Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Collected Interior: The Buzz on Suzanne Kasler

Just in case you missed my interview with Suzanne Kasler on Decorati:

Describe your design style in five words or less. Inspired.

What are three most important elements of sophisticated design? Scale, proportion, and attention to detail.

Your interiors are so strikingly different and new. Where do you get your inspiration for them? It depends on the project, sometimes it’s art, sometimes it’s the physical location, sometimes it’s my client’s lifestyle.

Is there a location that is most inspirational to you or that you visit again and again for new ideas? Paris…to me, it is the most beautiful and inspiring place in the world.

Where was the most exotic location where you did a project? We are working on a house in Kenya right now!

What single word, other than fabulous, do you try to avoid saying when describing your design work? Transitional.

I love watching period films to see the antique interiors. What is your favorite film to watch for it’s sets and interiors? Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, it’s French and so gorgeous!

(Note from Buzz: I agree and I also recommend Barry Lyndon)

Who’s your favorite clothes, jewelry and shoe designer? Hermes, Lanvin, Prada.

What are your favorite antique accessories? Boxes, books, textiles, rock crystal globes/obelisks, chia pets? Antique glass paperweights, shagreen, antique globes-the colors and patina are so special, antique books add such an authentic touch to a space.

On any decorating project, what is the absolutely first thing that needs to get done? If you can get the architecture right, it gives you such freedom when you’re designing the interiors. There’s nothing to compensate for or disguise.

What is the single most important factor or functionality that every room you design must have? In a house spaces need to relate to one another, so it’s important that the architecture and the interior design facilitate a flow. I also think it’s important that each room have one special piece-a fabulous piece of art, a fine antique, a quirky chair-but something needs to give the room personality and style. Often these pieces drive the design direction.

What makes your interiors personal to your clients and how do you go about ascertaining what those factors will be? I spend a lot of time working with my clients, asking questions, and listening to them. It’s important to me that my interiors reflect my client’s taste and way of living.

How do you handle a client that wants to be involved in every detail of the project? I work very hard to design interiors that work for my clients and help them live luxuriously and comfortably-so when they’re involved it makes it that much easier.

What happens if you design something for a client and the client just isn’t crazy about it? How do you handle that? I ask that they wait to see everything completed to make their final decision; if they still don’t like something I will take it back.

The highest end designers have strong opinions about where family photos should go. Some say bedroom, some say stairwell, etc. What does Suzanne say? I love to hang them all together in a hallway.

What role do antiques play in your design philosophy? I love working with antiques-they bring a timeless elegance and level of sophistication to a space that I think is important. I always encourage my clients to find a special piece, and not to buy something just for the sake of buying it. When the right antique comes along you’ll know it.

What turns you on about antiques? Is it their patina, their drama, the fact that they’re hand made, or something else? All those things, and the fact that they have stood the test of time, not only in their physical presence-but the style and the feel and the past they represent.

When it comes to antiques, do you have a favorite period or style? French Moderne.

Tell us about a great antique that you repurposed for a use that it was never intended for? An antique French magazine stand was used in a bath as a towel and accessory holder-very chic.

How do you feel about the opposite of antiques: mass produced furniture? I love antiques, but it’s practical to mix in pieces from catalogs. I love a mix of high and low and catalogs make good design really accessible to everyone. It also helps keep things affordable for my clients. It gives us the freedom to find the really special pieces-especially an antique-and fill in some of the smaller things with objects found online and in catalogs.

Are there any color trends you particular gravitate toward right now? White is my signature and it’s where I always start and that’s never really changed for me. I strategically layer in color and texture, but the background is always whites and neutrals, and I always love a beautiful blue.

What single decorating technique can freshen a room for the Fall without spending a ton of money? Paint.

Speaking of updating rooms for seasons, is this something you endorse and if so how do you transition a home from season to season? Is it paint, rugs, flowers, slipcovers, or other things. One of my clients slipcovered everything in white for the summer, it really freshened up the space against a darker background, which is perfect for the winter and fall.

From looking at your new Rizzoli book (which The Buzz feels is drop dead incredible and I’m not just saying that either!), I can’t honestly think of a singlular signature style of yours. What’s your thinking on that? I’m always reinventing myself and my work, so as I say in the book, why try to pin it down to one style? I work with things that I like that are beautiful and timeless, regardless of whether it is new or antique.

You’ve been widely published in the major shelter publications. Does your new book coming out from Rizzoli include images of projects that have never been published? Yes, one of my favorite projects is a house that has amazing architecture and art; I was so excited to include it.

Aside from your new book, you’re already famous for mixing antiques and classicism with the ultra contemporary. What are the challenges you face in achieving a balance between antiques and modern design?
The biggest challenge is keeping things fresh and interesting. I don’t want my interiors to be stamped with my own look, but want them to reflect my clients’ taste and interest. I like to help them create a lifestyle that blends the things they love with beautiful pieces.

Note from Buzz: you’re a designer after my own heart!

(BELOW: Suzanne Kasler’s book, Inspired Interiors)

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Some things are truly timeless. I can think of three off the top of my head:



3, And of course, "BUZZ'S RULES TO LIVE BY":

No, that's not a typo and I swear it's not me just being full of myself (although my tighter-than-capri pants might beg to differ).

Over the past thirty years, I've compiled a list of things that I thought could make me a better person, better co-worker, better businessman, and also add to the fun of my job. And guess what?! Although stranger than fiction, these sometimes very obvious "rules" have really helped me, my friends, and associates. So I thought I'd share them here with you in the the hope that you may also find them useful....and valuable:


1. Have Integrity

· This means don’t lie, cheat, or steal

2. Be on Time

· This means (oddly enough) don’t be late –and yes, one minute late is la

· Always strive to be on time or a little early to your job, meetings, appointments,

· If you’re going to be even one minute late, call before-hand and let the person

3. Keep your commi

· If you say you’re going to do something, then
do it.

· If you can’t keep a commitment, then ADVISE the person that you can’t do it and why (and tell them this BEFORE the deadline

4. Always Close
the Loop

· You open a loop when you tell someone you’re going to do something. Until you get back to them saying “It’s done or it’s not done and here’s why”, you’re leaving the
loop open.

· Open loops cause people anxiety, waste time and label you as unreliable. And who wants to work with someone
like that?

5. Emails

· When you copy (cc) someone, be prepared for that person to ignore it
or erase it.

· Never rely on a cc to get an important messa
ge to someone.

· Blind copies are a bad idea-by definition, they’re the opposite of open communication and indicate there’s a problem that n
eeds resolving.

6. Count to 10

· When you get angry with a co-worker or client, stop before you say something stupid that will make things worse (and you’
ll regret later).

· Count to 10 first or, better yet, sleep on it and 90% of the time you’ll have a different and constructive resp
onse the next day.

7. The Only Acceptable Attitu
de is a Positive One

· Never “give attitude” or be negative. Giving attitude has never solved a problem; on the contrary, it usually
makes things worse.

8. Play on your
Team, not Against It

· Treat your co-worker the way you would like to be treated-that means keeping each other posted and working together to deliver the
best results possible.

9. Lose the Backstory

· As interesting as it is that a project is late because your mother had appendicitis and your toilet overflowed, that’s called "backstory" and guess what? No one cares. So don’t waste people’s time with it-just get the job done as quickly
as possible and move on.

10. Leaving Notes for Co-workers

· When you drop off a note on someone’s desk or chair, make sure you put your name on it and some indication of what you want them to do with the information (e.g., FYI, per your request, please
call me about this, etc.)

11. Spend your Employer’s Money as if it Were your Own

· If you’re having trouble understanding this concept, please resign as soon as possible. There are currently openings at Jack-in-the-Box that might be perfect for you.

12. The Rule of Pages

· Whenever possible, try to fit a document onto one page. It makes life so much easier for everyone. But if you just can’t keep it to a single page, then make sure you number your pages.

13. The New York Times

· Never put anything in writing that you wouldn’t feel comfortable seeing on the fro
nt page of the New York Times.

14. Top of the Pyramid

· This means that the last 5% of time/effort on a project can improve the quality of the entire project by 25%-so always spend a few extra minutes after you’re “done” with a project to reread, rethink it, and make any final tweaks that might make it great.

15. Meetings

· See Rule No. 2.

· Never show up at a meeting without a pen and paper.

· If you have handouts for a meeting, get them to the participants BEFORE the meeting starts so they can review them and understand the issues when your meeting begins.

16. Spelling is Important

· Use “Spell Check” and make a special effort to spell people’s names right-it’s amazing how a misspelled name can upset a client.

17. Make People Right, NOT Wrong

· When you identify a problem or see that someone made a mistake, move quickly to resolve/correct this mistake (if possible) and then just explain the mistake to the person who made it and agree on how that error can be avoided. Don’t waste your time and others pointing fingers and blaming or trying to shame the person who erred. All that demonstrates is that you're mean, a bully, and an insecur
e mess. Other than that, you're perfect.

18. Be Generous with Information

· Share information with your co-workers as appropriate and necessary so that your team is always up to date and knowledgeable.

· People who intentionally withhold information to “keep their job secure” or to “make them look smarter” are losers and frauds.

19. Ask for the Bad News

· Although we love to hear compliments from our clients and co-workers, the smartest way to learn how to improve is to ASK FOR THE BAD NEWS (i.e., what did we do wrong or how could we have made it even better?).

· You’ll be amazed at
how much valuable information this will yield.

20. Write So that a Twelve Year Old can Understand

· When you write a note, letter, speech, etc. write it in clear and simple English that can’t be misinterpreted by your reader.

· In other words, write clearly in a way that a 12 year old could understand – don’t use big esoteric (good example) words or sentence structure to make you look smart. If you really are smart, people know that from your daily behavior and your ability to communicate clearly.

21. To Lose a Client is a Great Sin (unless the client is habitually unprofitable in which case it's a blessing)