August 22, 2021Gabriela Gargano and Kyle McVey took spins through economics and finance before focusing their talents on interior design and joining forces as the partners behind Grisoro Studio, in New York City.
As a teenager, Gargano became interested in design while working at a high-end furniture store in her hometown of Red Bank, New Jersey. But after studying both art history and economics at Brown University, she spent the decade following her 2005 graduation at Goldman Sachs.
“I hadn’t planned on going into financial services, but it seemed like a really practical thing to learn,” she says. “While I was working, I invested in real estate, and as I renovated and decorated the spaces that I purchased, it cemented the idea that that’s where my passion lies.”
A native Californian, McVey took a more direct route: After graduating from UC San Diego with a degree in economics, he headed to New York City, knowing he wanted to break into interior design. He found an internship in 2016 at Gargano’s newly launched firm, then called Grisoro Design. After rising through the ranks from intern to junior designer to senior designer, he became Gargano’s partner in the business this past January.
“Neither Kyle nor I had a linear design career, and I think, in a lot of ways, it’s been helpful,” Gargano says. “We research a topic to the nth degree, not because we have to but because we’re genuinely interested, and that has allowed us to find success even without formal training.”
The newly minted duo recently finished a project for a couple with twin toddlers: a graceful apartment in a two-year-old building on the Upper East Side. “We’re a young, contemporary firm,” McVey says. “Our style is a push and pull between minimal and refined, which really works in this space.”
The clients’ wish list included emphasizing the condo’s soaring 14-foot ceilings while keeping the furnishings to a minimum. In the living room, an unexpected smoked-glass Fiddlehead pendant by Roll & Hill floating over one of the end tables does just that; it calls out the room’s height yet still feels playful and sculptural.
Given the apartment’s 14-foot ceilings, Gargano and McVey played up the volume of the rooms and created drama with simple but striking pieces, like the Giopato & Coombes Dew Drops chandelier over the dining room table.
When the clients requested a main bedroom free from distracting design elements, Gargano and McVey suggested hand-finished plaster walls by Kamp Studios to give the space texture. Varinia lamps by Danny Kaplan for Lawson-Fenning provide low-profile lighting.
A Shape Up pendant lamp by Ladies & Gentlemen Studio for Roll & Hill and a Jamie Hayon Catch chair help create the lighthearted feel the clients wanted in their children’s bedroom.
“When we’re designing, we think through the functional components — for example, the space needs to be well lit — but also how your eye moves around the room.” Gargano says. “You have to plan these unexpected moments, especially when a design is quite minimal.”
Adding to the living room’s texture are five plaster sculptures by Sidonie Villere that the team sourced through 1stDibs and hung over a 14-foot-long Amuneal custom console.
“These rough, organic art pieces, even though they’re off-white on an off-white wall, add so much to the space in a nuanced way,” Gargano says. “They speak to how Kyle and I design.”
Among the pair’s signature moves is to draw inspiration for a room from a vintage or artisan-made piece, like ones by Pierre Chapo, Paul McCobb or Bower Studio, some of their favorite furniture designers.
“When we find those pieces that make someone’s heart skip a beat, we know we’ve helped them find their voice and viewpoint,” Gargano says. “We want our clients to love the things in their home.”
McVey agrees on the power of a singular object to change a space. “Sometimes, you only have one moment to accomplish what you’re after,” he says. “Each piece needs to be art or sculpture in its own right to give something to the overall room.”
Cy Twombly in Rome — Untitled #9, by Horst P. Horst, 1966, offered by the Art Design Project
“This iconic image of Cy Twombly by Horst P. Horst captures the essence of timeless design,” Gargano says. “His playful, airy work against the grandeur of the architecture and antiquities is an inspiration for creating a dynamic space.”
Pierre Chapo S10 easy chair, 1960s, offered by H. Gallery
Gargano agrees. “Pierre Chapo’s pieces seem to effortlessly balance substance with informality,” she says. “The intricate joinery and simple dowels — no screws — allow this chair to function with ease and highlight the beauty of the materials, especially the drape of the leather arms. That’s why it’s one of my favorite chairs of all time.”
Aythamy Armas painting, ca. 2021, offered by Serge Castella Interiors
“Aythamy Armas is a contemporary artist I’ve been following for some time,” Gargano says. “I find his works to be incredibly moving. They create a sense of atmosphere and place that draws the viewer in.”
Guillerme et Chambron Votre Maison Bouvine cabinet, ca. 1970, offered by FCK Paris New York
“This is one of many beautiful case pieces I’ve loved by Guillerme et Chambron,” Gargano says. “I find their furnishings to have a playful quality that harmoniously integrates into both formal and casual settings — a strong yet never overpowering presence.”