Can you please provide us with a description of your professional career?
I was all of 26 when I went to work for legendary Designer Michael Taylor. I had a design degree from UCLA and had spent three years in the London office of one of Designer John Fowler’s last assistants, Peter Hood, when I finally got my foot in the door of Michael’s firm as his secretary. Within a month he promoted me to his assistant. Following Michael’s death in 1986, my husband and business partner, Timothy Marks, and I went on to establish our own firm, Tucker & Marks. In 2010, I started Suzanne Tucker Home with a collection of textiles inspired by my global travels. This, in turn, led to other product categories, including a collection of dinnerware for Royal Limoges, classic stone mantel designs for Chesney’s, fine bed linens for Julia B. and outdoor furniture for Michael Taylor Designs – a wonderful full-circle moment!
What inspired you to become an interior designer?
My mother will tell you she saw it in me when I was a little girl spending hours rearranging all the ornaments on the Christmas tree. And growing up in Montecito, the world was my architectural and horticultural oyster! I always took art classes outside of my school curriculum and it was natural for me to gravitate towards the arts, art history, architecture and design when I was in college. It may sound a bit odd, but I didn’t set out with the intention of becoming an interior designer or for that matter even thinking about a career. I followed what I loved, worked for some incredible people, had some wonderful mentors, and it all fell into place.
Who has been your greatest source of inspiration throughout your career?
I have a long list of favourites given my passion for architecture and design. The great French Designer Henri Samuel is right up there for his classic European rooms; John Fowler for partnering with Nancy Lancaster and together creating the English country house look (which really came from Nancy’s Virginia roots!); Billy Baldwin for his elegant American style; Albert Hadley for his quintessential eye for editing. Sister Parish because she could inherently and flawlessly arrange furniture in a room. And finally, Michael Taylor – his mastery of scale and proportion, his use of colour and light, and his knowledge of furniture and antiques were ultimately the most influential to me.
Would you say that you have a design style? If so, how would you describe this style?
Really, it’s not my style that matters. My goal is to create high-end interiors that are tailored to encompass our client’s individual and personal style. Therefore, I’m not easily pigeonholed. You could define me by adjectives – classic, appropriate, elegant, timeless, comfortable and inviting, which can apply to any home that I design, whether it’s casual or formal.
When it comes to interior design, what do you believe is of utmost importance?
Everything in design is relative and related. That’s why a designer’s ability to manipulate scale and proportion properly is absolutely critical to achieving beauty and comfort in a room, a house; even a garden. Scale has to do with size, and proportion with balance. When they are off, the dissonance is perceptible, and often uncomfortable. Getting them right is a designer’s greatest success. When they’re spot on, the achieved harmony translates across every style and all tastes.
What advice would you offer to those that are considering a career in interior design?
I feel it is critical to work for established interior designers before breaking out on your own. Look back on any of the great designers in interiors, fashion or furniture, they all had the benefit of tutelage under someone in their early career. There are plenty of people who have ‘nice taste’ or ‘a knack of putting things together’, but that means diddlysquat! Real experience is far more important than any degree in design and especially now when education in design is so lacking in what I consider the basics – the history of design, knowledge of scale and proportion, etc. It’s simply not being taught in schools any longer and getting that hands-on education with a design firm is invaluable. So, seek out a mentor, ask, listen and learn.
What can we expect to see from you over the next year? I am working on several projects in various stages of completion – a spectacular ranch in Aspen with multiple structures for a dedicated environmentalist, an exquisite 1920s Spanish compound in legendary Pebble Beach, a family vacation home at the Yellowstone Club in Montana, and in San Francisco, a breathtaking penthouse for dear friends, a historic Italianate Renaissance house in Presidio Heights, and another historic French house in Pacific Heights for a large family along with their ‘surf shack’ down the coast and more in New York, Texas and Arkansas!
In addition, I am putting the finishing touches on a brand-new textile collection for Suzanne Tucker Home. And then, there is my on-going involvement with the ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture & Art) and the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show.
What is your connection to the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show? How did you get involved?
I am passionate about the decorative arts and have been a loyal supporter and patron of the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show since day one. Michael Taylor took me to the very first show, and I’ve missed only one in 37 years! I served on the show’s advisory board and was the Designer Circle Chair for about 10 years. 2018 is my fourth year as Show Chair. Together with Show Director, Ariane Trimuschat, we determine the overall direction and look of the show – the theme, the Designer Vignettes in collaboration with de Gournay, the lectures and book signings – as well as cultivating new dealers.
What do you look for when shopping for antiques?
I have a soft spot for anything with good lines, yummy finishes, deep patina and intriguing provenance. I’m not a purist though, and I definitely believe in marrying contemporary pieces with antiques, modern elements with antiquities and mixing the high with the low. You should always have something of a certain age in any room – preferably not yourself!