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Holistic Modernism by Studio Gild

Meet Studio Gild’s talented founders and tune in with their unique take on soft modern eclecticism. Culling from their appreciation for simple beauty, authentic materials, and fine craftsmanship, the harmonious trio shapes timeless environments, cleverly curated down to every detail.

​Established in 2014 by co-founders Melissa Benham, Jennie Bishop, and Kristen Ekeland, ​Studio Gild draws inspiration from the principals’ shared love of clean architecture and subtle beauty. Their combined experience in commercial, retail, and residential design allows the collective to deliver refined interiors with enduring style.

Having fine-tuned a collaborative eye that Architectural Digest deemed versatile and sophisticated, the trio’s design approach fosters unique artisan and client relationships while embracing an emphasis on thoughtful detailing. It is the meticulous gilding of each project that serves as a reflection of the firm’s trademark aesthetic and namesake. The resulting environments are curated, provocative, and timeless.

​Studio Gild has been featured in Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Domino, Dwell, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New York Times. With offices located in Chicago and Los Angeles, the design firm currently accepts projects from coast to coast.

​How did you first become involved in the world of design? Tell us your story.

Principal and Co-Founder Kristen Ekeland: My maternal grandfather was a professional illustrator and both grandmothers were fine artists, so art and design are in my blood. I always knew I wanted to go to art school and feel fortunate that pursuing a career in design was both supported and encouraged. I thought I wanted to follow my aunt into a career in graphic design, but realized during a college internship in London, that I was more excited by the world of interior design.

How would you describe your personal style and what’s the personal signature that makes your projects unique?

Kristen Ekeland: Soft Modern Eclectic. I love escaping to my home after a busy day and finding a space to relax and unwind that is as comfortable as it is beautiful. Subtle color palettes and “less is more” tend to be my personal design mantra.

Studio Gild projects are unique because they don’t have a defined look per se. We have 3 founders at the helm and each client seeks something different to reflect their own personal style. We try to steer clear of anything too trendy and seek to design spaces that are dynamic but that can also stand the test of time. We aren’t afraid to push boundaries to create something fresh but durable for life’s daily routines. After all, homes are meant to be lived in and enjoyed.

​Where do you draw inspiration for your projects?

Principal and Co-Founder Jennie Bishop: Travel is a unifying source for the three of us, being immersed in different cultures and surroundings serves as a source of creative energy.

What’s the decorative piece you enjoy selecting for your clients and why?

Kristen Ekeland: Dining table chandelier. It’s the lighting moment that clients are willing to invest the most into as the piece around which family and guests will gather. This light becomes the art moment of the space regardless of whether the main dining area is the casual kitchen banquette table or a formal dining room for 12.

In a hyper-digital world, how often do you turn to social media for inspiration?

Kristen Ekeland: Pinterest is our go-to resource for finding and sharing inspiration imagery both internally and with clients. The platform has an extensive library of architectural, fashion and interior photography from designers around the world. We create Pinterest project boards that allow the design team to access and share ideas instantly with one another. It also allows us to upload imagery we’ve discovered from print magazines, websites and Instagram and save it all in one place. Gone are the days of saving stacks of tattered magazine clippings to relay an idea!

​What would be your dream project to work on?

Kristen Ekeland: Early in Studio Gild’s infancy, we were hired to revive Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1916 estate in Lake Forest, called Stonebridge. The house had had many different lives since being a private residence, and our task was to help restore and revive it to be a “Soho House” if you will for the north shore community. Unfortunately, the city never approved the developer’s plans for the estate. Seeing it come back to life would be my dream project.

Principal and Co-Founder Melissa Benham: Any project that allows for a holistic approach and opportunity to touch architecture and landscape, in addition to furniture, artwork, and accessories. I also love a repeat client. Hitting the ground running with established trust and the efficiency of a well-honed shorthand is exceptionally dreamy.

What Epoque inspires you the most in terms of aesthetics?

Jennie Bishop: I’m attracted to quirkiness, so the seventies and eighties strike a chord with me. There’s a boldness to those periods that I find inspiring.

Melissa Benham: Modernism has always resonated with me. I can probably trace it back to my German grandfather’s deep love for the Bauhaus, which he passed down to both my mom and me. So much of that era’s ideology is still relevant today, including an emphasis on a connection to the outdoors, the belief that form should follow function, and the ideal that quality design should be accessible to everyone.

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