Q&A with Suzanne on Outdoor Living

Ballard Designs: The first collection you produced with Ballard last fall focused on accessories. For the spring, you shifted design gears and chose to do your first-ever outdoor furniture collection.

Suzanne Kasler: In the interior design business, we used to do the whole job and then think about adding some outdoor furniture. Now outdoor design is part of the whole process. Today, we’re connecting more with the outside, so these spaces are really considered outdoor rooms. People are discovering that if they put down an outdoor rug, invest in really comfortable furniture and add a drapery panels, you can extend your home for entertaining and enhance with way you live on your property. I wanted to produce a classic outdoor furniture collection that truly invites you to sit down, relax and enjoy the season.

BD: Why all-weather wicker?

SK: I was really inspired by the woven wicker furniture you see on virtually every sidewalk in France. It has a more refined look and a lighter taupe shade that I find so appealing. So I bought a chair and used it as my muse for the start of this collection.To get the subtle depth, we used two different kinds of materials woven in a classic chevron pattern, making the color much more interesting. That’s one of the things I’m enjoying so much in producing my pieces with Ballard. The team is so good at getting the little details just right. And for me, that’s so important.

We also took a lot of time to perfect the scale of the pieces, so they will fit lots of spaces without taking over. The frames are made of aluminum, so they’re strong and durable, yet easy to place. And, at the same time, all of the pieces are so comfortable. I’m really pleased with how the collection turned out.

BD: What about color?

SK: I love color and I use it a lot, but it’s always related to the space and time of year. When I was looking at color for my outdoor collection, I went with classic white cushions. What that allows you to do is have an accent in the rug and then in the pillows. Everything else is neutral. It’s a little stronger look and that’s sort of my approach to an outdoor space. You can make it as definite as you want – we’re doing a lot of slipcovers for the cushions, too. You get the bones you need, then add the fabrics, which are a small, but key part of the whole look.

BD: So you rely on the rug for color inspiration.

SK: I looked at the collection this year as starting with color in the new indoor/outdoor rugs, then keeping things classic in the pillow fabrics. For the rugs, I did simple beautiful borders – one with my signature quatrefoil and the other with a crisp geometric. And both come in so many different colors, you can find the perfect shade for your space.

BD: A lot of effort went into your outdoor collection, but that didn’t stop you from designing some fun accessories to go with it, including these great looking Zinc Planters.

SK: Yes, I think they turned out so fabulously. They’re sophisticated, with great shapes, and finished with my signature quatrefoil detail. The quatrefoil is a classic architectural motif, but it’s also used in jewelry and fashion. And I’m loving how it’s translating to decorative pieces. My planters work indoors or out. We used the great big one for logs. The smaller ones look great just sitting on a table, almost like a vase. The medium size is perfect for magazines and newspapers.BD: The first things you notice in this room are the cameos. They’re really dramatic massed on a wall.

SK: I’ve used intaglios and cameos in my projects for years. They make such an impact collected on a wall like we’ve done here. These particular cameos are cast from plaster in England and then framed here on a pale blue background to show off their wonderful details. They end up being architectural as well as decorative, and they mix so well with other wall art.

BD: Like your new mirror. It has a sort of old Hollywood glamour.

SK: I had a small picture frame mirror with a beautiful ribbed rim, so I recreated it in two sizes using a double row of faceted mirror tiles. The stained wood frame adds a nice, strong contrast to that decorative element. A lot of us are inspired right now by the art deco period. These mirrors are great way to introduce that designer focus without being too extreme. I really like bringing that into the mix.

BD: An easel is an unusual edition.

SK: As a designer, I’m always looking for pieces like my new easel to introduce into a project. It’s substantial enough in look and feel to put a significant piece of art on it, plus it gives you the flexibility of layering your table as we did here.BD: We spy another quatrefoil.

SK: Vases that are large enough to hold tall stems are just not that easy to find, so I created this big, over-scaled vase, but with a subtle detail – my quatrefoil – to make it really stand out. I love to use it as an ice bucket, too.

BD: Tell us about the miniature Eiffel Towers. Don’t you collect these?

SK: That’s right, I try to bring one home every time I travel to France. Each year, I plan on bringing in a new Eiffel Tower for Ballard, just like I do for my own collection. What I especially love about these are the great colors – orange, taupe, blue and, of course, white – all of my favorites.

BD: You’ve also created some pretty new floral fixtures.

SK: And I just love my Flower Candelabra and Floor Lamp. They’re sources of light and sculpture at the same time. And for me, when a piece can do double duty like that, I know it’s going to work.

BD: Storage is always a big concern for you, isn’t it?

SK: Always. That’s why I have loved the big baskets you see here since the day they arrived. I’m using them in all of my projects because they’re such versatile sizes. You can use them for logs, magazines and storage. In my office, we have them filled with fabric samples.

BD: This looks like a hard-working family space.

SK: When I was in Paris at the flea market, I found these great industrial hooks and I bought them for myself. It’s so hard to find good looking hooks and these were so fabulous. I brought my original into Ballard and we recreated it in two sizes. They’re really functional, but look great hung in a grouping, even with nothing on them. We’re showing them here in a back entry mixed in with my landscape architectural prints.

BD: Tell us about them.

SK: I bought the original architectural plans at an antique show. And today, the reproduction is so good, you really can’t tell the difference from the originals. You can have this fantastic art at a fantastic price. I love how these landscape plans have beautiful designs and color, so they only require a simple frame. And below, you can see the woven basket I translated into a pet bed. The cushion cover comes in all my linen colors. And then we did the industrial style dog bowl and matching boot tray. The riveted details work so well with the hooks above and the whole look is so simple and classic, it goes anywhere.

BD: The Chain Link Picture Frames add to the layered, collected look.

SK: The picture frames are made of linked chain, almost like an English snaffle bit, for a great equestrian feel. And my horn boxes you see in the next room turned out really beautiful as well. One of the things that has been very exciting for me in working with Ballard has been to find high-end sources for specialty pieces like these boxes and translating them into a more affordable place.

BD: And you’ve added more lamps in this room.SK: My new Tripod Lamp comes in two finishes: sort of a bleached white and a darker stain. It’s great because the legs telescope from floor lamp height to table height. Again, the look is timeless, so you can use it almost anywhere.

BD: And the glass one?

SK: While I was in France, I found a miniature version of this great lamp in this beautiful gray-green sea glass. We got the color just right and with the clear acrylic base, it looks so chic.

BD: The scales look really authentic. They’re heavy, too.

SK: On that same trip, I found this vintage brass scale that we recreated in exact detail. You can use it a kitchen, in a library sitting on a table. It’s a great conversation piece.

BD: We can’t end the conversation without talking about your Crest Magnets.

SK: One of the things I’ve always loved about Ballard are the bulletin boards. And on my trips to Paris, I had collected all these old postcards. So we translated the tiny insignias used to stamp them into these Crest Magnets. It’s funny that they’re so small, but I think it’s those little details that make Ballard really special.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    ember stites

    March 1, 2015

    Does anyone knowvwhere to buy the crest magnets?

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      March 3, 2015

      Hi Ember,
      Unfortunately we don’t have any information about them. Sorry!
      The How to Decorate Team

  2. Reply

    Marion Erwin

    May 12, 2011

    I knew Suzanne back in the 80s when she was starting out. Love her designs, especially the modified Louis daybed.
    Marion Erwin
    Interior Designer