There’s small space living and there’s the sacrifices-people-make-to-live-in-NYC living. For Logic & Grace director Jillian Gorman, moving to the Big Apple for the job and finding a place to call home meant one of the biggest sacrifices of all – trading in the huge living spaces she’d become used to in her native DC for a small, studio space a fraction of the size in Gramercy.
Anyone who’s ever lived in small space will know that it’s definitely not easy. Is the furniture too big? Are bold prints a bad choice? Should anything that isn’t essential be eliminated Marie Kondo-style to make use of every inch of space? We’ve all been there and no matter what you do, decorating a studio can easily feel like you’re doing everything wrong.
We’d long coveted her apartment from the tiny glimpses she’d serve up on Instagram but riding the elevator up to her apartment, we didn’t quite know what to expect. And then she opened the door and it instantly became apparent that, while we’re still trying to get our heads around the whole making-the-most-of-every-square-inch-thing, she’s absolutely nailed it.
Her light-filled apartment is a colourful oasis full of vivid prints and eBay sourced-furniture not to mention stylish but clever storage pieces she’s picked up along the way. The result? Proof that small-space living is anything but impossible. It was no easy feat though; getting the apartment together took months to complete and involved endless hours of planning and surfing online for ideas and inspiration.
Post apartment tour, we spoke about everything from her stint styling for Vogue to why she decided to make the move from fashion to the world of tech and design. Over to Jillian…
WORK & CAREER
ON GOING THE ACADEMIC ROUTE: My educational background is extremely broad because my interests extend across many topics. I took as many different kinds of courses as I could in college, and, whatever it is that I am doing, I always make sure that I’m learning something new and exciting. I received my BA in Fashion Merchandising from Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) acclaimed School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia. I knew I wanted to extend my studies post undergrad, and once I found out about General Assembly and went to an information session at their DC offices, it was a done deal. The vibe was so warm and inviting, and I’ve made some incredible connections there. I took courses in front-end web development and user experience design in 2015, each one incredibly fascinating. They helped me with the confidence it took to shift career gears, and it’s a huge part of where I am today.
EARLY FASHION AMBITIONS: My dream had always been to move to New York City and land a job in the publishing world, especially magazines. Studying Fashion at VCU was a no brainer for me since I’ve always been interested in fashion and design in general, and I had an incredible experience, for which I am so grateful. My internship the summer between my junior and senior year completely shifted my perspective of the fashion industry. It was an eye opening experience to say the least, and it was then I realized that perhaps this wasn’t the path for me. Here I was, ¾ of the way through my fashion degree, wondering if I wanted to continue with fashion at all – it was a really confusing time! Frantically looking for any sort of sign, I returned to complete my senior year, with the remainder of my course work-taking place in the business school.
ON HER STINT STYLING FOR VOGUE: I’m very driven, and once I’ve put my mind to something, it’s very hard to talk me out of it, especially if an incredible opportunity is at stake. In the spring of my junior year, I started freaking out over a planned study abroad course in Italy; I just wasn’t sure I wanted to spend so much time on art history. I blindly emailed every name I could get my hands on with a @condenast at the end. One person answered my email, and that was all it took. I’ve always been a firm believer that with hard work and determination, people will see the light that shines bright within you.
IT’S OKAY TO CHANGE TRACK: Learning so much about the business of the industry in fashion school helped me – even today I find myself calling on the knowledge I gained in those classes. I had an amazing professor who really inspired me to reach for something larger and to explore the world of advertising. Target came to our school and asked for an in depth analysis of their current American market and in what ways they could implement diversity throughout their stores. My small team won, and it was then that I realized I had found what I was looking for. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. Coding was an interest that came a few years later. The idea that I could solve a problem, (or create one!) with numbers and letters fascinates me. Everything you create has to be perfect, or it all goes wrong – one number or symbol can break an entire website – and that is endlessly exciting to me. As an aesthete, I think I’m able to help amazing brands create a beautiful presence on the Internet, merging my passions for both art and technology.
LIFE BEFORE JOINING LOGIC & GRACE: Moving back home to Washington D.C. after college, I knew my fashion opportunities were pretty limited. I wanted to gain meaningful experience wherever I could, so I landed a job at a political ad agency, which allowed me to see another side of advertising. I realized that branding political candidates is very similar to other kinds of brands. I am always hustling to meet my creative appetite, so while I was working my 9-5 job, I was also doing something fun on the side, working for a young fashion illustrator named Lauren Friedman of My Closet in Sketches. She had a relationship with Lucky magazine at the time, as well as other collaborations with Kate Spade and Travel & Leisure magazine. I helped to bring her art to the digital space, curating her collections and collaborations to show to the world. I then went on to join ESB Advertising, which required management of the digital strategy for a lot of larger local service companies. This mostly involved consumer research, which fascinates me. It was during this period that I took my courses with General Assembly and met Courtney.
FINDING HER CALLING AT LOGIC & GRACE: Courtney and I met in November of 2014. I came up to New York for a weekend and we hit it off. I initially started freelancing for Logic & Grace, doing mostly content, social strategies, and graphic design. The moment I met Courtney, I could feel the deep passion she had for her company, but more importantly her clients. I loved the idea of us forging our experiences and strengths together: her strengths are more strategic while mine are more technical. Together we are helping smaller brands grow to conquer their industries. We are a digital agency, bringing emerging brands with beautiful products into the limelight with a research backed online presence. We do everything from web development, graphic design, e-commerce strategy and consulting. Courtney and I had big plans to grow and evolve, and we wanted to do it fast. We decided right away that web development would be an area that I could introduce, with my design, UX and front-end backgrounds. Making sure my talents meshed well with what Courtney was doing with the company was an ideal way to see if your talents merged well. They did and we worked together seamlessly for almost a year before I made the big leap by moving up to NYC.
ON BEING A WOMAN IN TECH: It’s a boys club, most certainly, but I have experienced nothing but gracious people, being supportive of the work that I am doing. If you make it clear that you are willing to learn and work hard, your work speaks for itself.
A LOVE OF INTERIORS WAS A GENETIC PREDISPOSITION, SERIOUSLY: Both my mother and grandmother are incredible aesthetes, so my bar is set pretty high. My grandmother has been a buyer in a high-end department store and was passionate about experimenting with her interior spaces – she was always trying fun paint colours and stripping antiques and refinishing them. My mother has instilled in me a great appreciation for luxurious textiles, classic furniture, and modern design, and for that I am incredibly grateful. It’s pretty simple – great design evokes emotion. Classically southern in everyway (hello, floor pooling curtains and brass pineapple doorknockers), she has managed to merge the idea of the classically genteel with modern sophistication. Growing up surrounded by Louis ghost chairs, silver Moroccan poufs, and mid-century Lucite furniture alongside antique pieces from her parents, left me longing to extend that beauty into my own space.
FINDING SOLACE AT HOME: Being in my home creates a certain euphoria for me. This is the first time in my entire life that I’ve lived alone, and every inch of this tiny studio contains a piece of my heart. Now, I’d describe my style as Southern refinement meets modern French provincial meets mid-century eclectic, with a little coloured acrylic and agate thrown in!
MAKING THE BIG MOVE FROM WASHINGTON TO NEW YORK: I was so excited to move to New York City, I honestly just wanted a clean place in a nice neighbourhood so that I could start decorating! I jokingly told my broker that I wanted to live near Curry Hill (I love Indian food!) – out of sixteen studios in two days, I landed right where I needed to be. Gramercy has a softer midtown vibe, brimming with fun bars, fantastic restaurants, and incredible architecture. It was also very important to me to be centrally located; I am a short walk away from the Flatiron district, Union Square, and the bustling midtown area.
STUDIO LIFE: Before I moved to my current studio, I lived in a large one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend. I had a proper dining room, living room and bedroom. At the time, I thought that was living the small space life, but I had no idea what I was in for with New York. I got rid of a lot of stuff, and brought with me the pieces I simply could not live without. I constantly worry people won’t feel comfortable being in such a small space, but people always tell me how airy and spacious it feels. It is so important in smaller spaces to keep things curated and organized. I am equal parts “wants to own every beautiful vase in the world” and “anti-hoarder” – I definitely struggle with keeping my space appearing spacious; I see beautiful things everyday that tempt me to buy them. I like to think of my home as a museum, displaying only the best pieces, which helps me keep clutter at bay.
MIXING OLD AND NEW: I’ve picked up a few small things for my current place, but really I have no additional space for furniture or larger décor items. I found a great print of Frida Kahlo by an artist selling her work outside near the new Whitney Museum and some fun new pieces for my kitchen at Fishs Eddy in Flatiron and the amazing CB2 in SoHo. Recently my mom and I made a trip to the Bronx to the outlet for ABC Home and en route to the warehouse I spied some classic mid-century sconces in the window of a tiny hardware store. They’re amazing and the experience of getting the owner of the store, Vinny, to pull them from the window and wrap them up for me was hilarious.
THE DECORATING PROCESS: Upon moving in, my studio was a blank slate: a rectangular box consisting of four white walls with oak floors leading to an amazing display of large windows overlooking a tree-lined view of 30th Street. I knew I wanted my space to feel as comfortable and as sophisticated as possible, configuring as much design into 250 square feet as I possibly could! The layout really anchored around my large sectional sofa, which I had just purchased earlier in the year. I considered not bringing it with me, but with all of the visitors that I’ve had and will continue to have, it really doubles as a guest bed! Two people can sleep on it at a time, so it was a no brainer in keeping it. I secured the apartment a few weeks before move in, and in those few weeks I had sketched everything down to a tee. In a studio, you must know your exact furniture layout pre-move, in order to tell the movers. No room (literally) for error!
DESK/WORKING SPACE: This desk is amazing in every way (I got it from World Market). Sleek and functional, I am free to be colourful with my accessories. My grandmother’s vintage lamp (part of a set) lives atop. Gifted to me in college, the shape and colour of these lamps are just gorgeous. I’ve collected desk/work pieces from all kinds of places and love to arrange them artfully – it makes me happy.
THE BED: My headboard is an incredible vintage find, something I will never part with. I found it on the second floor of a dusty, dim antique and consignment shop in an industrial section of Alexandria, Virginia. I imagine some beautiful Arabian princess once slept with this gorgeous gilded piece. My Mongolian lamb hair pillows from West Elm are everything…hands down the most comfortable (and durable!) pillows known to man. I like to have simple all-white bedding to let my headboard and Anthropologie burnt orange duvet shine.
LIVING ROOM: My comfortable sofa (CB2) anchors this space, adorned with vintage bolster pillows in the most perfect shade of magenta. My vintage Lucite coffee table (almost killed my boyfriend as he heaved it up three flights of stairs) leaves the visual space in my living room feeling balanced and light. My West Elm deep turquoise velvet chairs sit across from my couch, forming a perfect conversation place for guests.
KITCHEN & BATHROOM: My kitchen is small, but mighty. Filled mostly with Anthropologie glasses and bowls, tea towels from my travels to Scotland to see my sister at the University of Saint Andrews, and vintage glassware sourced from the Art Deco Fair. A curated collection of my favourite makeup and beauty products, my bathroom is full of them all perfectly displayed on floating glass shelves.
DO YOUR RESEARCH: I am always inspired by beautiful spaces, and heavily influenced by people who have made their spaces work specifically for their lifestyles; whether they are ballin’ or on a smaller budget in a smaller space. I’ve seen equally as beautiful studio apartments as I have mansions on Pinterest; it’s all about doing the research. There is nothing like taking in a visual feast before turning to your own drawing board.
MIXING HIGH & LOW: Great design doesn’t equate to a steep price tag. I can’t tell you how many high-end designer pieces I have snagged on Craigslist, because I was determined. My coffee table is an incredibly heavy, sexy, one of a kind piece – I paid $70 to pick it up from people who were moving and didn’t know what it was in DC. First Dibs sells very similar pieces for 6k and up! As long as you know the right keywords to search for, you’ll be surprised to see the amazing things you will find online. I am big on buying classic quality furniture and spending less on trendy smaller décor pieces. My sofa, coffee table, velvet chair are all are items that will last me a lifetime, while my throw pillows and desk accessories can be swapped out for something next season.
FAVOURITE DÉCOR SPOTS: CB2 has for a long time been my go to for modern furniture and accessories (sofa and bar cart) as well as West Elm (velvet chairs and Mongolian lamb’s hair pillows on the bed). I try and take my mother’s motto to heart: “shop everywhere” – I swear, she says she wants that quote written on her gravestone! I source cheaper accessories and pillows from stores like Target, Ikea, and H&M, but on the furniture items I splurge, as those pieces will last forever. ABC Home is also another amazing place everyone needs to know about – the most beautiful things!
BE PATIENT: I’ve always loved this quote from Bunny Williams: “If you love something, it will work. That is the only real rule.” My one piece of advice would be to allow your perfect place to take its time. I am the first person that wants a place perfectly furnished and decorated beautifully right off the bat, but the most beautiful and meaningful homes take years and sometimes decades to fully come together. Only collect pieces that tug at your heartstrings. For those of you living in a small space, learn to accept your place for what it is, and embrace the shortage in square footage by being hugely organized. Moving into this tiny space was a major shock for me, but I’ve learned to approach every decorating decision as an exciting challenge, because that’s exactly what it is. After this situation, I will be able to handle any space!