On a sunny Saturday morning in May, I have a breakfast meeting with one of the design world's most in-demand names. We meet at a café on New York's Upper East Side, just a few blocks away from the Kips Bay show house, where, after our interview, my subject is slated to head for a day of meetings with designer fans, followed by a second interview, this one with Architectural Digest. It's a busy day for anyone, but an especially whirlwind one when you consider that the designer is just 11 years old.
Graham Sachs Gilbert (AKA @instagrahamdesigner) has become a darling of the luxury design world ever since his live reporting from last year's Palm Beach edition of the Kips Bay show house endeared him to many fans of the designers he met there.
Fast forward to now, and Gilbert has a part-time job as junior design consultant for Krista + Home, the Palm Beach-based design firm of designer Krista Watterworth Alterman, where his mother, Fran Sachs, is COO. He's currently at work on his first project, and, while he admits he has yet to learn Auto CAD, his coworkers affirm he has a "great eye" for fabrics and finishes.
Gilbert found his way into his passion by happy accident: "Since my dad travels a lot for work, I started having to go with my mom to her events," he tells House Beautiful. "At first, I was going just for the free food, and then I started getting more interested in the design."
When the Kips Bay Palm Beach show house opened, the young aesthete was hooked. "I came one time, and then I just kept coming back every weekend because it was so beautiful. So I fell in love with interior design."
Since then, he's delighted friends and fans with videos of him visiting the show house and interviewing designers-always dressed to the nines. He also impressed at least one Krista + Home client, who asked for his help on an outdoor space.
"At the beginning, I thought it was kind of a hoot," says Graham's mother. "But then he started working with this client and putting things together, and it was really great."
His quick learning and dedication to his passion has impressed both his parents-and his now boss.
"It was so fun to work with Graham and teach him the process for choosing materials," Alterman says of her young employee. "The team is openly supportive of getting behind him-he’s also a joy to converse with, so the client loves having meetings with him. After all, client connection is a big part of successful design work. Our next task is to teach him spatial planning, layout design, as well as scale."
Alterman is confident he'll take to these quickly: "He has so much curiosity," she says. "He wants to learn everything and asks tons of questions. I love that."
Gilbert summarizes: "I just love to learn."
With his mother's job and his father's role in logistics, Gilbert already has a jump start on some design students in one very important area: understanding the business side of design. "That’s one thing I hope he learns; that there’s more to it than the design," says Sachs.
He's got quite a few impressive mentors to teach him those ropes, too. "It was really fun getting to talk to the designers in Palm Beach and I learned a lot from them," says Gilbert. "They gave me a lot of tips about interior design. And I did not know that they were such big interior designers until I got home and I looked them up and I realized, wow!"
"I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive people are," Sachs says. Graham's father, Jon Gilbert, agrees. "People have been so kind and welcoming, and I think that's a testament to the community," he says. "If you wanted to be an 11-year-old logistician, I'm not sure you'd have much luck."
I can’t help but ask: Does Graham have plans to decorate his own room? The question elicits a knowing laugh from the family.
"That’s an ongoing discussion," says his father.
"We’re going to be redoing the whole house soon," his mother explains. "So we'll see."
One thing's for certain: Graham will have no shortage of inspiration to go on.
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