Meet Gina Elkins: Our New Creative Director
After more than a decade of focusing exclusively on interior design, we re-introduced ourselves as the Laura U Design Collective earlier this year. Our newly expanded team supports a thoughtful architectural focus, allowing us to provide a seamless design experience from the ground up. And we couldn’t have done it without our new Director of Residential Design, Gina Elkins. Today, we’re talking to Gina about home design, the creative process, and why home matters more to us now than ever before.
LUDC: GINA, WE HAVE WORKED TOGETHER ON SEVERAL BEAUTIFUL HOMES IN THE PAST, INCLUDING LAURA’S HOME IN BOULEVARD OAKS. WE HAVE ALWAYS ADMIRED YOUR APPROACH AND YOUR PASSION FOR DESIGN. WHAT DREW YOU TO ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIORS?
GINA: Thank you. I have been drawn to design ever since I was a child watching my parents build our home. They would take me to historic home tours. I would buy books from the hardware store to teach myself how to draw a floor plan. I started working in hospitality and realized that my passion was in residential design. It’s safe to say that to create something real and tangible from an abstract idea has always been magical to me.
LUDC: CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST PROJECT?
GINA: The first project that really made me come alive was a full renovation of a 1930s John Staub estate. I was immediately pulled into the project by the lure of its history and the potential for it to be something incredible. I am still extremely grateful to be a contributor. With every drawing crafted and each design created, I became more and more intrigued and quickly found myself dreaming about solutions to take the architecture of the home to its true glory. I studied the historical documents and details and read through typewriter correspondence between Staub and the landscape masterminds of Olmstead and Associates (the designers of Central Park and The Biltmore). I became immersed for many years, and I’m still so grateful to be part of creating one of the finest estates in the country.
Gina Elkins on site in Aspen, Colorado at the Mountain Lane Show House
LUDC: BEFORE JOINING LAURA U, YOU HAD BUILT A STRONG REPUTATION IN HOUSTON’S ARCHITECTURAL COMMUNITY. WHAT ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO NOW THAT YOU’RE BUILDING SOMETHING NEW?
GINA: I love what I’ve created throughout my career. I wanted to see if I could contribute to this industry in a new and unique way. There aren’t a lot of firms that are doing what we’re trying to achieve.
LUDC: LET’S CHAT MORE ABOUT THAT. WHEN YOU JOINED US EARLIER THIS YEAR, YOU TALKED ABOUT THE “WHOLISTIC” DESIGN PROCESS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
GINA: As a creator, it is very important to have the fluidity of the design process consistent and strong. That framework already existed at Laura U on the interiors side. To create a “wholistic” process, we are marrying the architectural perspective to the interiors from the beginning. So that everything that we’ve done…from the touches of the hardware, to the experience of the morning routine, and even how our clients take their little dog out to the yard, all of that has been considered at every stage. What they care about most should be a resonating tone throughout the entire project.
LUDC: AS DIRECTOR OF RESIDENTIAL BUILDING DESIGN, WHAT ARE CREATING?
GINA: I lead our residential building design practice, which covers new construction, renovation, and remodel projects. While I am leading the charge, the design is a collaborative process. Every step of the way, we’re learning how the client enjoys their home, how they want it to function, to flow, and to feel. Then, we deliver a design that is completely customized to their lifestyle and their needs. In an ideal situation, this is when the Laura U interior design team takes the helm and completes a beautiful home.
LUDC: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE PROCESS?
GINA: At the end of the day I want our clients to look at their space and feel like it’s theirs. It’s not Laura U Design Collective’s home, it is their home. When we’re unveiling the schematics and watching the client reaction…when you see how proud someone is of the home you created for them, that’s very special. I will have clients, years later, tell me how much they love their home. That’s the best part of what I do.
Gina Elkins on site in Fulshear, Texas at Laura U Design Collective’s River Lake Project
LUDC: WE ARE FAIRLY PROCESS-ORIENTED AND KEEP CLIENTS INVOLVED THROUGHOUT. BUT WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT DESIGN THAT NON-DESIGNERS OFTEN OVERLOOK?
GINA: It’s easy to recognize a beautiful room or cabinetry at a glance. But what’s often surprising is the connectivity – how do you design around a corner? How do you make the edges of millwork transition seamlessly to meet stone? How do you frame the bones of a home so that the details execute with perfection? So much time is invested in the places where connections and transitions happen. What you’re really seeing is months of schematic planning and forethought that culminates from years of study and experience in the art of detail!
LUDC: HOMEOWNERS MUST BE FEELING THE IMPORTANCE OF HOME NOW MORE THAN EVER. IN LIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC, DO YOU THINK HOME DESIGN WILL CHANGE?
GINA: It’s already changed in the past two months. Our current clients are really thinking about life after COVID-19. Are we prepared to be 100% digital, working virtually and homeschooling our children? Do we have a kitchen that works for nearly every meal during the week? What does entertaining look like? I’m considering the special spaces that may have been an afterthought before and now, are essential. The mudroom and anteroom aspects of a home will have more of a focus. What do clients need to feel safe as they transition from the outside world to their interiors?
LUDC: YES, MUCH HAS CHANGED SINCE OUR JANUARY ANNOUNCEMENT. I THINK WE’RE ALL IN NEED OF SOME GOOD NEWS. WITH THAT IN MIND, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? WHAT’S NEXT FOR GINA ELKINS?
GINA: I think this has been a time period where a lot of people have been sitting in their homes, and they’ve been evaluating what works for their lifestyle. And they are considering the spaces where they need to make improvements. What’s the best way to design their home for enjoyment, functionality, and ease of use? In terms of spaces, I really feel like mudrooms or areas where you’re entering the home on a daily basis will have more thought and detail. I think home health overall will be a big focus for homeowners from now on. I am really excited about helping people navigate that part of their lives. Home is at the heart of how we live, and I think we’re all coming to terms with what that looks like in the future.