Interior design expert, home stager, author and stylist Susanna Salk stepped away from her busy life of touring homes, both nationally and internationally, for her Quintessence video series to answer some of my questions about design. Join us for a conversation on inspiration, the process of transforming a home, and how Susanna would design her dream getaway cabin.
Gary Komarin: What got you interested in design? Was it always in your blood?
Susanna Salk: I dreamed of growing up and becoming a powerful woman who created sexy advertising campaigns in glossy magazines.
My first job out of college happened to be at Condé Nast International helping head up the New York satellite office for all their international shelter magazines. From their Elle Decor and then House and Garden and onto my own design work so it was more like a transfusion.
Gary Komarin: If you had a perfect client, how would you describe that client?
Susanna Salk: Someone who can inspire me as equally as they can stay open to being inspired. Someone who can be fearless, honest and funny.
Gary Komarin: As you do design projects on television, as well as books, how would you compare the two experiences? Does one feed or ‘speak’ to the other, or is it an apples and grapes comparison?
Susanna Salk: If you love what you do and are open to anything, then all mediums – not to mention the people you meet along the way – start cross pollinate each other continually.
Gary Komarin: What do you do with a client who likes your idea initially, but shows resistance overtime? Do you bend to that…or attempt to keep the ship going in the direction you planned?
Susanna Salk: It’s usually the other way around: initial resistance but then, starting to see how the new creative direction (be it a wall color, sofa pattern or editing), can work and then ultimately embracing it. There’s nothing more satisfying then convincing someone that less is more. I’ve had people – who I could tell were annoyed with my heavy edits of their stuff in the beginning – call me by the end to say how much more free they felt and how happy they were to wake up to their revamped spaces.
Gary Komarin: What surprises you most in terms of how people see design?
Susanna Salk: They worry too much if this matches that. They get bogged down in the minutiae instead of realizing that if you only display what you love then everything will work beautifully together!
Gary Komarin: Mies van der Rohe said, “less is more”. Do you agree with that or do you think that sometimes less is less?
Susanna Salk: It depends on what you have! A room full of stuff that is unloved, unedited and just there being lazy will look like crap. However, overly pruned modern spaces can feel as cozy as a hospital room.
I like rooms to feel richly layered and edited.
Gary Komarin: If you had to design a teeny getaway cabin in the woods, many fancy such an escape, what might yours look like?
Susanna Salk: I’d paint it all white and layer in lots of yummy textures and patterns. Then I’d fill the walls with great art and black and white photographs. And then I’d move it to the ocean!
Susanna Salk is a Connecticut-based design expert, stylist and stager, as well as the author of many best-selling design books. Her first book, which stemmed from her upbringing on Boston’s North Shore, is titled “A Privileged Life, Celebrating WASP Style”. The unexpected hit has led to Salk writing many more design books, including her eighth book, “It’s the Little Things: The Power of Detail in Design”, which will debut in Spring 2016.
Salk also hosts the monthly “At Home With” video series on the Quintessence design blog, which captures her visiting the homes and gardens of top designers and style makers around the globe. Watch the most recent video in the series on YouTube, At Home with Michael Bruno in Tuxedo Park.