Recipient of the
DSA 360° Design Award 2023
From attorney to interior designer and tastemaker
By Lindsay Field Penticuff
“Classic, timeless, and chic are the words we use to describe Caroline Gidiere.”
Caroline is the Owner and Principal Designer of Caroline Gidiere Design in Birmingham, Alabama, AND this year’s Design 360° Award recipient.
Without hesitation, our team at the Designer Society of America (DSA) continues to be incredibly impressed by talented interior designers. That’s why we get so excited when it comes time to announce the annual DSA Design 360° Award recipient.
Our team sorts through designers’ styles and business models to discover an outstanding recipient. We notice that what sets award recipients apart is a 360-degree business model, including sound design practices, inspiring design style, and a daringness to follow their passion.
As a residential interior designer, Caroline is passionate about creating beautiful spaces where clients can enjoy life’s most intimate moments. And she has taken that passion and created what the Designer Society of America team considers a 360° business model to be successful. We were so impressed with her work, spirit, and business model that we thought it was a wonderful opportunity to recognize her for her incredible work with this award.
Join us in celebrating this wonderful recognition for Caroline and her team. In the article below, we invite you to learn more about her journey from a tenured attorney to an interior designer and tastemaker.
For Caroline Gidiere, interior designer and tastemaker the spark that led her from leaving a tenured career in law to becoming an interior designer actually started by watching a close friend who had lost her job with a large design company decide to go out on her own.
“She was going to ADAC and starting to get clients,” says Caroline, Owner of Caroline Gidiere Designer in Birmingham, Alabama. “I was able to see someone do that from the beginning.”
At about that same time, Caroline had just built her house, and friends and colleagues began asking her for help with choosing design aspects like paint colors or how to decorate for an entry hall in their homes.
“I have some good friends who I helped design the living room, dining room and entry hall, and I was just doing it for free and helping because I loved it,” adds Caroline.
She found herself spending more and more time doing something she really loved. But at the same time, this new passion was coupled with a very intense and difficult season at work. Her husband was traveling quite a bit for work, and she was trying legal cases all over the Southeast.
“It was just a horrible pressure cooker,” Caroline recalls. “But in the background, I had this passion.”
That’s when her husband pulled a fast one on her and applied for and got all of her business licenses completed for her. He placed the paperwork in a green folder and put it in a box under the Christmas tree that year.
“When I opened it, he said, ‘It’s time!’” she says. “It was very sweet, and a good solution and a good way to exit.”
Caroline admits she felt a tremendous amount of shame leaving a legal career after more than 15 years in practice and calling herself a decorator with only a handful of potential clients in mind.
“At the same time, though, I had friends who were serious clients who wanted to pay me to do the three primary rooms in their home. So, on the weekends and at night, I would work on their project, and that gave me a client and something to work on and friends who I could work all the details out with,” she says. “So, when I quit a year later, I felt like I could really make a go of it!”
Today, Caroline continues to be pleased with the change she made. She remembers the last few years of her law career feeling “soul-crushing,” and she didn’t enjoy the work at all. She’d count her hours at work, wondering when she could even take a break.
“Now when I am in my flow, I can turn around and it’s already 6 p.m.,” she says. “I feel productive and I just love everything that I’m doing. It’s really wonderful!”
But that doesn’t mean Caroline doesn’t attribute some of her success in her now eight-year-old interior design business to the lessons she learned as an attorney. Her background provided well over a decade of experience in project management, which allows her to navigate the back end of the design business with facility.
“In the rich experience I had practicing law—complex corporate and securities litigation—I was interfacing with older men in business who are used to success and run a tight ship. Practicing law is also all about deadlines, and there’s no escaping them in law or courts.
“That understanding of the business world, in particular, understanding how successful people think and what their expectations are, I have tried to bring that same level of professionalism that I had practicing law to my interior designer business,” she says.
Travel has also helped enrich her work. During college, Caroline spent an entire calendar year in Paris, studying architecture, art and literature, as well as traveling extensively during that time all across Europe. And even before that, her family traveled quite a bit and even sent her to Russia for a summer between high school and college.
Her family today is working their way through Europe with their two kids. They’ve spent summers in Provence, going back and forth to Paris, and they visited Italy this past summer.
“It is all so inspiring,” she says. “When you come home, your mind is popping with different ideas of colors, color pallets and how they combine things. You might never have thought you wanted a creamy yellow house until you visited Tuscany.”
Such visits have helped hone in on her personal design style, which she describes as classic, whether it’s utilizing a neutral pallet with clean lines or creating an ultra-feminine space for a client.
One thing she doesn’t do, however, is follow trends.
“I run the opposite direction if everybody is doing something,” Caroline says. “I want to make decisions about a project because it’s the right thing. I don’t want a client to have to think about redoing or undoing something later on.”
She believes one of her most important roles as a designer is to educate her clients and help walk them through the design process.
“What I don’t want is for a client five years from now to feel like they have to redo a living room because it seems dated,” she says. “If we center on the classics and keep the trends something small and replaceable, then you can pop things in and out.”
One such example is light shades, which Caroline says can really help change and/or date a room. They are a design aspect that can inexpensively be replaced when the time comes.
Her design aesthetic is a modern take on traditional interiors, using beautiful pieces and classic textiles to create interiors that are fresh and timeless. Caroline is known for designing beautiful interiors that reflect her keen eye for style and her clients’ personalities.
Her goals in the next five to 10 years of her business are to take on bigger projects.
“I think we are poised and ready for anything that comes through the doors,” she says. “We stay really fired up about what we do. It doesn’t take much for us to say yes around here!”
And her advice to aspiring designers? Take a job with an interior designer as soon as you can.
“I haven’t seen that the students coming out of the interior design programs are skilled and ready for the business of design, in that the things they learn in school are more geared toward commercial, but nobody knows how to hang drapery, how to measure for drapery, don’t have contacts as far as tradespeople and they don’t have any concept of how to run the business,” she says. “You learn this in an office through osmosis. Our interns who come in are learning so much even after a week.”
Caroline also reminds designers to “own where you are.”
“Come clean and don’t pretend to know more than you know. I’m not a fake it until you make it kind of person. I’m all about owning it and being willing to ask for help and listening when you’re given advice from people who know what they are doing,” she concludes.
Or at Caroline Gidiere
Caroline’s formula is pure magic! Scroll down to view her recent awards and recognitions:
Veranda named Caroline as one of six 2021 Next Legends.
Finalist in ADAC’s Southeast Designer of the Year 2020
Interior Design Under 7500 Square Feet
Luxe Interiors + Design