Fort Point Q&A #6 – Barbara Vail

Welcome back to another Fort Point Q&A! With design in mind, we headed over to meet with Barbara Vail, an interior designer and the founder of Galyean Vail, a company based out of Fort Point that sells vintage furnishings and antique goods. Join us to hear all about her decision to enter the realm of interior design, influences, inspiration, and how she chose Fort Point for Galyean Vail to call home.

 

Could you tell me a little bit about your business and how you got involved in interior design?

My dad was an auctioneer, so I grew up around antiques and furniture and going to flea markets. I love art and my parents are artists too. We did it often at home, but my sister and I never thought of it as a career option. I really was interested in science and math as well and I really wanted to be a doctor. I think because when you’re little, there are really only like, four viable options.

And so I pursued that and just kept on that science track, studying nutrition, but still was really into art and design. I still took art classes as a hobby but I got my degree in science, because I think you feel a lot of pressure while you’re in school. Plus, you’re 18, you don’t really know what you’re doing. I didn’t even know that interior design was a viable career. I knew it was a major, but I didn’t know that you could actually have a career.

Long story short, I ended up getting my degree in nutrition and then moving to Boston. I was planning on going to grad school to become a registered dietitian but just thought ‘I just cannot move forward with this.’ So I moved here and I started school at Boston Architectural College and studied interior design there. Then I worked for a couple interior designers and a larger firm before starting my own company a few years ago.

                                                                       

On your website, you mention your holistic approach to design. How does that influences your style?                                                                                     

Since I was younger, I’ve always been very in-tuned with people. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I’ve always felt very connected to people and very connected to spaces. When I was younger I was always rearranging furniture and always kind of thinking about a space. I’d go to my friend’s houses when I was seven or eight and rearrange their room and they thought I was totally weird. But I like things to function and be beautiful. And I think my history with nutrition and health influenced me too. You know, your space is where you come home to everyday. It’s part of your everyday life.

I read this intro to a magazine all about how you hire someone to do your hair, you hire someone to do your landscaping, but you never think to hire someone for interior designing. And it’s so important, and I think I really try to articulate that when I have a consultation. This is your space that you’re in all the time. When you come home after work, or maybe you work from home, it’s a reflection of you and you want to be comfortable. I think that that’s kind of the approach. It’s not just ‘oh this looks nice here’ but more ‘will it work, do you have a connection to it?’ But I really want the person to feel at the end that ‘this is me’ and that this is a unique space.

 

How long have you been in the Fort Point area?

I’ve been in this space actually for about two years. I guess the first year is kind of a blur. But it’s been about two and a half years since I started the business. I had left my job and was kind of working from home. And part of my business now is selling furniture and antiques, but it was a bigger part as I was building my client base. So I was doing markets, like SoWA. And then I realized that I really needed a space.

I saw Jill Rosenwald who runs a group called Design Salon, which I was actually on a panel for a few weeks ago. It’s a community of women that are designers in Boston so she rents out three or four of these studios. A friend of mine told me to check it out. And it was affordable for someone starting their business. I currently share it with three other people. It’s great because there’s a graphic designer, an interior designer, and a photographer in here, and we all kind of work together on projects. 

 

Could you talk a little bit more about the panel you were recently on?

The panel that we did was the four of us [who also work in my studio]. The panel essentially was an extension and response to Grace Bonney’s book In the Company of Women about small business owning women. Jill was actually on Grace’s panel when she came to Boston a few months ago and it sold out. Jill was talking to me about Design Salon and I thought we should do a panel of small Boston-based women, and she asked me if I wanted to do it.

So then I kind of wrangled them all into it. We talked about everything from just how we got started, to struggles, what it’s like to be working for yourself, the good, the bad, the everything in-between. It’s definitely nice to have a group of people to talk about it with. 

 

Have you designed many interiors in the Fort Point area?

I haven’t, but I would love to. I have a friend that lives around here and I’ve kind of helped her with some things but I haven’t done much work around the area. It’s mostly in the South End, Back Bay, Cambridge, Brookline. But I actually love doing lofts, and open spaces with big windows.

I like incorporating vintage pieces and pieces that can kind of stand on their own. But I do mix and match. And I like to incorporate a good amount of accessories. But it all depends on the client. Sometimes people just want it really simple. It’s a curated look. It’s purposeful, and there’s a place for everything.

 

You were on American Pickers with your dad! That must have been a fun experience.

Yeah! My dad’s history in the antique business had a huge influence on my life. And I think now, as an adult, I’ve really wanted to connect to that in my career. As far as American Pickers goes, my dad was retiring for health reasons and he brought it up. He such a gregarious auctioneer but he’s a very introverted man normally. I replied to the newspaper ad and was kind of the liaison between my dad and the producers. I wasn’t planning on being on it, I was just doing it for my dad, and then they were like, okay the episode’s called, “like father, like daughter” and I was like, “so wait, I’m part of it?” I think they liked that angle because there are not often times that that happens.

 

You mentioned that your parents originally wanted you to avoid the art/antique industry. Why was that?

My mom and my dad just wanted me to be successful and taking a risk was scary for them. My dad, however, sort of did the same thing with starting his business. I think he started when he was 30. So I think I get that from him, the willingness to take the risk. It wasn’t like they were against it but I did it and supported myself for going back to school. I was a nanny in Boston to be able to live and go to school, and I was working. So you just learn to make it work. It evolved. 

I’ve come to this place here with these wonderful women and sometimes it’s like wow, it’s happening. And of course there are struggles, but it feels like things are coming together. 

I think the first 6 months were the hardest, because there were days where you didn’t really have something to do, and you question everything. You doubt yourself, you just have to do it and figure it out. There’s really no other way to do it. And you still have days like that, but then you have the good days which make it all worth it.

All photos courtesy of Third Eye Chic Studio

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And that concludes this edition of our Fort Point Q&A! Love Barbara’s work? Check out her gallery here. Love her style? Take a look through her store here. Be sure to leave any comments, concerns, questions or qualms (hopefully none of those?) below. Or shoot us an email at info@friendsfpc.org. Be sure to stay in the loop with Friends of Fort Point Channel and sign up for our newsletter here.

Christine Rowley is the Marketing and Social Media Intern for Friends of Fort Point Channel and a current junior at Northeastern University.