Goulden girl’s Queenstown love affair

Designs on Queenstown: Emma Gould

An interior designer who once worked for the Spice Girls has set up shop again in Queenstown. Emma Gould discusses her career before and after moving here, and what inspires her, with Philip Chandler

It’s a bit of a milestone year for high-end Queenstown interior designer Emma Gould.

The chic Englishwoman, who’s worked in interior design for 30 years, has just reopened a studio in the CBD, 10 years after closing her former premises.

And in three months’ time, despite her youthful appearance, she turns 50.

A ‘Chelsea girl’, Gould studied at the London College of Fashion after leaving school.

After a brief career as a catwalk model, she started work as an interior designer at the age of 20.

“I trained with some of the best designers in London,” she says, citing David Laws and Ina Lindemann, who had very high-end clients.

Using her maiden name, she then set up Emma Cole Design, designing homes for fashionistas and young music industry celebs like the Spice Girls and Shaznay from All Saints.

“They just let you be creative.”

She also helped Spice Girl Mel C start an art collection by buying investment pieces for her.

Meanwhile, she’d met merchant banker, Welshman Phil Gould, whom she married at her favourite London hotel, Claridge’s, in 2000.

Deciding to chuck in his career in the City, Phil asked Emma if she’d mind shifting to Queenstown, where he’d bought a section at Arthurs Point.

Emma agreed but admits she felt some trepidation at leaving behind her family, friends and burgeoning career.

“In retrospect, it was the best decision we could have ever made.”

In their first year here they didn’t work while they built a house, travelled and enjoyed “us time”.

Deciding she loved it here, Emma then set up White Interiors, operating from her home studio and also premises in Duke Street.

Knowing what it took to build a home gave her invaluable experience on what worked in local conditions, she says.

The couple joined the resort’s social set, but in 2007, aged only 45, Phil died out of the blue from a heart attack.

In her grief, Emma says she was blown away by the support she received, with even complete strangers dropping off baked goods on her doorstep.

Emma flew Phil’s body back to Wales for his funeral.

“I flew back here within two weeks, brought back some of his ashes, and then I just literally threw myself into business – that was very cathartic for me.”

She closed her Duke St premises but continued to work from home, always with the help of a design assistant.

Emma’s worked for a lot of international clients, many with homes all around the world, but is now also working for a lot of Aucklanders building here.

While heavily influenced by her clients, Emma describes her own stamp as “chic, sophisticated, with a hint of glamour”.

That glamour, she says, can come from cushions, a beautiful antique piece of furniture or artwork.

“I love luxurious things, like furs.”

These days she likes to incorporate natural New Zealand elements.

Emma says she looks for design ideas constantly, and pops back once a year to England and Europe to check on trends.

Two years ago she took inspiration from a six-month break in France, where her great-grandmother hailed from.

She occasionally misses London for its theatre and history, but couldn’t be happier living in Queenstown.

“I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that offers the quality of life we have here.”

Though keeping White Interiors, she’s now rebranded as Emma Gould Design.

She’s delighted to have a new CBD showroom, conveniently located in an old house at the top of Shotover Street.

“I felt there isn’t anything like this here – people that are coming here to build homes do want to see a studio.”