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Beyond the Surface with Carla Guilhem of Carla Guilhem Design

Beyond the Surface with Carla Guilhem of Carla Guilhem Design

Carla Guilhem Headshot

As Featured in Luxury Guide 2024 Print Edition

Carla Guilhem: A Maestro of International Interior Design

All furnishings created by Carla Guilhem Design
Photo by Evan Joseph

Luxury living is an art form, and at the heart of this sophisticated realm lies Carla Guilhem Design, an esteemed interior architecture and design firm that seamlessly combines creativity, elegance and functionality to redefine sophisticated living. The company’s approach transcends aesthetics to create emotional connections and experiences in luxury residences, yachts, commercial spaces and hospitality venues. A hallmark of the firm’s approach is personalization, tailoring each project to the client’s aspirations, ensuring spaces that uniquely blend aesthetics with purpose to enhance lives and embracing the belief that beauty should resonate with the soul.

Founded by the visionary Carla Guilhem, this firm has carved its niche in the world of luxury design with an impeccable eye for detail and a passion for innovation. Carla brings a wealth of experience and an international perspective to each project. With her education spanning across Spain and Italy, she has honed her craft over 15 years in interior architecture and design. This multicultural influence is evident in her work, as she expertly navigates different design styles and seamlessly incorporates diverse inspirations.

Carla’s journey as a design virtuoso began in São Paulo, Brazil, where she pursued architecture before obtaining a degree in interior design from the prestigious Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Madrid. Her creative brilliance transcends conventional boundaries, as evidenced by the remarkable exhibitions she has curated across Europe. From the illustrious Salone del Mobile in Milan to the renowned Biennale di Architettura in Venice, Italy, Carla has graced global industry-specific events with her original design showcases. Throughout her illustrious career, Carla has had the privilege of collaborating with some of the design world’s most celebrated luminaries, including the iconic Campana Brothers (Humberto and Fernando Campana), visionary Andrea Caruso Dalmas (Ciszak Dalmas) and the esteemed Alexander von Vegesack (Vitra Design Museum).

From Brazil to Spain and throughout Europe, Carla’s name has become synonymous with elegance, innovation and a distinct ability to infuse each project with a touch of brilliance. With a remarkable portfolio and esteemed collaborations, Carla is a maestro of international interior design, continually elevating the field to new heights.

Headquartered in the U.S., Carla Guilhem Design commands a global presence, collaborating on projects throughout Europe and Brazil. The firm’s amalgamation of innovation, elegance and passion continues to redefine luxury living, elevating interior design to the realm of artistry. In each project, it sets a new benchmark for exclusivity and sophistication. With Carla Guilhem Design, luxury living becomes an exquisite masterpiece.

What attracted you to the world of architecture and design?
As a child, I was always curious about construction sites and how buildings came together. I had a fascination with observing plans and reading newspapers. Traveling to Milan was a pivotal moment for me. I was captivated by the design and furniture, and it was then that I continued to explore this interest.

Who were your mentors?
While I would have loved to have a mentor, it didn’t happen for me. However, I believe mentoring is important, and I hope to offer some form of mentorship to those with whom I work. We have a strong team, and our ideas are constantly evolving and changing.

Do you have a specific design style?
While I have preferences and tendencies, my style is diverse, and I don’t adhere to just one aesthetic. I appreciate the harmony of a space, and I’m comfortable working with a range of styles, from classic to modern.

How do you approach understanding a client’s design preferences?
I delve deep into understanding their lifestyle, preferences and even family dynamics. I ask a lot of questions to gather insight into their daily life, tastes and expectations. I often create mood boards with reference images to help us align on the design direction.

What questions do you ask to understand a client’s needs?
I inquire about their color preferences, their affinity for certain materials like wood or metal, and whether they lean toward a more rounded or angular design. I also consider their lifestyle, such as whether they have kids or travel often. These details help me create a holistic understanding of their needs.

How do you stay up to date with current design trends?
Staying up to date with design trends is an essential part of our creative process at Carla Guilhem Design, and we approach it with a multifaceted strategy. We actively engage with the global design community through participation in major industry events, exhibitions and conferences. Additionally, we invest in continuous research, exploring innovations in material science, technology, art and fashion. Collaboration with other renowned designers and professionals in various fields also plays a vital role in our learning process. This blend of immersive engagement and dedicated research ensures that we are not only aligned with current trends but also at the forefront of defining them.

What are some important considerations when selecting color palettes for spaces?
Understanding the physical properties of colors is crucial. For instance, dark colors can make a space feel smaller, while neutral tones can help create a sense of openness. It’s important to know how colors interact with each other and impact the overall mood of the space. I often work with warm grays and neutral tones, which can be balanced with pops of color for a harmonious effect.

How do you approach lighting in your designs?
Lighting is a significant factor in design, as it can influence the mood of a space. I prefer using warm, diffused lighting in residences. It’s essential to strike a balance between the practicality of lighting and its aesthetic impact. Lighting can completely transform the atmosphere of a room.

You recently completed a staging project at the ultra-luxury condo development One Thousand Museum. How do you believe staging can effectively influence the selling process of high-end real estate?
Staging, especially in the context of ultra-luxury condo developments like One Thousand Museum, serves as a vital tool in the selling process of high-end real estate. By thoughtfully curating and presenting interiors, staging helps potential buyers visualize and connect with the space emotionally. It goes beyond mere aesthetics; it’s about crafting a lifestyle narrative that resonates with the aspirations and preferences of the target market. In our recent project at One Thousand Museum, we aimed to create an atmosphere that not only showcased the architectural features but also illustrated the unique lifestyle that the residence offers. By emphasizing the interplay between function and form and elegance and comfort, we bridged the gap between the physical environment and a potential buyer’s imagination, making the property more relatable and appealing. This can significantly influence the perception of value and desirability, thereby accelerating the selling process.

What design strategies did you use to make the apartment more appealing to potential buyers?
In staging the apartment at One Thousand Museum, we strategically tailored the design to appeal to potential buyers by maximizing space, highlighting architectural features and creating an emotional connection. We used a cohesive color palette, rich textures and custom-designed furniture, incorporating local flavor and modern technology to depict luxury living. By emphasizing functionality, sustainability, quality and breathtaking views, we transformed the space into an inviting, well-thought-out living environment, seamlessly blending luxury, comfort and style to make it an irresistible proposition for high-end buyers.

You have experience designing many luxurious yachts, including M/Y Lady Lene 34M. What draws your interest in designing yachts?
The challenge. I get bored relatively easily, and designing a yacht keeps me on my toes.

What factors contribute to the challenges commonly encountered when designing yacht interiors?
Yacht interiors present unique challenges due to the attention to detail required and the variety of custom elements involved. The craftsmanship is of utmost importance, and every detail matters. Unlike residential projects, there are no permitting challenges, but there are strict certifications to adhere to.

How do you balance the need for functional spaces with creating an exquisite, personalized environment that complements the yacht’s unique characteristics?
Balancing functionality with exquisite design on a yacht entails a careful understanding of both the vessel’s unique features and the client’s individual preferences. By integrating custom-designed furniture and elegant materials and color palettes, we enhance both practical use and aesthetic appeal. In projects like Lady Lene, where specific needs such as wheelchair accessibility were required, we subtly addressed the challenge without sacrificing the design’s overall elegance. The essence of our approach lies in creating seamless solutions that marry utility with artistic expression, providing a personalized environment that complements the yacht’s distinct characteristics.

Are there any upcoming projects or developments you’re particularly excited about?
We have several exciting projects on the horizon, including Origin Residences by Artefacto in Miami and Pearl Palm Beach Shores. We’re also exploring furniture design in collaboration with Artefacto. It’s exciting to bring my design sensibilities to the world of furniture.

Where do you see your business in five years? Are you looking to expand or maintain your current scale?
I don’t aim to become a huge company with hundreds of employees. I value having a hands-on approach and maintaining a close connection to my projects. While I’ll continue to grow, my priority is to keep the personal touch in my work.


While Carla Guilhem’s remarkable projects clearly showcase her design prowess, there’s a wealth of insight beyond the surface. Here, Carla shares the challenges and reveals the dedication and resilience required to achieve success.

Can you share one of the biggest challenges you faced early on as a designer and how you overcame it?
One of the biggest challenges I faced early on as a designer was entering the world of yacht design. Unlike traditional interior design, yacht design is highly technical and complex, requiring an in-depth understanding of engineering, marine regulations and the unique constraints of a mobile environment. The transition into this specialized field was both exciting and daunting. I realized I needed to augment my artistic skills with more technical knowledge. I sought out partnerships with experienced shipyards, engineers and marine experts. By embracing collaboration and investing time in learning from these seasoned professionals, I was able to bridge the gap between my creative vision and the technical realities of yacht design. This challenging but rewarding process not only expanded my skill set but also opened a new and exhilarating avenue for my career, ultimately leading to recognition in the form of prestigious awards and a growing reputation in the field.

You’re a success in the eyes of many; how do you define success?
To me, success is not a destination but a continuous journey. It’s about constantly striving for growth, pushing boundaries and seeking new challenges. Success is not measured merely by awards or recognition but by the fulfillment that comes from creating meaningful work and always moving forward. It’s about staying committed to a path of curiosity, innovation and dedication to the craft, knowing that the process itself is as rewarding as any accolade. In essence, success is a dynamic and ever-evolving pursuit that fuels my passion for design and drives me to explore new horizons.

What has been the key to your success?
Undoubtedly, hard work and passion. These two elements are crucial to being successful. Sometimes, even when I am exhausted and feel like giving up, my passion keeps me pushing forward.

With 15 years in business and a successful track record, what do you still find is one of the biggest challenges you face as a business owner?
The demands of running a business still pull me in different directions, keeping me from what I love to do most: creating and designing.

Now that you’ve “made it,” what keeps you humble?
My unwavering commitment to creating spaces that positively impact our clients’ lives keeps me humble. Each project is a new opportunity to explore, innovate and craft environments that resonate with the individuals who inhabit them. I remain deeply curious about what’s coming next in design and always strive to learn and grow. This continuous pursuit of excellence and empathy for the needs and dreams of our clients keeps me grounded, ensuring that our work is always about enhancing lives through thoughtful and beautiful design.

Do you have any causes or charities close to your heart?
Yes. I’m particularly devoted to Volunteer Emergency Relief, which provides housing for victims of natural disasters. The mission of creating safe and humane living spaces for those in desperate need resonates deeply with my passion for design and my belief in the transformative power of well-designed environments. I’m honored to be able to contribute to this vital cause and help make a tangible difference in the lives of those affected by calamities. It’s a continual reminder of the profound impact that design can have on human well-being and dignity.

What advice would you give to someone starting in your industry?
Persistence is key. You need to keep going, no matter what challenges come your way. Believe in your talents and abilities and work hard to make things happen. Success doesn’t come easy, but if you stick with it and put in the effort, you’ll see results. It is also important to have your expectations in line with reality. Being an entrepreneur and running your own business has many challenges. The idea that it gives you more flexibility and vacations is a misconception. As a business owner, you won’t always get to do what you love. The key is finding a balance so that your love for what you started is not overshadowed by the demands of owning a business.


If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, living or deceased, who would it be?
Steve Jobs. I’m inspired by his passion for aesthetics and design, as well as his ability to create innovative and game-changing products.

If you could design the home of anyone, who would it be?
Elon Musk. Designing a home for someone with such an innovative and unconventional mindset would be an incredible challenge and opportunity.

Favorite quote or words to live by?
Beauty has the power to change our lives.

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