Incollect 1-17-18
texas edition
A model turned designer shares her take on fashion and interiors
Feb 9, 2018
Katy B. Olson

What’s design like in Houston? We’ve heard only good things. But to get the full scoop, we went to Jillian O’Neill, a former model, current interior designer and newly minted Texan who recently launched her first furniture line. (While her career as a runway model for Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Tom Ford and Oscar de la Renta was in full swing, O’Neill was attending design school.)

She chats with EAL about her design education on and off the runway, what’s going on in Texas, and what designers can expect from her inaugural line.

Jillian O'Neill; courtesy Jillian O'Neill
Jillian O’Neill; courtesy Susan Soriano Photography

Tell us about your early background in fashion. How are fashion and interiors similar?
I was in the runway division for Elite Model Management (now Ford Models) for a few years while I attended design school. Specifically, spending days through fittings at Giorgio Armani had an enormous impact on my aesthetic … from the quality of the textiles unlike any other, to the perfect cut of a dress that made all the difference in the world. That translated into how I see lines of furnishings and my appreciation for craftsmanship.

What is fun about fashion is that you can throw in trendy pieces very easily. It’s not as easy to take risks with your home, I’ll admit that. I’ve had fun doing it in small doses with clients over the years (and in my own home), but when it came to building my collection, I veered toward what really feels right to me and toward pieces that will have longevity in their design sense.

A model turned designer shares her take on fashion and interiorsWhat is fun about fashion is that you can throw in trendy pieces very easily. It’s not as easy to take risks with your home. I’ve had fun doing it in small doses with clients over the years but when it came to building my collection, I veered toward what really feels right to me.

What is the design scene like in your neck of the woods? What are your go-to stores?
Ooh, Houston is on such a roll right now. It is such an ... eclectic city; I feel so lucky to call it my new home. I love what Found for the Home offers, and M Naeve carries some of my favorite lines. And Kuhl-Linscomb is just one of the most fun places to be—especially during the holidays, because their gift game is so strong. You can find so many unique things for anyone on your list at any price point.

Emma Bench; courtesy Jillian O'Neill Collection
Emma Bench; courtesy Jillian O’Neill Collection

Share a few of your current projects.
My goal for 2018 is to do more of what feels authentic to me. There is so much in my life that I am passionate about right now, so I want to absolutely fill my days with those things. I have developed a line of furnishings that allows me to love going to work every single day. As a bonus, designers that I greatly respect are buying it up—which really couldn’t make me happier, honestly. I am enjoying developing new pieces to add to the collection, a few of which will launch early next year.

Coco Ottoman; courtesy Jillian O'Neill Collection
Coco Ottoman; courtesy Jillian O’Neill Collection

Currently, I’m in the midst of a sofa design that is named after my new nephew, Jude, and hopeful it is as perfect as he is! This new endeavor has allowed me to find more balance and more time to spend with my family and friends. I suppose I feel I’m at the point of things coming to fruition; to begin enjoying what’s developed from all of the hard work I have put in over so many years.

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