Jillian O'Neill might have cracked the code for being in three places at once. No, the Houston-based interior designer hasn't figured out how to clone herself—yet—but she has forged a new path in her industry with the recent launch of an international design collective. The aptly named Jillian O'Neill Collective will serve as an extension of O'Neill's namesake interior firm, serving clients in and around the tri-city hub of Houston, Chicago, and London.
O'Neill founded her firm in 2002 in Chicago, where she remained for a decade until her husband's job (with the Astros, mind you) brought her to Houston. Last year, she launched a furniture collection that's since "really taken off and is demanding a lot of my time," she says. "I just hated to say goodbye to the design side after creating something for so long."
So, she's not. With the collective, O'Neill tapped three appointed designers—"really talented people that I just miss working with," she says—to lead the charge in each designated city: Melissa Campbell in Houston, Kelly Barnett in Chicago, and Jane Thorburn in London. The collective will share resources (plus a yearly retreat) and will serve as an extension of the elegant, fashion-forward aesthetic O'Neill has built her name on for the last 15 years, but she also wants each designer to enjoy some autonomy in the endeavor.
"We feel really closely tied together and we really have a unified vision; however, we're going to get the ability to work in different cities and be influenced by that and have different source experiences," O'Neill says.
About those cities: Houston is home base, obviously, and O'Nell has history (and a following) back in Chicago. London is now home to a former coworker who relocated from Houston, and "I'm personally really inspired by the design scene right now," O'Neill says of the city across the pond. "I think it's really strong."
O'Neill is adamant the collective offices will stay small and tailored to the client, who will work directly with a principal designer. "Overall what we've achieved is creating luxurious yet family-friendly spaces for families that I've worked with over the years," O'Neill says, a mission she wants to continue with this expansion.
When it comes to design, O'Neill says she's most inspired by fashion, which should come as no surprise given her background in runway modeling. That's honed her focus on elements like scale, tailoring, and textiles. "The principle of everything for me really comes down to craftsmanship. It's really what spawned the [furniture] collection, learning about all of these really incredible makers in our industry that are honestly, in my opinion, all too often hidden away in trade show rooms," she says.
O'Neill is also inspired by travel and the years she's spent sourcing unique pieces around the world. That global influence is alive and well in Houston especially, she says, where "people are moving here from all over. It's like that paired with a real sense of love of home ... people have such pride in being from here, and I have pride living here. Their homes and families are so important to them, and that obviously completely drives what I want to do."