they had been there their whole life. People who have lived on a farm feel like the things in Belly Acres were meant to be there. I wanted you to feel like you were comfortable enough to sit there, a welcoming vibe if you will. I grew up visiting the family farm in Mississippi, so much of that influence spilled into the design of Belly Acres.
Soul Fish on the other hand had a purpose. The purpose needed to be a fast but comfortable atmosphere, almost as if you were at a party. I wanted the food to be good, the atmosphere to be warm, and the restaurant to be crisp. The purpose was for customers to feel comfortable sitting in an open area, inside or out, and that there is never a bad seat in the house. Although both spaces are so different, every item in both restaurants is intentional and has a specific purpose. I think that is an important aspect of designing a space, especially a commercial space. Each item needs to serve a purpose either functionally or to meet a specific element of design.
What are the challenges of designing a restaurant space versus a residential space?
In a restaurant space, everything is decided up front, while residential spaces are more of an evolving process. Commercial jobs are designed off of the entire space, often working with architects, contractors and owners on a time constraint, so that tends to make the jobs move at a faster pace. Residential projects are more of more personal experience. While commercial jobs are built to the space, residential projects are more built to the person. We like to build relationships with our clients and learn how they live and function within their space. We might make structural changes to make the space a better, more functional space for them. We get inspired by the client and work hard to make a space that is perfect for them. Sometimes when meeting a new client, we ask to take a peek in the clients closet as you can tell a lot about someone by their clothes. Lots of colors or mainly neutrals? Relaxed and flowy, or crisp and tailored? The way someone dresses is often a good indicator of how they live their day-to-day life in their home.
Do you prefer residential over commercial, or vice versa?
It is too tough to pick which I enjoy more! Both have their own purpose, and it’s fun to get to work on all types of jobs. Some days I like residential more and some days I like commercial more. Even within residential or within commercial, we have a ton of variety. Our residential jobs include entire new builds, single room renovations or just updating a few existing items of furniture and furnishings. Our commercial jobs include restaurants, office buildings and dentists’ offices. This variety keeps us on our toes and is a good balance for me in my design career.
What are some of your favorite resources, both local and regional?
Locally, we have a great team of craftsmen. We try to support local artisans and are able to travel to discover new things for our clients. Memphis is full of great artists, and our team and clients love to showcase art created by local artists.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Travel is our team’s most valuable way to feel inspired and invigorated. Immersing yourself in a new city or new culture is a great way to learn about what else is being done, both in terms of specific design influences and the way others live. Spending time talking to new people also acts as a form of inspiration. It is interesting to see the different ways each person presents themselves. The different vibes we get from meeting new people is inspiring in itself. It is so interesting to me how different my team is. We are a small team but we are all really different and our differences complement and inspire our designs. Everyone brings new ideas based on places they’ve been or things they’ve done, and it’s really great for creativity.
What are you influenced by, and how does that get translated in design (i.e. colors, textures, designs, etc.)?
I’m constantly influenced by nature. Colors influence me in different seasons. I try to incorporate things in my design that remind me of the outdoors. I think that incorporating natural elements into our design helps make a room more grounded and comfortable. The way natural elements age is beautiful, and we love to showcase the beauty of natural woods and stone.
What has been your most challenging project to date, and why?
Every project is challenging in its own way, but that is what keeps our jobs fresh. Each job is so different. One of the things I value is making each job a new start. I reinvent the wheel every time. Different jobs have different challenges.
Share your best design secret with us.
My best design secret is allowing yourself to use things not for their intended purpose. I spend a lot of time trying to invent new uses for items.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend time outside. I love to camp and be in nature. I would rather be outside than inside any day. Camping is like building another home. I love being creative and using different gear to design our own little home for the weekend.
A huge thanks to Glennys for taking time to share her story, insights and amazing gift for creating gorgeous spaces. To view more of Glennys’ work or to contact her, visit gcdinteriors.com.
Thanks to Sarah Voigt of selavie photography for her photos of Glennys and her projects.
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