James Swan

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Episode 544: Weekend with Garrow Kedigian

Garrow_Kedigian_Weekend_Million_Dollar_Decorating 2

Delighted to have Garrow Kedigian back with us today, sharing what his life is like “away from the office”.  Listen and read over his interview here then explore his Website here

Join me now as we get to chat with a good friend and a former guest on the show Garrow Kedigian.


James:                          It’s my pleasure to welcome back to the show Garrow Kedigian. Garrow, it’s great having you back, welcome.


Garrow:                       Hi, James. How are you? It’s a pleasure to be with you.


James:                          I am well. I’m much better now that you’re here and technology is working. And I’m looking forward to a great follow chat with you. For our listeners who may just be meeting you for the first time Garrow, tell them a little bit about you and a little bit about the business that you run.


Garrow:                       Sure. I am a New York City based interior designer. And I’m originally from Montreal, Canada. And I worked for William Hodgins in Boston for six years before I moved to the Big Apple back in 2000. And I’ve had my own business here for about 17 years. I do architecture and interior design. So I sort of combine the two fields. Mainly my scope of work now is high residential interior work in New York and the New York area.


James:                          And you shuttle back and forth a bit home, don’t you?


Garrow:                       I do indeed. Recently I bought a house in Montreal, right in the heart of the city, which is a beautiful neighborhood called the Golden Square Mile. I go as often as I can, actually.


James:                          Well, after seeing some of the photos of the house there, I don’t blame you. It’s pretty beautiful. And if we may give a plug to your Instagram feed for our followers who haven’t followed Garrow, I highly recommend it.


Garrow:                       Absolutely.


James:                          Not only beautiful projects, but you get to see peek into his place in Montreal.


Garrow:                       And I do some videos of it too sometimes from time to time.


James:                          You do. I’ve just noticed those recently. You’re braver than I am. I haven’t quite stepped over that threshold yet, but I’m going to get there.


Garrow:                       Actually, once you do it, it’s addictive, so you get into it and then you’re like: oh, this is fun.


James:                          Everybody says that. Well, needless to say you’re a busy man, lots going on, all of it exciting. And we’re always thrilled to follow the beautiful things that you’re creating and putting out into the world. But we’re curious to learn – well, just to take the conversation in a little bit different direction. So talk to me for a moment, we’re really curious to learn how our guests believe or feel that they are perceived in this world and in their professional life.


So talk to us for a minute Garrow, let’s start with staff, the people that you work with every day. How do you feel your staff perceives you?


Garrow:                       Well, I think they see me as an absolute perfectionist. And I feel like sometimes that bothers them, because you know nothing is ever really good enough to send out to clients. I always have to review it re-review it a dozen times. I think everyone around me sees that I have a passion for what I’m doing, and they can appreciate that.


And they can understand why I’m very rigorous in the types of plans, or drawings, or sketches, or whatever we send out to them, done thoroughly, and sort of exactingly. I’m very fastidious that way.


James:                          Switch over now and talk to us a little bit about how you feel your clients?


Garrow:                       Well, I guess they think I’m a neurotic. I had just an email yesterday from a client, and she’s like, you know, you reminded me three times about the hardware for the kitchen. And I’m like well, sweetheart, you know, you’re going to move into your house, and you’re going to have no pulls on your kitchen refrigerator door and you’re going to blame me, so you got to decide now.


But it is the world of interior design, you do things and you sort of learn sort of the process, and you can always flag things that are coming a mile down the road, and then you sort of get neurotic about those things, so case in point.


James:                          But it’s a good neurosis, isn’t it?


Garrow:                       Oh, yeah, totally.


James:                          A very good neurosis.


Garrow:                       Yep.


James:                          Now make the adjustment to people that are a little bit closer in, family, loved ones, that closer circle, how do they view you?


Garrow:                       Well, I think for a long time my family really didn’t understand what I did and why I worked so hard? I had been away from Montreal for quite some time. And my parents are a little bit older. And in Canada – actually, in Montreal, it’s sort of a different mindset about interior design. And I think a lot of people like to do their own interior design because it’s a very personal thing. And they find that the concept of hiring somebody to do their interior is to be sort of a foreign concept.


You know, I often get the question, it’s like what is it you do exactly? And I’m like, I actually do interior design. And they’re like you made a career out of that? And I’m like, yes. So just more recently, where I’ve been published more and more in the Canadian magazines, I just had a spread in House & Home that some of the local people up there are starting to sort of realize and recognize the fact that what I do is legitimate. Yeah, he actually does that for a living.


James:                          I love that, that’s great. Well, you touched on it just a moment ago, and I want to expand on the topic and have you talk a little bit about this idea of work/life balance.


Garrow:                       Yes.


James:                          We read a lot about it. We talk a bit about it sometimes. What does it mean to you and how do you see it playing out in your life?


Garrow:                       Well, you know, work/life, it’s key of course, and especially in our field, where we actually work on people’ homes. And for the longest time for me, the concept of being able to sort of focus my attention and really concentrate on my design work has been really, you know, sort of has been at the core of my inspiration.


So when I sit down to work on a project, I always generate a series of sketches, some furniture layouts, some plans. And for me to have a place where I can actually sit and really concentrate and let the creative juices flow is key.


James:                          Interesting. Do you find that you’re able to sort of migrate with that, is that something that you carry with you, or is it really tied to one physical location?


Garrow:                       I can work from – I always tell everybody that the marvels of modern technology is really I can really work from anywhere, it just needs to be a quiet spot, where I can actually sit and be there with my thoughts. You know, initially when I did my drawing work and my design work, most of my work I do on the weekends. I do my creative work on the weekends. So my Saturdays are usually, I turn on the opera.


You know, the Met Opera is blaring in the background, and I’m sitting at my desk trying to be creative, coming up with my concepts and ideas, and then I do my sketching then. You know, being in New York City, I know everyone that has lived in New York City has always said having your getaway and your escape is key. And after being here for 17 years, it couldn’t ring more true for me. I just felt like every week and every weekend was spent in the city.


And it was almost – the energy is great, but it’s almost too much, and you want to be able to get away. So for me logically, having all my family up in Canada and Montreal is literally a 50 minute flight away, it made sense. And at first I said will I be able to work there? You know, it was a good question. And is aid, you know, I’m sure I can. And at first when I went up there I was not as productive, but now I’m more productive than ever before.


James:                          So do you find that that’s an element of the quiet? Because what I’m hearing you describe, and believe me this is coming from someone who works seven days a week, pretty much year round, but I don’t hear a lot of downtime from you, is that accurate?


Garrow:                       Yeah, I think people have a very false perception of interior designers. They have a very glamorous view of our lives. And of course on one side when you are traveling around with your clients, and doing the wonderful things that you get to do with your clients, of course that’s glamorous, but there is the work factor to the whole aspect of it. And I think that people don’t get to see that as often, that there is a tremendous amount of work that goes behind the development of a concept of a design of a fabric schematic or a paint schedule.


And concentration is key. And initially when I was looking for a getaway, I was looking for something in the Hamptons, just something that was quiet, in order to help me refocus. And then ironically this house in Montreal just sort of happened. I wasn’t really even looking for a townhouse.


James:                          Refresh our memories, because I’m recalling that this was somewhat in the neighborhood where you grew up and you were somewhat familiar with the property, am I right in that?


Garrow:                       Well, yes. I mean, actually it is downtown Montreal. And it’s right around the corner from McGill University, the campus. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Montreal?


James:                          Yes, I am.


Garrow:                       The campus is right at the foothill of Mount Royal. And there’s several blocks just to the west of the McGill campus is known as the Golden Square Mile. And the Golden Square Mile was a neighborhood in Montreal that was basically a concentration of Canada’s wealth in the turn of the century, and I’m talking about the 1900s, not the more recent turn of the century, the other turn of the century.


James:                          The other turn of the century.


Garrow:                       And some magnificent homes and mansions. And, you know, beautiful architecture was built in that neighborhood, and a lot of it has survived. And this one courtyard in particular, it was designed and built by a British architect. It’s a U shape courtyard of 18 Georgian-style townhouses that’s just spectacular, it’s gorgeous. And when I was at McGill University, I lived just up the street from this courtyard called Chelsea Place.


And for two years I remember walking out my door and walking by this courtyard thinking: oh, my God one day I would just love to have a townhouse on this square. And literally forgot all about it for 25 years. When I left and came to New York, and worked here, and it had completely escaped my mind, until I started looking for property in Montreal.


James:                          And then it just popped on to your radar?


Garrow:                       Well, ironically I had told the real estate agent, you know, ideally I would like to be in the Golden Square Mile. It’s so well positioned, it’s close to the city, but it’s also a little bit detached enough that you could live in a quiet environment. And he was showing me an apartment in the building right next to Chelsea Place, and parked his car right in front of Chelsea Place. And I got out of the car and I said I don’t even want to look at the apartment.


I want to know if there is a house for sale in this square. Well, he said they come on from time to time, it’s rare. He goes, I looked, you know, I did a search of the Golden Square Mile and I didn’t see anything. And then the very next day the house that I eventually bought was listed for sales, so it was really meant to be. Isn’t it great?


James:                          So was there a lot of work that you did to it or was it move in ready?


Garrow:                       Well, you know, as a designer of course, anything you buy, anything that you make your own is going to be something needing a lot of work. I’m sure you can understand that.


James:                          I can completely, enough said there.


Garrow:                       Even when I first bought it, I said I’m just going to paint it and move right in. yeah.


James:                          Right. And ten months later when the contractors left –


Garrow:                       Exactly. And that’s exactly what happened. I added moldings. I added paneling. I did quite a lot. I did a lot.


James:                          So do you find that it really is just a sanctuary for you or do you entertain when you’re there on the weekends, and have friends in, and it becomes a bit more of a social thing?


Garrow:                       It has become that to a degree. A lot of people from New York have come to visit me there. And I’ve had great holiday parties there. My annual Christmas party has now become somewhat of a legend.


James:                          Nice.


Garrow:                       I remember getting an email from somebody back in March or February, it was right after Christmas. And he said make sure you put me on your list for your Christmas party next year. I was like oh, my God.


James:                          Oh, my gosh. You’ve become a thing in Montreal. I love it, that’s great. Let’s do a little hypothetical for a second, just thinking about the weekend, and thinking about weekends around the world, if you could just for one weekend switch places with anyone, anywhere, absolutely any time, Garrow, who would you pick?


Garrow:                       Wow, that’s a great question. Well, I actually love the Paris flea markets. And everyone that knows me, all my clients that know me, I try and take them shopping there as often as I can. So I would say, I would switch places with this vendor in the antique market there, her name is Monique and I love her. And she has the most brilliant life, because everyone that knows – anyone about antiques of the Paris market comes to see her.


She is just a treasure trove of not only fine beautiful pieces of furniture that she herself curates from all over Europe, but also sort of, you know, she’s just been there for so long, and she’s such a fixture there. And she just knows the history of the market, it’s just, she’s brilliant. And just a weekend in her shoes would just be so much fun, just to be her.


James:                          I am so there with you. That would be very, very cool, what a great place to be.


Garrow:                       Yeah, exactly.


James:                          At the crossroads of it all, right? Is there an out of the office hobby that you pursue, something that takes you away from the creative process?


Garrow:                       There is. And this is sort of somewhat out there, but when I was at McGill University I started an astronomy club, because I’ve always been an amateur astronomer. And I’ve always been a fan of astronomy. And I always find that when you look at yourself and you sort of put yourself into the context of the cosmos; it always puts everything into perspective. Even when you have a stressful day, you sit down and you just think about the whole context of everything, and it sets you back.


You know, recently the McGill Astronomy Club just inaugurated their first telescope. And they asked me to go and help inaugurate them. So we used to go up to Mount Royal, where actually in Canada the pollution is much less, and the light pollution is much less, and you can really see the sky and the stars. So I love to do that and I do that as a hobby, and I really enjoy it. Two years ago I took a vacation. I went to Hawaii and I got some time on the Keck Observatory. I was able to look at some constellations, which is great.


James:                          Fascinating. That explains, I think, a ceiling too that you did for the creative [inaudible] [00:14:54]?


Garrow:                       Well, maybe.


James:                          Am I correct in that?


Garrow:                       Yeah, to a constellation.


James:                          There was sort of a reference point there, wasn’t there?


Garrow:                       Yeah, sort of.


James:                          Okay.


Garrow:                       Very perceptive of you, interesting, actually.


James:                          Alright, let’s use our imaginations for a second, not difficult for you, because that’s your stock ad trade. Describe for us your perfect Saturday afternoon?


Garrow:                       I would say to everyone, you know, if I could just sit at my desk and do my drawings all day long, I would be happy as a clam. So anywhere I am on a Saturday, I find that I like to position myself at my drafting board, and have my little list of whatever creative drawing work I have to do. And always playing the Met Opera, I’m a huge opera fan.


And every Saturday you have the Saturday Matinee, that’s aired live. And I listen to that religiously. I started listening to that when I was ten years old, and ever since then, every Saturday, wherever I am, I have to listen to the Met Opera.


James:                          It’s difficult to miss that one. I too got hook on that when I was a child, my grandmother used to listen to that.


Garrow:                       It’s great, yeah.


James:                          It’s a god one.


Garrow:                       Well, you can stream now, anywhere you are in the world, it’s wonderful.


James:                          Isn’t that helpful, I know. We got to love our phones, whether we really love them or not. They do bring a lot to our lives. A houseguest for the weekend, let’s do another hypothetical here. If you could bring in guests for the weekend, one person from the past, one person from the future, and one person from the present, who would you invite into your home for the weekend?


Garrow:                       I would say form the past, I would probably bring one of the design greats, maybe somebody like Elsie de Wolfe, or Billy Baldwin, just for them to come and sort of really enjoy the beauty of the setting, of my house and the neighborhood and the city. Because I feel like Montreal is such a beautiful place, and it’s so far from New York City, in not a physical way, but in sort of like a cultural, mental, a social way.


It’s so distant, and yet so close physically. And I find that there’s so much style there, I feel like a designer like Elsie de Wolfe would have really appreciated some of the architecture, and the interiors that you find there, it’s just an incredible place.


James:                          Deep. And who from the present?


Garrow:                       Well, the present? I often say that a lot of my clients, and there’s one in particular, who is a complete workaholic, and I always tell him that you have to come up to Montreal for a weekend. And you have to spend the time up there because you will be able to relax and enjoy it, and really see the world in a different light.


James:                          Good pick, keep those clients healthy. How about somebody from the future?


Garrow:                       I have actually, a friend of mine who has a 5-year-old daughter, who is sort of an inspiring interior designer herself. She’s a real character, I love her. Her name is Isabel. We call her Izzy. And I would love to take her there. You know, I’d like to take her when she’s ready, so she could sort of see the things that I see there, and see the things that I appreciate there. She’s almost ready, I’d say.


James:                          What a fabulous group of people.


Garrow:                       And that would be quite the weekend with them all together, too.


James:                          Quite the weekend indeed. It would be good. Garrow, last question, I’m going to ask you to step outside the box and do something different. Take us to a place, a destination that you’ve never been before, if you could go anywhere in the world for one weekend, where would it be and why?


Garrow:                       Well, I think I would probably go to the desert in Morocco. I think you can get a caravan there and go out into the desert. And I think that that’s sort of the raw, sort of nature of being alive. And again, sort of being able to see the night sky in such a clear manner, so that you can actually open your mind to the imagination and all the possibilities. I think that that’s where I would go.


James:                          Wow, a beautiful thought that is, a beautiful destination. And yes, you would see the night sky as you don’t normally here in the Northern Hemisphere. Garrow, as always it’s a joy getting to speak with you. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today.


Garrow:                       The pleasure is all mine, James. I’m a huge fan.

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