In 2010, Suzanne Kasler became the first designer to partner with Ballard Designs on a signature collection. Her timeless collection has starred in our catalogs, online and won national media praise. To mark our 10th anniversary together, we sat down with Suzanne to talk about the evolution of her collection and what keeps her inspired.
Ballard Designs: It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we first partnered together on your first collection. In those early days, what were you most excited about working with a large company like Ballard? What were you most nervous about?
Suzanne Kasler: The whole thing evolved from Design on a Dime in New York. Ballard Designs donated a chair to every designer to use in their space, so that’s how we initially connected.
At that time, I had a line with Hickory Chair and Visual Comfort, but both were largely to the Trade. Of course, I’d always loved Ballard Designs being from Atlanta, but I hadn’t realized it was such a large organization. It was my first experience working with a retail brand and also learning about the catalog business.
When the marketing team originally pitched me on the idea, I really connected with how the organization talks about their customer — who she is and what she’s looking for. It was the same way I thought about my own clients, so our sensibilities just really matched up.
Bringing high design to Ballard’s customer at an affordable price point was something that really excited me, and of course when pieces do well and the customer is excited about them, it inspires you even more.
BD: We also know you have a knack for knowing what the next trends will be. How do you blend design trends and timeless elements together to create pieces that are so universal?
SK: Being an interior designer today is about creating a lifestyle. The heart of my business relies on understanding how people are living and being able to make their lives easier and more beautiful through design. That’s the key to where my inspiration comes from and why I think some trends have more longevity. The intention behind trends is the key for me.
Everyone wants to make smart purchases, to buy things that will work with what they already have but also have personality and style. My focus has always been on designing products that are versatile but bring a fresh take to the space.
So many of my clients have a home they love but they want to update it and make changes periodically. Those types of projects in my design business really inspire my product collections.
BD: How has your style evolved over the last ten years?
SK: I travel a lot and have always been curious about different parts of the world, and I really enjoy bringing elements from all over the world into my client projects.
You know, it’s funny, I started out as a commercial designer which is typically much more modern and architectural. So when I moved to the South 20 years ago and began designing residential spaces, that commercial background gave me a more edited approach than many of my peers. The combination of editing, mixed with a classic Southern look, has been my sweet spot, and that really hasn’t changed.
We have three clients who’ve recently downsized from their large houses we’d designed 20 years ago. When my team went back to these projects, the furniture and design still looked incredible. We could have completed those projects today.
It’s not that design should last forever, but if you have a strong foundation, you can make small tweaks to update without having to do lots of heavy lifting. That’s why I think timeless pieces are a great investment.
BD: The colors of your collection really stand out in the sense that color drives many of your product choices. We know you put a lot of thought into the colors in your signature color palette – how they work together, how they work with trends, and how they can stand out on their own. You’re also constantly evolving the colors in the palette. Where does the inspiration come from?
SK: My signature color palette really came from Europe – tans, khakis, beige, gray, blues, greens. All of these colors are repeated over and over again in Europe and always inspired me as a really livable, versatile color palette. Not to mention they really stand the test of time!
Early on in my partnership with Ballard Designs, we took a buying trip together to Paris. We were shopping around the Marais neighborhood, and we ended up going to a ribbon store and a home décor shop. I’ve always loved ribbon, so I was delighted to find this store. Lo and behold, this store had ribbons in all of the colors that I’d always looked for in the US but struggled to find. I bought boxes of ribbons at this shop, as well as this set of bottles at a home décor shop. They were these beautiful ceramic bottles in the perfect colors. Those bottles and ribbons have defined the whole color scheme – creams, beiges, khakis, parchment, blues, blue greens, and dark grays. It was the exact color palette I’d always loved, but seeing them all together at once helped us all visualize the collection and what would eventually become my signature linen collection.
BD: What’s inspiring your products right now?
A few years ago, we went with some good friends to Stockholm. Those clean lines the Swedish are known for have always been a source of inspiration to me, and I’ve used them liberally in my clients’ spaces. They really embody my design philosophy of timeless but edited rooms. On this recent trip to Stockholm, the more modern Swedish pieces really caught my eye and all the Josef Frank fabrics. I was really inspired to bring some of that sensibility into my collection but in a way that really works with what you already have. I don’t want people to feel like they have to change a whole room just to stay fresh. Sometimes a few key updates can reenergize things that you may have grown tired of.
BD: What can we look forward to in your future collections? Any new trends or themes you’re looking toward?
SK: We’ve all had a lot of time to reflect this last month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how this time will impact design. Your home workspaces are more important than ever now, and really every room in your house should be multifunctional.
We’re spending more time at home than ever before, so it’s important for our spaces to heal and nurture us. Rooms that reflect our personality and give us joy are an amazing gift right now.
BD: If someone wanted to make their spaces more multifunctional, what sort of questions should they be asking and what details should they pay close attention to?
When I first start working with a client, I ask a lot of practical questions, and the answers to those questions tell me how the room needs to be laid out. Your layout is hugely important, so I always suggest starting there.
Multifunctional rooms are by definition, busy hardworking spaces, so use finishes and fabrics that can stand up to constant activity.
BD: Are there any projects or hobbies you’ve taken up personally since you’ve been at home these last few weeks? How have you been spending time?
SK: Because I’ve always had such a busy work schedule, my own home tends to be on the back burner. Earlier this year, we started refreshing things around the house to prepare for my daughter’s wedding which was going to be this Spring. Of course, it’s been postponed, but because of that, I’ve been rethinking my spaces. I’ve felt a stronger connection to our outdoor spaces and want to use them differently and more often.
BD: You mentioned your daughter’s wedding. I know she’s in the design field and has a creative and stylish sensibility. Has she influenced you at all?
Yes, she’s definitely impacted my style! It’s great to see her evolve. She moved to Philadelphia and started her own business, Alexandra Morris Creative Co. She’s an amazing creative and helps clients with marketing, styling, and photo shoots. We love to go shopping and antiquing together, and I love seeing what she’s drawn to and how she pulls things together. There’s a definite synergy between us
Young designers, my very creative staff, and my daughter all really inspire me and challenge me to look at things differently and take risks on trends I may not have initially gravitated towards.
BD: Any final reflections on your tenth anniversary here at Ballard Designs?
What I’ve really loved about working with Ballard is the synergy with the design team. I always feel connected to the goals and the various members of the organization. It’s a real team mentality, and I love bringing new ideas to Ballard and seeing how they evolve and come to life. That connection makes for a really successful partnership. Knowing how hard the Ballard team works to bring our ideas to reality reenergizes us and inspires our design process. It’s been a joy, and I’m excited to keep up the process!
- The Case for White Walls with Suzanne Kasler
- How to Edit Your Space with Suzanne Kasler
- Podcast, Ep. 50 with Suzanne Kasler