Suzanne Kasler has a simple secret for those who don’t know where to start when it comes to creating a look for their own homes: “Find what you love and surround yourself with it. Live with it.”
So begins Kasler’s second monograph, Timeless Style, a big, beautiful book by Rizzoli showcasing interiors she has designed for eight spaces, including her own house in Atlanta’s tony Buckhead neighborhood. Kasler is, unquestionably, one of America’s top designers. She has been named to Elle Décor’s A-List and Architectural Digest’s AD100.
Her work has also been shown in House Beautiful, Veranda and other glossy, major design magazines. She has signature lines at Ballard, Hickory Chairs and other big-name decor manufacturers.
She travels the globe for her clients, finding inspiration everywhere she looks — in invitations to fashion shows, in miniature perfume bottles at a favorite Paris flea market, in French ribbons that she’ll arrange and rearrange into interesting combinations.
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She’s known for rooms that exude a casual elegance, that mix sophisticated with surprising and that look decorated but not overdecorated.
Her secrets, she says, are attainable. Start by using lots of white in a room so that colors pop and architectural details stand out. Mix antiques and contemporary pieces. Group much-loved collections together, but know when to stop.
Kasler will share her thoughts on creating great spaces at this year’s Design Inspirations 2015 event in Fort Worth on March 5. To get a taste of what’s to come in that speech, we caught up with her while she was on the road, heading home after trips to Paris and Tennessee. She gracefully fielded our 10 burning questions while she made her way to the airport and even through TSA security.
In a nutshell, how would you describe your design style?
I always think about a foundation of tradition — it’s all about working with the architecture of the space. But I also try to do a fresh interpretation, so it’s traditional, but it’s not.
I’ve read that your favorite color is white. Can you explain why?
White is still my favorite. I love working from white because then you can really have a strategic use of other colors — they really show up against a neutral background. I love that concept of design.
I always struggle to find the right white to paint a room. Are there favorite whites that you work with?
I love Benjamin Moore’s White Dove (OC-17) and Floral White (OC-29). Farrow & Ball has a great white, too, but overall, my favorite whites are Benjamin Moore.
So, let’s talk about that design concept of colors popping up against a neutral background. What colors do you like to play against the white?
I’m known for loving blue — lots of different shades of blue, from silver-gray to a darker turquoise. And I always tell people that when you use blue, you want to have some other color at the opposite end of the color spectrum. I’ve always been attracted to Hermès orange. But if you use orange and blue together, it’s important to use an orange value that has the same values as the blues in the room....There’s one room in my books that everyone thinks of as ‘the orange room.’ People have written about it as “the orange room.” But there are only three orange things in the room — a Hermès blanket, some ottomans and a chair. I also love having the same color in a room, but in different textures.
Texture is definitely harder for most people to think about than color. Your rooms have such delightful layers of textures. What are some of your favorite textural combinations and why?
I always love a linen and velvet combination — it’s kind of casual and dressy at the same time, which is the way people live today. I might pair a linen sofa with a velvet chair, for example. I also like to mix in silks, maybe in pillows. If you have the same color in different textures, the pieces all read differently — it’s all about the layering of tone so that the room doesn’t look overdecorated.
Your books show two of your own homes, which I thought was fun. It’s inspiring to see how you took the same pieces from your first house and used them in the new house to create new effects. I especially love that orange leather chair you have. I know this isn’t a question, but I love that chair.
I bought that chair at a Paris flea market years and years ago before I was focused on using orange. It didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen, so I bought it. It’s ended up being a favorite piece. I think people should get pieces they love and that have memories.
Yes, you say in your books that if you find something you absolutely love for your home, you should buy it, and it will find its place. What are some of the more interesting items you’ve used in decorating your clients’ homes?
Well, people oftentimes, when they travel, buy things. The things they buy are a great memory and when they’re on vacation, people have a little more casual time to shop. Some of our clients have bought really large things. I had some clients who traveled to Asia — Thailand, I think — and brought back these large sculptures for their classic house. They had maybe three of them. We did some overscale console tables and put them on the tables and they looked fabulous. It might be challenging at first to figure out where to put things, but they can add a lot of personal interest to the home. We ended up creating a great composition with the sculptures.
You’ve also said that fashion inspires your designs. What fashion touches will people find in your work?
I always love shopping. The things you see in some of the details of fashion — buttons, the way things are edged — can be translated into interiors. Fashion and design are more closely related than ever these days. They have a stronger and stronger connection. Fashion color trends influence design trends. Everything in fashion translates into the design world as well.
What sorts of things have been inspiring you recently?
I am inspired by so many things. I can be inspired by flowers I see at a restaurant. I just got back from Paris — I went to the gift show. All the vignettes are special and different and I love seeing people’s individual expressions. Inspiration can come from anywhere. I once photographed blue doors in Paris, and that inspired me to do blue dining rooms.
Have you spent any time in Texas, and if so, what inspires you about the Lone Star State?
I was born in Texas! I was born in Waco — my dad was in the Air Force. I’ve always wanted to live there, and I’ve gone there so many times. There’s that whole American cowboy thing — but it’s sophisticated. Texans have that spirit that I’ve always loved. And it’s a West and East coast mix — I’ve always loved that, as well, in design.
Meet the Designer: Design Inspirations 2015
Suzanne Kasler is the guest speaker for the 22nd annual Design Inspirations event, a fundraiser supported by the Fort Worth alumnae of Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi.
More than 60 local designers, businesses and individuals will decorate tables for the event, which includes a preview party with dinner, music and mingling as well as the luncheon at which Kasler will speak.
This year’s event, held at Ridglea Country Club, 3700 Bernie Anderson Ave., Fort Worth, benefits Gill Children’s Services Inc. and Child Study Center.
Preview party: 7-9 p.m. March 4, $100
Luncheon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. March 5, $125
To purchase: www.designinspirationsfw.org; email@example.com.
Suzanne Kasler has not just one, but two monographs of her work, both gorgeous, lavishly illustrated coffee-table books from Rizzoli.
Inspired Interiors, published in 2009, starts with images of Kasler’s Atlanta home. Part II focuses on her design principles of Classic Elegance, Sophisticated Simplicity and Luxurious Ease. Part III is organized by Elements, including Architectural Elements, Objects and Details, Color and Light, In the City, In the Country, and At the Beach. The final chapter gives Design Resources. 224 pages. $50.
Timeless Style, published in 2013, also starts with a chapter on Kasler’s home — a Federal-style home in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood that she and her husband moved into after her first book was published. Seven more of her projects are showcased, including interiors at Tennessee’s swanky Blackberry Farm resort and open-air cottages in an African wildlife conservancy. 304 pages. $55.