Though Becca Gaines didn’t know growing up that she was destined for a design career, her early life did give some hints to an artistic future. “I come from a very creative family,” says Becca, owner of B. Gaines Interior Design and Hey Rube, her newly opened studio and Verellen furniture showroom in Germantown. “My dad was a circus clown and probably one of the few people I’ve ever known who’s good at thinking with his right and left brain. He’s very creative, but also a CPA. He’s a wonderful, creative person who’s always told me I could do anything I put my mind to.” Becca gave a nod to her dad, in fact, when choosing a name for her studio – “Hey Rube” is a circus term, a rallying cry among circus folk.
The native Memphian and mother of two loves that her daily work bridges her passion for art and her love of people. “I try to take a relational approach to how I design a space,” she says. “I think designers, residential designers especially, are in a very privileged position to be in these homes with people and their families. When you’re designing a home, that is their nest, and you become a part of their lives. And to me that is truly a privilege, to be allowed into that place.”
Tell us about launching your career. What were your earliest jobs in design?
My very first interior design job was a college internship with Rhea Crenshaw Interiors. I think Rhea is one of the most talented and respected designers in our city, and working with her gave me a strong tour of the Memphis design scene. Something truly invaluable I learned from Rhea was that it is actually possible to be a great mom while killing it in this industry.
After college, I landed a dream job in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. It was everything opposite of what my professors said the real world was like. I worked with Rozanne Jackson at The Iron Gate interior design studio. Our projects were diverse and our clients were generally highly creative people. This experience pushed everything I learned in school to extreme limits, refined my style and understanding of high-end interiors, and taught me the value of talented artists and workrooms. Rozanne introduced me to many experts in our industry and gave me the tools and encouragement that led me where I am today. I’m grateful to have studied under such a hardworking woman, and proud to say she has had the biggest hand in sculpting my design aesthetic and approach.
When did you know you wanted to become an interior designer?
I spent my childhood rearranging my dollhouse daily and my bedroom almost as often, and I was a devoted art student. However, I didn’t even consider interior design as a career until my freshman year of college.
Tell us about your new Germantown showroom. What do you specialize in, and how did the shop come about?
Hey Rube is our studio showroom and an exclusive Verellen boutique. Verellen is a Belgian-designed, American-made furniture line known for creating unique, handmade upholstery. Skillfully carved hardwood frames, “couture” tailored slipcovers and hand-applied trims combine to create their signature elegant simplicity.
Verellen stole my heart years ago with their innovative frame designs and unmatched quality and comfort. Having the showroom is a great sampling of my own design aesthetic, but I also wanted to see this heirloom-quality line represented in Memphis. You’ll find our design library here, as well as an old Banker family fabric loom, but our focus is showcasing the Verellen furniture line.
Where and how do you find inspiration for your work?
Understanding what drives my clients is a huge part of the inspiration for each project. In addition to that, I find textures in nature and historic architecture fascinating. I love to walk through old cities. Also, I grew up in a house full of beautiful family antiques — pieces that were meaningful and taught me about generations of my family. So at a young age, I learned the power an interior has to hold family stories. My parents taught me that is what makes those pieces priceless. My parents’ home is a space that can draw people together, host celebrations, comfort on the worst days, tell stories and make precious memories. I think this experience drives my design philosophy. If I can create a space for others that speaks to who they are and blesses others at the same time, I have succeeded.
Who are your industry role models, and what about them speaks to you?
I really admire the entire McAlpine House team – Bobby McAlpine, Greg Tankersley, Ray Booth and Susan Ferrier have captured my heart with their timeless, emotional style. I’m always in awe of John Saladino’s serene, romantic, contrasting textures and layered lighting. Pamela Pierce’s ability to balance rustic and refined pulls me in every time! And I really love to watch what Kay Douglass and Cindy Smith are up to. But I have to say, Rozanne Jackson and Rhea Crenshaw are the women who truly define me as a designer. I admire them both, and the training they poured into me speaks to me daily.
What’s been your favorite project to date?
Oh, I love them all, because they are each so different!
What’s one current design trend you love?
That’s hard to say! I really focus on creating strong designs that are innovative and timeless.
Tell us a little about your own home. Do you find designing your own space easier or harder than working with a client?
So much of the fun of designing is collaborating with another personality and bringing an interior to life that represents them well. Maybe because my brain is always juggling so many creations and my own home is often last on my priority list, I’m really content to come home to an (almost) Scandinavian simplicity. Combine that with some Southern heritage, a little of my rugged husband’s personality and traces of glitter and doll shoes — and that’s home.
What do you think is unique about Memphis’ design scene? How would you compare our city’s aesthetic to the U.S. as a whole?
I think Memphis has a wonderfully rooted style, driven by history and art. It’s soulful, authentic and confident. I think we’re content to be us and comfortable in our own skin, drawn to gracious and inspiring spaces. Our designers and our homes have “grit” instead of pretension. Because of this, I think our designer network is tight and powerful, and we have the unique ability to set competition aside and partner together to love our city.
What local design resources are your go-tos?
Will you share one trade secret with us?
Every space needs something vintage. Little pieces of history make a space look more collected and unique. Not only will antiques and vintage finds add texture and character, but this is a great opportunity to represent a family’s history.
What’s your top piece of advice to a homeowner approaching the design of his or her own space?
Showcase the pieces that you really love. (Or buy them as soon as you find them!) An interior should be an outward reflection of the people who dwell in it, not of trends or neighbors’ fashions.
Thank you to Becca for taking the time to share her story, insights and impressive design portfolio. To view more of Becca’s work or to contact her, visit bgainesinteriordesign.com and stop by her new exclusive Verellen showroom, Hey Rube.
And thank you to Sarah Rossi of Sélavie Photography for the lovely portrait images of Becca!
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