As an interior architect, Jennifer Greenhalgh of local design firm Jackson + Park oversees multiple aspects of a home renovation project—from its structural design to its décor. Accordingly, the word “design” takes on a few different meanings as she approaches a new client; she and partner Kelly Carwile may be reinvisioning a room’s entire layout or dreaming up a statement-making dresser.
For Greenhalgh, “design” is an all-encompassing concept that boils down to one thing: Where you live helps you determine who you are.
“There is a great quote from Winston Churchill: ‘We shape our dwellings, and afterwards our dwellings shape us,’” Greenhalgh says. “We believe that where you live or work can have a positive impact on you.”
We asked her to tell us about her early influences, her favorite kind of project and a treehouse she designed when she was 7.
Why interior architecture?
I grew up in a construction family so being around a job site comes very naturally to me. I was constantly surrounded by plans, and my father always encouraged me to take an interest in them. After college, I moved to San Francisco, where I worked for Pottery Barn Kids in their furniture design department. Being in a very creative environment sparked my creative energy, and I knew I wanted to pursue design in some form. While still living in San Francisco, I tackled my first large-scale renovation, and I fell in love with the design process. I decided to go back to school and study at the Academy of Art in San Francisco to follow my passion. After moving back to Virginia, Kelly [Carwile] and I started Jackson + Park Design.
Why did you choose to practice in Virginia?
My husband and I are both from Virginia and our families are here, so settling back in Virginia just seemed to make sense. I grew up in Charlottesville and my husband and I both graduated from UVA undergrad, so Charlottesville was familiar and felt like the right place to come back to.
What was your life like as a child and how did it lead you to design?
I grew up in the country, next door to my cousins, and we were always building something outside. We would build these elaborate forts—at least, elaborate for kids! Recently we were renovating my parents’ house, and my mom found a box of drawings that I did when I was about 7 or 8. The box was full of floor plans and elevations for a tree house that my cousins and I planned on building behind our houses. Unfortunately, we could never convince our parents to build the treehouse, but seeing the plans brought back such great memories. It also made me see that even at a young age, I loved interior design. Throughout my life I have always kept that passion for interior design, and I knew it was something that I wanted to pursue as a career.
Tell us about your college studio experience. Was there a standout teacher who had a lasting impact on you?
I was fortunate to have had a lot of great teachers. At the Academy of Art, Sam Rosen, my portfolio teacher, had a lasting impact on my design process. He really pushed me to go for designs outside my comfort zone and to analyze my work and my process. Throughout our review and design process, he urged me to examine my final designs to see where I could make edits and improvements. Often when you think a design is done and perfect, you can tweak one little thing and make the design extraordinary.
Your process: How does it begin?
Our clients give us a list of needs and desires and then, based on that, we create a concept for their space. We often create a concept board to provide us with a clear vision of where we would like the design to go. From there, we pull furniture, accessories and textiles that fit their lifestyle. We want to give our clients a space that makes them feel happy, comfortable and inspired.
What inspires you?
We draw inspiration from our travels. We often take inspiration from things like architectural details, tile work or textiles from one of our trips. We believe that travel is an essential part of design. It gives us a new perspective on spaces.
How does the site or sense of place inform interior design for you?
We believe it depends more on the client than the place or site. For instance, currently we have a client that owns an old farmhouse. They have a very modern aesthetic and want to integrate the new with the old. They are doing a large modern addition and we are marrying the new addition and the original house by making the original spaces a little more contemporary. We personally love mixing styles, and believe that this gives a space a unique feel.
What’s in the studio at the moment?
For one of our projects we are designing a client’s dining room. We have samples of this beautiful Galbraith and Paul lotus wallpaper, which was the jumping-off point for the whole dining room. We have Perennials velvet fabric for the dining chairs. We joke that people might think that we rep Perennials fabrics because we recommend them so much. We have finish samples for the dining table, mirror and bar. Having samples in addition to our renderings helps our clients envision their finished spaces.
How would you assess the state of interior architecture in our region?
The great thing about Virginia interior design is that it is so varied. In Charlottesville, we have everything from Jeffersonian style to ultra modern and everything in between. We think anything goes—you can mix modern furnishings with a traditional house. The design just has to match your personal style and the way you live.