Interior designer Eloise Harris Gonsalves, wife of the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, has a style influenced by travels around the globe. Born in Trinidad to Dominican parents, she lived in many different countries as a child, thanks to her father’s job with the United Nations. His overseas postings included Cameroon, Malawi, the Persian Gulf Bahrain, Guyana and the United Kingdom.
“Every summer my parents would take a different route back to Dominica, so we got to see the world—Egypt, Ethiopia, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, India, Iran and the Far East,” she recalls.Each time the family moved, Eloise’s mother had to make them at home in a new place.“My parents were adventurers, so my childhood memories are stuffed with recollections of my mother haggling for ivory tusks in the markets of West Africa, carved brass-studded chests in Zanzibar, zebra and rare monkey skins, and spectacular Makonde carvings from Tanzania.” says Eloise. “The modern-day environmentalists would have found a treasure trove to confiscate at the house in those days.”
As a result, Eloise developed her lifelong love of creating beautiful interiors. “I learnt my craft at home, and enjoyed being included in the curating decisions where art and sculpture were concerned,” she says. “The freedom and breadth of my well-travelled childhood have informed my interior design style. I include multi-cultural references, but I’m true to my clients’ world map whilst celebrating the local/regional environment in which they reside.” Eloise studied English literature at the University of the West Indies, followed by fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, becoming an interior designer almost by accident when people recognised her flair for style.
“After I got married and moved from New York to St Vincent, I built a small cottage industry on the grounds of our home and it gradually morphed into an interior design store,” says Eloise, who is married to Dr Ralph Gonsalves. “My company, Caribbean Lifestyles by Eloise Gonsalves, became a great meeting-ground in a relaxed environment for clients. They would then invite me to their homes, which, in turn, led to word-of-mouth recommendations to other clients around the Caribbean.”
Commissions undertaken by Gonsalves include Sutton Place Hotel in Dominica, Plantation House Hotel and Gingerlily villa in Bequia, as well as Blue Lagoon Hotel, the diplomatic lounge of Argyle International Airport in St Vincent and many residences. “I’m someone who relies on instinct in the design process to draw out the emotional connection between my clients and their built environment,” she says. “I like the people who inhabit my spaces to feel an innate sense of comfort, luxury, calm, and inspiration.” Fearless in her use of colour, Gonsalves incorporates many coastal influences in her work, such as seascape hues, sand and woven straw textures.
“My style is a mixture of high-end and rustic,” she says. “I use top-notch quality fabrics as well as a mix of the client’s own furniture and good-quality sourced-furniture that has longevity and a luxurious feel.” However, if there are budgetary constraints, she has been known to use Ikea kitchens and switch out the budget handles for hand-wrought Michael Aram hardware, and use hand-cut art glass for the backsplash. But while Eloise’s style has eclectic influences from around the world, her designs are definitely in tune with the colours, textures and rhythms of the Caribbean.
“To quote my husband, our society is a veritable symphony consisting of the songs of our indigenous peoples, the rhythm of Africa, the melody of Europe, the chords of Asia and the home-grown lyrics of the Caribbean itself,” she says. “We have borrowed, adopted and adapted in the process of creating and forging our own unique style, sensibility and existential being, and I think my interiors are a reflection of this ongoing process.”
Victoria Keyes Tower Two Diego Martin Trinidad | T 1 868 735 3188
St Vincent and the Grenadines
T 1 784 456 1908 | W www.cariibbeanlifestyles.com