Suzanne Kasler is a master at creating richly layered rooms that radiate easygoing warmth and grace and, at the same time, a streamlined simplicity. This edited look is what draws us in every time, so we asked the designer for her best tips. Below, Suzanne shares her strategies for creating an edited space in three easy steps.
Step 1: Create the Perfect Backdrop
When I’m working on a design, the first thing I want to do is look at the space and see where I can strengthen the architecture and make this space the best it can be without anything in it. The simplest solution and my biggest design tool is paint. I often start with what I call an all-white room. I’ll paint the ceiling, trim, walls and molding all the same color, usually in a soothing white, cream or ecru.
My favorite whites are Benjamin Moore White Dove, Floral White and Linen White — and I never use flat paint. This is what gives a space a strong backdrop — that white-architectural envelope — and readies a room for layering and creating a very edited look.
There are exceptions to everything. Sometimes, I love to take a dining room, a small hallway, a powder room — any space that can stand on its own and is not a room you’re in all the time — and lacquer the ceiling, trim and walls the same color to make a really strong design statement. Lacquered rooms are very en vogue right now.
Step 2: Use Color & Pattern Strategically
Now it’s time to bring in the main pieces in the room — the sofas and chairs — and this is where I love to use neutrals. I have to laugh, because almost every major upholstered piece I do is white, off-white or flax. But then I add another layer with drapery, pillows, flowers and throws, and it’s amazing how it instantly transforms a room. What I love about interior design today is that it’s now more than ever influenced by fashion. So this is a great way to bring in a great color or dressmaker details, like tufted buttons or these slipcover ties on the settee, that you’re especially in the mood for right now. As long as you start with the right timeless design of your space with strong neutral pieces, you can then bring in those influences into your space.
Say this year you’re in the mood for orange. What I did here is create a subtle tonality with four orange throw pillows, an orange Hermes throw and a vase of orange flowers. You look at this room and you see orange — it dominates the room — but there are really only a handful of things that are orange and everything else is neutral. By strategically using color, you can create a room that looks more anchored and even more edited, because you’re not bouncing around from visual to visual.
Sometimes I love to use pattern or color on drapery and bring it into the room by using it on one other thing. l think that is such a great detail. Here I used the a bold pink on the drapery and a single pillow on the chaise. See how pretty that is just by repeating it? But it’s not too decorative or too overwhelming, because everything else is neutral.
Step 3: Accessorize without Cluttering
This is when I bring in accent tables, lamps and accessories. One thing that’s happening today is that the scale of accessories is much larger. Lamps are getting bigger and taller. A few large-scale pieces can make a room feel relevant, but also less cluttered, because there aren’t so many little pieces. I do like to leave some of the tables and end tables with minimal accessories. You no longer have to cover every single surface!
Personal touches and meaningful collections are what make a room feel special and give a house its soul. I always encourage my clients to display their personal collections, whether it’s family photos or tortoise boxes. I have a collection of Eiffel towers that I love. The key is in how you display and organize your collection.
Find one tabletop and group it all together — and that’s what makes the room less cluttered. You end up with a collection instead of a room full of stuff that’s scattered everywhere. Even if it’s a collection of decorating books, put all of them in stacks and arrange them on one table. Some people have picture frames on every single table, but if you put them all together they look more special and have a greater impact — and a cleaner look.
If you’re not renovating and just want a quick reboot, here’s a trick I love to do with clients: take all of the accessories out of a room and create a “shopping room” in another space. Usually, we’ll put everything on a big blanket on the dining room table. It’s surprising how different things look when you take them out of a room.
Two things usually happen: you’ll be inspired to use some items in different ways and even in different rooms, and you’ll also see a few things that are ready to be put away for a while. You don’t have to give them away, but you can store them and bring them back out when you’re in the mood to freshen things up.
In addition, I usually like to bring in a few new accessories that are scaled differently than what the client already owns. By re-accessorizing with some things you already own, taking some things away and mixing in a few new things, you end up with a completely revitalized and edited room.
Thank you so much Suzanne for sharing your method with us! Editing is an important part of the home design process, and something we often forget to do! Now we have the tools and information we need (from the expert no less!) to do some editing in our own home.