ROOMS TO REMEMBER: The Classic Interiors of Suzanne Tucker

I have been a fan of Suzanne Tucker's work for years now, and had been anxiuosly awaiting the release of her new book: Rooms to Remember: The Classic Interiors of Suzanne Tucker from The Monacelli Press. So you can imagine my elation when I received a copy from the publisher! As soon as I received it, I spent the whole evening perusing it's beautiful glossy pages. These are my personal impressions of the book:

The cover is gorgeous. The book is beautifully put together with huge full bleed photos on most of the pages. The organization of the book is just how I like it: the chapters are arranged by catagories of information. For example, Chapter 1 is titled Bones and Architecture, Chapter 2 is Scale and Proportion, Chapter 3 is Balance, Contrast and Harmony, Chapter 4 is Individuality and Personality, and so on. The other great thing is that the book is written by Suzanne Tucker herself, so you really get an inside look at how Suzanne thinks about design and the processes she uses in her work. It is truly a "great read": fascinating and colorful.

Suzanne Tucker is one of those versatile designers that can create magic in any style and pull it off without a hitch. Contemporary or traditional, classic or "California Style", she can do it all with chic aplomb.

I highly recommend it not only as a wonderful resource and something simply stunning to look at, but also as a book that was fun to read. It will be one of my "go to" books when I need ideas or inspiration for my work, or just my life.

I was lucky to have a chance to coorespond with Suzanne and ask her a few questions. I hope you enjoy enjoy our conversation and some of my favorite pages from her book (these are but a fraction, I assure you!) ....the first of many to come, I hope!

Suzanne, your book is just so beautiful and the projects are so varied. Where and how do you begin the process of conceptualizing your designs for your clients?

SMT: I’m so glad you used the word ”process” because that really is what great design is all about! Too often the client thinks of the tangible “project” but it’s much more about the intangible process – getting to know the client, listening to them, asking questions, learning about their dreams and desires, picking up on their nuances and then of course the house or apartment or room itself – the mood, the quality of light, the architecture, the bones, and the challenges. I’ve developed what I refer to as my design Rorschach test where I’ll quickly show countless textiles, furniture, colors, textures and photo images to a client. Just by gleaning their initial responses I am able to pretty quickly discern what their style and tastes are and from there I begin to paint the picture.

What/who inspires you in your work?

SMT: The “what” can be almost anything around us on a daily basis which is all about keeping your eyes and mind open! But I find I’m most inspired when I travel and the exposure to different cultures, architecture, local crafts, and even indigenous paint colors can become my greatest source of ideas. Travelling with my digital camera is a must (daily!) and I always have a slim one to slip into an evening bag as you never know where or when your curiosity will strike. I take snapshots of everything from the obvious rooms and architecture to floors, grills, ceilings, hinges, bark, leaves, you name it! Sometimes I know what I’ll do with what I’m shooting or perhaps it will evolve like the curve of an antique chair leg, which could end up inspiring a repeating swirl in a mosaic floor pattern. I look for curves, shapes and colors. I’ve even photographed shadows. Returning with 600-800 pictures is the norm!
And the “who” inspires me are certainly the great designers from the past, John Fowler, Nancy Lancaster, Henri Samuel, Frances Elkins, Michael Taylor, Billy Baldwin, the great architects – Adams, Kent, Soane, Le Notre, Palladio, Mizner, George Washington Smith – my library of books! And from the present, there are many colleagues whose work I admire but if I started listing them I could get in trouble with those whom I don’t mention! Ultimately, I feel it’s really my clients who inspire me to be creative, to seek out something special, and to make a house unique to them.

You were lucky to have worked with one of the Masters of Design, Michael Taylor. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Mr. Taylor?

#1 BIG! He was a tall man, had tremendous presence, thought big and designed big! And #2 - That I miss him! And I often times wonder what he would be doing today and think about how his work would have evolved.

How has your aesthetic evolved since your days with Michael Taylor?

I had an entirely unique education with Michael in that I saw both sides of his work – the big, bold, white “California Look” signature rooms which sold magazines, made the phone ring, and paid the bills to the more elegant, collected, exotic, antique filled rarefied world he so brilliantly juxtaposed for others. The latter resonated with me most strongly and I’ve honestly never had a desire to create a “signature look”. I’ve always been much more interested in the mix, in combining antiques, custom furnishings, contemporary art and personal collections. Michael also felt strongly about architecture. From that mentoring I’ve always been in pursuit of “good bones”, expanded my passion for architecture and am always the architects advocate.

Describe your “perfect client”.

SMT: Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as the “perfect client” but there is definitely a really wonderful good client and a truly dreadfully bad client! Most people think it’s about deep pockets and carte blanche but that’s not the case at all. The best client is the one who can trust – trust the process, trust the professionals, trust the time it’s going to take to do the best job. Michael Taylor often said you are as good as your client, meaning if your client has good taste, it’s a walk in the park. But I’ve also found that the clients who don’t necessarily have great taste but know enough to trust me and my taste, then it can be a dream.

How would you describe your own personal style?

SMT: Outwardly my style is fairly classic – elegant, comfortable and timeless. But inside there’s perhaps a little of the mad scientist! An architect friend referred to my living room as my “decorating laboratory” which isn’t far from the truth at times as I’ll bring in furniture or objects to live with for a while, try them out, rearrange the furniture, test a piece, mix it up, get bored and move on to the next experiment!

What are you working on now?

SMT: There are projects all over right now in all sorts of phases, sizes and styles on which my design staff and I are presently working. We have a fantastic Spanish Revival project south of San Francisco on 12 acres, a spectacular mountain house on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, a city apartment with breathtaking views, a massive, very Michael Taylor-scale house in Sun Valley, Idaho, and various others mostly in California.

What is happening next?

SMT: Well, in addition to the September publishing of my first design book, “Rooms to Remember” and upcoming signings and lectures, I am about to launch Suzanne Tucker Home in January 2010 with a fabric collection in Paris at Holland & Sherry! Très excitant! In February we’ll be launching in San Francisco at Shears & Window and in Los Angeles at Thomas Lavin in March. Holland & Sherry’s New York and Chicago showrooms will have my fabrics after February as well, and it looks like Dallas, Atlanta and Florida may be the next stops. I have also been asked by a major tabletop manufacturer to design a line of china which I find so exciting as it’s one of the things in life I love. And I’m constantly working on custom furniture designs for our clients homes so perhaps 2010 will be the year to launch that line! This past year has been quite busy, to say the least, including installing six projects! Those, coupled with the ones yet to be finished or photograph, create enough material for a second book! Stay tuned!

What color are you and why?

Yellow! A buttery yellow…. Warm, flattering, mixes well with all other shades, makes you happy!

What is on your nightstand?

A photograph of my daughter when she was 4 (she’s now 23!), another of my husband and me on our honeymoon 13 years ago, about 2 ½” of stacked magazines (osmosis?), a silver mint julep cup holding pens, pencils, a nail file and a scale, a notepad from the Quisisana Hotel on Capri, a bottle of water, a clock radio which I mostly ignore, The Help by Kathryn Stockett (a wonderful southern read), A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink (fantastic book!), a really lovely pierced porcelain blanc de chine antique lamp (a client “reject” which I love), and we won’t bother going to the shelf below!

What is your favorite place to escape?

SMT: A beach and the ocean - the best for me to really decompress - the Mauna Kea on Hawaii. Capri for decadent, dreamy romance (my husband calls it “Shop-pri”!), Lake Como for La Dolce Vita, and Villa Feltrinelli on Lake Garda, Italy for the ultimate romantic, indulgent hideaway.

What is your most favorite place to shop and why?

San Francisco antiques dealers because they are knowledgeable and professional; New York because it has everything under the sun and you can never exhaust all the sources; Worth Avenue, Palm Beach for its killer window shopping and the custom linens I order from Kassatly’s; Via Condotti in Rome for the people watching alone!; Paris flea market because one always shops with naive hope that you’ll find the undiscovered treasure; Bergdorf Goodman because it’s Bergdorfs!

Describe a typical day in the life of Suzanne Tucker.

6:30 alarm… snooze button …. Get on the elliptical (pretty rare these days!)…Mad dash to dress, juggle calls, blackberry and breakfast all at the same time… design meetings with staff and/or clients… emails, phone calls, working lunch (always)… put out fires… solve problems… can I ever get out the door to shop… work too late… come home to what my husband calls “dinner-in-a-drawer” (can’t live without my Thermador warming drawer) wonderfully prepped by our housekeeper…emails, read, zone out falling asleep in front of the TV… too late to bed…zzzzz… And thus the “glamorous life” of a decorator!

Classic and full of personality, Suzanne's work is heady and rich. This is just a taste of this beautiful book. Might be a good thing give this Christmas, to those on your list and to yourself!

Oh! And between you and me.....Suzanne is planning to open a Suzanne Tucker Home section on her website January remember to check it out!

All photos courtesy of Suzanne Tucker and The Monacelli Press