December 4, 2022

Tohdad

Design with distinction

Erin Haskell Gourde, former GU basketball player Zach Gourde reflect on their downtown businesses

7 min read

Dec. 19—”Everyone wants a swivel chair.”

That was the unanimous response by Erin Haskell Gourde and Zach Gourde when asked what the top design trend was in Spokane this year.

Interior designer Haskell Gourde and Gourde, a former Gonzaga basketball player (1999-2003) who stands 6-foot-8, own design studio Design for the PPL, which was started in 2015. The retail and furniture store for Design for the PPL, at 125 S. Stevens St., was opened one year ago, and the couple celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary Dec. 12.

Haskell Gourde, who was born and raised in Spokane (“I went to Sacajawea and Lewis and Clark”) and is trained in interior design and architecture, and Gourde, who grew up in a small town outside Vancouver, Washington, talked about Design for the PPL, industry trends, Spokane and more at their sprawling, gorgeous and eclectic design studio and retail store on a recent Saturday morning.

Tell me about Design for the PPL — and what was the inspiration for opening the retail store one year ago?

Haskell Gourde: I’ve been in the business for 12 years, and we started as a design studio six years ago. We were purchasing furniture for all of our projects, and I felt like it was a missed opportunity in Spokane to make it to the masses, so we started our retail store here. We still have our design studio, so we just added this business to it.

When I was little in Spokane, I grew up next to the owners of Joel, the premiere furniture store where you could get Danish items and items from all over the world, and I just always loved going there. It was a special experience, and I wanted to bring that back to Spokane. Spokane is changing, and for the better, and it’s ready for this — amazing furniture and art that’s carefully curated from all over the world.

Gourde: Furniture and art is an experience. You need to be able to look, feel and touch. It can be tough to go online and shop. Something with texture and visual interest, you can’t see that on a screen. You need to be able to see that in person. With our design clients, they had to trust us in this pandemic because we couldn’t show it to them in person.

How has the first year of the retail store been in the pandemic?

Haskell Gourde: It has been amazing. Most people don’t even know that we’re here. I think I just put up the signs a couple months ago. We really don’t advertise. We probably should.

Gourde: We opened super soft and by invitation-only at first as we were building the place. Then it was appointment-only, and then we opened one day a week. Now we are open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Haskell Gourde: We did that so people would feel comfortable during the pandemic, to feel comfortable being here in person. That’s why we started with appointment-only. There was no vaccine yet.

What have been some of the highlights in the first year?

Haskell Gourde: Honestly, watching people’s faces when they step off the elevator.

Gourde: One of the best parts is watching those elevator doors open and people walk in and take it all in. It is unexpected because you’re walking into an older brick warehouse, going up the elevator and walking into, right now, a winter wonderland.

How would you describe the aesthetic of Design for the PPL?

Haskell Gourde: It’s named Design for the PPL for a reason. It’s not designed for Erin or Zach. We definitely pride ourselves on having a lot of different aesthetics. It’s more modern eccentric, as well as a lot of traditional pieces, midcentury pieces and transitional. People are in transition in their lives and sick of the old, oversized leathers and huge sofas and lounge chairs that take up the entire room. People want to refresh and elevate, and there is something here for everyone.

Gourde: It is very infrequently that someone walks in and walks around, and there is nothing that fits with what they’re looking for. Sometimes, there are people who come in from traditional homes and are looking for one piece, and we don’t have it. But people mostly come in and realize, “I want that and I want that and I want that.” We do have a little bit of everything; we’re an eclectic mix of items.

How did the two of you meet?

Haskell Gourde: He cold-called me!

Gourde: We have a lot of mutual friends who thought we needed to meet. I had been back in Spokane for two years, and neither one of us was single at the same time. But then we were both not seeing people, and nobody could quite get us at the same place at the same time. So, one morning, I just asked a friend to give me her number, and I called her way too early on a Sunday morning.

Haskell Gourde: My mom was already in love with him because she’s a huge GU fan. When I told her who had called me, she was beside herself, and she’s not that kind of person, so it was pretty funny.

Gourde: Our first date was that Sunday, our second date was that Monday, and our third date was that Tuesday. She had just finished graduate school that Friday. Our first date was at Steelhead, then we went to Bennedito’s Pizza.

What do you see as design trends in 2022?

Haskell Gourde: I would say polished spaces — you’re really thoughtful about what you’re putting in your house other than, “That will do.” You’re curating your space and thinking about the accessories and what’s surrounding you rather than focusing on one thing. There’s definitely a huge European influence coming — Greek, French and Spanish. I think that’s the big next thing.

Gourde: To go to your first point, people are spending so much time at home now, more so than ever before in their spaces. They’re surrounded by and stuck in their own environment. They’re not going out as much or traveling as much, so they’re focusing more on what’s around them. People are investing more in their homes because they’re home much more than they used to be.

What makes Design for the PPL stand out?

Haskell Gourde: Our design studio can only take on so many large projects per year, so our biggest concept is called Day With the Designer. When this space opened, I thought people would come in and say, “I like that chair — I’m going to buy it.” But really, they want us to tell them what they should have, which was surprising. People love Day With the Designer because it’s a win-win for everybody.

We go into their house and assess the situation and do a consultation. It could be one room or all the rooms. We find out what they’re keeping, what their style is, what they’re lifestyle is, what they hate. It’s understanding what people want.

Gourde: We thought that people would just come in and shop, and they do come in and shop, but there are people who want our help and need direction. They’re not comfortable making the decisions themselves, so Day With the Designer is a way for us to devote time to them. We can put together a blueprint for them to move forward.

Were there any particular items that were popular or trends in Spokane in 2021?

Gourde: Everybody wants a swivel chair.

Haskell Gourde: Everybody wants a swivel chair! Good call.

Gourde: We’ve found that the market does tend to go in cycles, and we have no idea what that cycle is going to be. For a month and half, people will come in wanting nothing but dining room tables, and then for months it’s dressers, and then everyone is looking for swivel chairs.

What do the two of you like most about Spokane?

Haskell Gourde: Opportunity. I also call Spokane Toyland. You can walk outside and go on a walk on Centennial Trail. You can go to a lake or go skiing. We’re not a huge city, but I always say you have an open mouth kiss with Spokane. It’s what you make of it. What do you think?

Gourde: I agree 100%. I’ve bounced around a lot, and this by far is the easiest place to live, and I mean do we have traffic? Yes, but it’
s not that bad. Does it take me more than 15 minutes to get where I want to go? Probably not. Are there things going on downtown? Yes, there are. Everything is simple, and there is opportunity. There is the ability here to try something new and play and have fun.

What are you looking forward to most in the new year?

Haskell Gourde: People knowing where our store is (laughs). I would say more of what we’re doing now. We love transforming people’s spaces. It really makes their lives better. I always say we can’t save your life, but we can change your life. I love getting to understand how people live and move in their space. It affects their lives, and people are happier. We love surprising people. What about you, Zach?

Gourde: We’re in transition, too, and expanding. I’m looking forward to expanding. Time will tell.

Info: Design for the PPL, 125 S. Stevens St., second floor, (509) 864-6638, designfortheppl.com