Podcast, Ep. 84: designer Susan Ferrier

Interior designer Susan Ferrier talks texture, neutrals, and how she turned an 80's lakehouse into a star

Designer Susan Ferrier gives us a lesson in creating drama with a neutral palette, why an 80’s house has been her biggest challenge yet, and why you need to be mixing metals in your space. This is an episode you won’t want to miss!

What You’ll Hear on the Show:

  • Why Susan believes the people in the room need to be the pattern.
  • Her creative and explorative use of texture, and strategy of creating shadow with light and darker tones.
  • Her rule of thumb for having a way to read and drink wherever you sit in a room.
  • The two reasons she loves banquettes.
  • How she got into the business, and why she decided to start her own firm, Susan Ferrier Interiors.
  • How she gets inspired by her projects and the ways she digs in to develop a relationship with the people behind every project.
  • How she balances her clients’ with her own personal sense of style and expert quality of being what she refers to as a “visual mathematician”. 
  • Which design rules we should be following, and which ones are meant to be broken.
  • The analogy of decorating our homes compared to dressing appropriately for our body type.
  • How we can afford to raise the dynamic design in our kitchens.
  • How Susan challenges the visual aspect of design by combining age with the sleek, modern, and shiny.
  • Susan’s rule for using metals, and if she thinks it will go out of style anytime soon.
  • What we can do to show those 1980’s homes some love and highlight the positive attributes.
  • How she lays out a room, and ways we can work with the view to best socialize the space.
  • How to not have the price tag displayed on the back of a mirror or painting, and instead have a clean and consistent view.
  • The foundation of creating a good interior for both very large spaces and smaller scale projects.
Kips Bay Showhouse designed by Susan Ferrier

Photo: William Abranowicz

Decorating Dilemmas:

Hi all,

I have been listening to the podcast almost since the very beginning.  I really enjoy it, but I REALLY struggle with decorating and haven’t been brave enough to send photos. 

Nevertheless…although I would still rather not be published, I need help with several things and would love to get your thoughts:

    • Is my rug too small? It’s about 8 x 11 and the room is about 15.5 x 19.  If too small, layer it over seagrass?  Replace with seagrass? I tend to like light/beachy looks.   Also, I know you have said seagrass is forgiving of spills, but I need a rug that will hold up under the paws/toenails of 3 dogs.
    • I have 80’s matching wood tables and have been looking and looking for a coffee table. What width/shape? There is approximately 6.5 feet between sofa and chairs where they sit in the photos I could pull the furniture closer together but my husband hates that we do not take advantage of the size of the room (He would like to shove everything to the walls/window.)
    • Ideas about what to do with those ceiling lights? I know:  Yikes again.
    • How do you feel about the style of the mirror behind the sofa for this room? Its shape is the same as the large window across from it.  If kept, should I paint the frame?  Does it need something on the walls beside it?  It’s centered over the sofa, centered across from the window.  (Sofa is about 90”/mirror 48”.)  I don’t have anything else on that wall.  I have contemplated sconces but cannot picture any that would look good there.  If you suggest sconces, what style?   I struggle with how I am going to put lots of lamps/light in this room.   (There is a piano in the front right corner with 2 lamps on it that you cannot see (and a dog crate in the left one 🙂 )

I would totally welcome any other suggestions. 

Thank you!!


p.s. Karen—Another yikes:  I have cords hanging down from the TV–but it is on a bracket and has to be able to swing out from the wall.


Susan believes if you turn the rug in another direction and pull the sofa and chairs closer together, it will open the space by your windows. Remember, the table is in service to you and is a functional piece of furniture. You can make everything feel more layered and closer together when you bring the pieces of furniture together. A cocktail table that goes all the way to the floor would help ground the room. Putting a TV over the fireplace with a classic movie or screensaver may help chic it up. Susan would remove the light fixtures and put some great lamps in the room. Susan suspects the mirror may be too small for the wall, and a large piece of art or sequenced tile would relate to the architecture.

Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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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


    April 23, 2019

    I liked her suggestion to group furniture in an open concept room as if there were walls dividing the space. I also liked the imagery of a rug being an island that is saving the lives of the furniture that sit on it.

    I’d love a link to a source for the lighted bookends she mentioned. What a great idea! The only ones I could find were industrial/steampunk Edison bulb bookends on Etsy.

  2. Reply


    April 17, 2019

    WOW. I could listen to Susan all day. What a WEALTH of knowledge!!! MORE PLEASE!

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      May 2, 2019

      She was amazing wasn’t she? So glad you enjoyed it!