Designer Spotlight: Michael Simon

Living Room, Los Altos Hills Home

Living Room, Los Altos Hills Home

Michael Simon is in a state of deep focus. We’ve been sitting in a cozy Italian bistro a couple of blocks from his office on the fringes of NYC’s theatre district for just 10 minutes and we’ve already touched on technology-driven information overload, God, and the importance of divining a life’s purpose for oneself. And now he needs to figure out what he’ll eat for lunch.

He is a man with a solid sense of value in both the spiritual and physical realms, and he makes reference to his desire to continue moving toward the light. “The light” he speaks of is “not about God in the traditional sense,” he says. “It’s about action that stems from reflection. I just want more time to reflect and less time to react. I think so much of today’s ‘instant’ culture is about reactivity. When you can watch a war being fought live, in real time, how in the world do you process that? Everyone wants a response and the complexities of the situation are just enormous. I think people who are moving toward the light aren’t afraid to take the time, step away from the phone or computer, and reflect on a situation. To realize that your words and actions really do have an effect on the world around you is hugely important. We all have a responsibility and that’s why I’m always lobbying for greater reflectivity and less reactivity.”

In a career where beauty is ephemeral and good taste and style is no longer represented by a period of years or even seasons, how does a traditionalist ensure that he will be able to honor his meticulously honed sensibilities, while still giving a client the type of space that will feel organic to them? “I tell my clients up front… when I’m doing work for you, I want that work to be classic. Which doesn’t mean that it’s antique… that’s not what it’s about. It’s that it will last on some level, and so in order for something to be classic, to me it means that it’s got to have soul and in order for something to have soul it must refer to something before this instant in time, because we are part of a continuum and we’re always recycling energy and spirit. Antecedents matter greatly.”

Michael Simon is as traditional as he is evolved. He believes in proper spelling and punctuation, especially in text messages, and is resolute in his desire to thoroughly craft spaces, down to the smallest details that others might consider unseen minutiae. He meets the demands of the world around him with the storied gentleman’s grace of a time before now. He is transparent with his thoughts and intentions and still remains something of an enigma. He is someone with whom you can spend two hours dining and talking and still feel as though you’ve just barely scratched the surface… he is utterly fascinating.

Read on for Michael’s views on philosophy, the reinterpretation of classicism, and his life-long love affair with the decorative arts of the Ancien Régime.

ABC Stone: After studying classical music at Carnegie Mellon and the Manhattan School of Music, you moved into interior design. Can you talk about how your background in music influences your decorative aesthetic and creative process?

Michael Simon: Yes! Composers have to create a “language” or sound universe that is comprehensible to the average listener. “Leitmotifs” serve as markers for the composer and guide posts for the listener. These motives are manipulated in numerous ways to shepherd the audience through a wide-ranging experience of emotion for the duration of the piece. I like to call these leitmotifs “cells.” As a designer, I limit myself to a handful of ideas, or cells, that are systematically engineered to realize a décor where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. My manipulations occur in two and three dimensions where the cells are exploded, augmented, inverted, made linear or horizontal, and so on. In order to create this cosmos, textiles, carpets, furnishings and myriad other decorative elements must be made custom.

ABC: Are you able to say what, specifically, prompted the change in your artistic medium of preference from music to design? Was it a single moment or more of a series of shifts?

MS: It was a matter of practicality. My music was well respected but it was difficult to make a living by it. I was always attracted to architecture, design and decorating from an early age and it seemed if I applied the skills I learned as a composer to the designing it would allow me to create residences filtered through a somewhat unique lens.

ABC: You’ve said that you are a “composer” of rooms. Can you elaborate on this idea a bit? What does it mean to you?

MS: There are a set of established forms in music: symphonies, concerti, operas, chamber music, solo music and so on. In most forms of music there is an “arc” to the composition. My projects also have an arc as ideas are mapped out and planned that reflect each client’s sensibility. These musical forms almost always inform the sweep of a project.

ABC: Your design philosophy seems to be one of dialoguing with the past, and designing for the future—in other words, creating work that withstands the test of time, but also acknowledges the aesthetic achievements of lost time: what are some ways in which you achieve this?

MS: I’m interested in creating work that is classic and stands the test of time. In order for something to be classic it must, by design, have a soul. In order for something to have a soul it must in some way refer to the past since we are part of a vast, never-ending continuum. That doesn’t mean it’s old-fashioned, but an antecedent, or reference to the past, is required to ensure permanence, meaning and substance. I am invested in the promotion of savoir faire since each hand-made creation is endowed with spirit.

ABC: To what extent and in what manner does research play a role in your creative process?

MS: Research plays a significant role in our projects. Depending upon the nature of a project I can go down a deep rabbit hole in search of details that inspire our present needs. As an example, we created a master suite for American clients in Minneapolis, descended from Swedes. We settled on a Gustavian aerie for the aesthetic. The design featured twelve custom-made textiles that formed a boiserie of fabrics for the walls. We researched flowers from the period and drawings of them to establish a “hand” that would convey the sense of the history without being enslaved to the past. These flowers formed the basis of the design in printed, woven and embroidered textiles.

ABC: What sorts of decorative artifacts interest you most as a collector?

MS: I have always been drawn to seating furniture and chandeliers. The seating is most like a human, with arms, legs, back and seat. Chandeliers are illuminators, so both seating and lighting have a spiritual essence to them.

ABC: How do antiques and art objects figure into your interiors?

MS: These are project-specific since they have to communicate with the “backgrounds” and furnishings I typically create. I tend to select antiques and art that stand the test of time – often Antiquities or Asian artifacts/art – as they are not subject to the mores and swings of taste. Remember, fashion is designed to make people feel insecure. I don’t subscribe to fashion at all. I think one must ultimately seek what speaks to each of us.

ABC: Would you describe yourself as a “curator,” in addition to being a designer of interiors?

MS: Absolutely. I’m somewhat academic and have a significant library on architecture and the decorative arts. That said, there are little-to-no “random” decisions made on our projects. Hopefully they feel inevitable and not overworked or overthought.

ABC: What was the germination of your so-to-speak “love affair” with the decorative arts of the Ancien Régime, the influence of which undeniably pervades your work?

MS: I’ve always been drawn to France and Russia in both music and design. This attraction began when I was a youngster and has prevailed ever since. I can’t intellectualize it because it is essentially visceral.

ABC: Can you say why the decorative arts of the Ancien Régime are of such interest to you?

MS: By the end of the 18th century there were degrees of perfection that had never been realized previously and have never been replicated since the fall of the Ancien Régime. I’ve concluded that the decorative arts couldn’t possibly have reached any further refinement because the inspiration was exhausted and revolution was inescapable. Enlightenment morphed toward industrialization. Once the human hand was replaced the precision and flawlessness was no longer possible.

ABC: What are some examples of you “drawing inspiration from [your] patrons”?

MS: Each client has a different awareness and sense of values. These traits and characteristics telegraph themselves to me in an instant and suggest different aesthetic approaches to each project. Though the aesthetic is filtered through the same lens (mine) the outcome is always different.

ABC: Can you talk a little about different kinds of obstacles you encounter in your work?

MS: There are two big obstacles; the first is time. People want everything delivered overnight which is not possible when the lion’s share of the elements are created specifically for the project. The second obstacle is communicating the design elements. A great deal of sampling is required to explain the myriad elements of the interiors. That takes care, time and confidence for all parties.

“The Arizona project represents everything I want to do going forward, if possible.” —Michael Simon

ABC: Is it very important to you that no two of your interiors are alike? And would you say that, as an artist, you try to avoid any kind of “signature” upon your work?

MS: I’m very easily bored. If I’m not being intellectually stimulated I’m not happy. Once I’ve done something, I want a new and different challenge. Happily, since no two clients are alike this gives us the opportunity to create new environments without replication.

ABC: You’ve also said that your mission is to reinterpret classicism for the 21st century: what particular areas of the classical history of decorative arts inspire and fascinate you the most?

MS: I’d have to say the backgrounds or envelopes of the rooms. I have a greedy eye and the more detailed the backgrounds, the more I like the connection with the contents. We are not bound by classical materials, geometries or profiles – only the sense of creating a scale in which humans can play out their lives.

ABC: Why, in your opinion, is it important for interior designers to engage with the past?

MS: There isn’t a new idea under the sun — only recycling. In order to make something of substance, you have to reach into the past to create something worthwhile for the present. It’s the continuum idea I referenced before.

ABC: What are some of your favorite “interior design cities”?

MS: Paris, St. Petersburg, Lisbon and Kyoto.

ABC: Are you inspired, in your interior design aesthetic, by other aspects of 18th century French visual culture, such as painting, drawing, statuary, or architecture?

MS: Yes! All of it! I cannot separate any of the arts from one another – most particularly music and design. If you step away from any period and compare the arts – music, poetry, painting, sculpture, dance, cuisine, even politics – they are inextricably linked. You can make the connections between the arts because they are all in reaction to a shared moment in history.

ABC: Anthracite grey has been described as your “signature color.” Is there a reason for this; does it have any historical resonances that inspire, intrigue you?

MS: I often look to nature for inspiration in color. My fascination with anthracite grey began with pigeons. The juxtaposition of grey with the shades of plum and green around the necks of some pigeons cannot be improved upon. The chromatic scale in music is the same as it is in design. One note has no meaning until you put it next to another. In the same vein, one color has no meaning until you put it next to another. Every color is beautiful. They only have significance when they are coupled and it is the vibration of chroma that makes a color scheme sing or look like mud.

ABC: Can you talk a little bit about Michael Simon Signature collections? At what stage is your company in the development of this venture?

MS: I thoroughly enjoy creating a small design universe. We have designed textiles and rugs that have been exclusive to our client’s residences. I also get great satisfaction from designing furniture and we are working on a series of models that I would like to supply beyond my business.

ABC: Complete the sentence, a well-designed home has to__________.

MS: …serve as a suitable backdrop for the homeowners. They are the stars and the interiors should quietly and uniquely create an ambience that reflects their world view.

ABC: Who/what are some of your “design muses”?

MS: Some are in music and some are in design. From the music column, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Ravel, Poulenc, Barber and Copeland. From the design column, Robert Adam, Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Jean-Michel Frank, Josep Maria Sert, Renzo Mongiardino and François-Joseph Graff.

ABC: Who/what is inspiring you right now?

MS: All of the above!

ABC: Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

MS: To thine own self be true. Never follow fads. React less and reflect more!

Designer Spotlight: Tyson Ness

Living room (fireplace in Lilac marble)

Living room (fireplace in Lilac marble)

Fawn Galli Interiors’ Tyson Ness is a time-traveler. Better still, he builds time machines in his interiors, which have the ability to transport their occupants to innumerable times and places throughout the history of the decorative arts. The spaces he designs invoke strong emotions: a panoply of moods and, at times, a sense of the uncanny. But far from invoking the horrors of the Overlook Hotel of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, these uncanny environments are engaging, dynamic, unexpected, and exciting.

A true designer’s designer, he is unafraid to make bold decisions. We had a chance to sit down with Tyson and interview him: the idea was get him to talk about some of his inspirations and techniques, but we ended up taking a master class in the mechanics of the creative process, a portrait of the struggles and ambitions of a gifted designer who throws caution to the wind while navigating creative wellsprings of past and present, to produce bold, visionary work. Meet Tyson Ness, and have a look at some of his exquisite interiors!

ABC Stone: Who do you design for, and why?

Tyson Ness: I always design for the client. At Fawn Galli we have a certain “look,” but if you look at our projects, we work with our clients closely to give them a space they feel like reflects them. At the end of the day, I’m not the one living in the spaces, I want our clients to look back in five years and feel like their space is still totally them.

ABC: Are your interiors able to retain their aesthetic integrity after they’ve been lived in; are they, in this sense, fluid environments?

TN: We want our interiors to feel like they can be used and lived in, however, we also often choose materials and products that are durable enough to handle life. I’ve found most of my projects have retained their integrity over time.

ABC: What do you think or feel when you look at an empty space—or, for that matter, a space which you intend to renovate?

TN: It’s full of new possibility! I can think of a million different ways to treat a space. An empty space, or a space that has yet to be built, is even better, because there isn’t anything to cloud the vision. The beginning of the project is one of the most exciting aspects because it’s in its infancy and allows for us to dream big—without any of the reality checks that inevitably happen.

ABC: And what do you feel when you begin to work on it?

TN: By the time I’m able to work on the project, I’ve taken the emotional journey of the planning stage, so it’s the moment when I’m able to see ideas realized. To see something go from a 2D drawing or from a vague thought in my head is something I still get excited by.

ABC: Why is it important for you to work from sketches and drawings?

TN: I find that I can convey my thoughts and intent more accurately through a drawing than through verbal or written instructions. Images and drawings are somewhat of a universal language that I find most trades can understand. They also help me to prevent any mistakes, because we work with a drawing that is accurate to what the expectations are.

ABC: To what extent does research play a role in your creative process?

TN: I’m always researching, like… all the time. I live on Pinterest in my downtime. And even walking around I see details and items that catch my eye. My camera roll is filled with small detail shots and weird inspiration pictures, that really only mean anything to me. They spark an idea and, even if it’s not applicable to a project I’m working on, I store them away and revisit them later. It’s always weird to go back and pull an idea that I had four years ago and see it start to become realized.

ABC: You’ve described yourself as a history buff. How, if in any way, does this proclivity figure into your work?

TN: History offers very interesting ideas to draw inspiration from. The detailing and craftsmanship of interiors in the past offer cool ideas to incorporate into modern day interiors. I also love the color stories of the past. Things people lived with always fuel my fire and creativity. I usually always reference past images as sources of inspiration, whether it’s a pattern detail on a shirt to a Mod rainbow rug, I can usually always find something I want us to tackle and reimagine for use today.

ABC: Do you consider yourself to be a kind of “time-traveler”?

TN: I think it’s weird to say, but I have always had an affinity for older items. I would say time-traveler is an appropriate term. It sounds much better than saying I’ve had multiple lives… which I’m sure I have. If I believed in that sort of thing…

ABC: What are the most common obstacles you encounter in your work?

TN: NYC buildings are the biggest obstacle. Learning the building hours, rules and operations protocols is always the biggest hurdle. A house out in the Hamptons or in Jersey doesn’t have the rules and politics that you run into with the large apartment buildings in the city.

ABC: Can you talk about the process by which art objects are introduced into your interiors? Are they of your own choosing; do you find yourself working around the choices of others?

TN: The relationship of art to the interiors really depends on the project. Some of our clients have an existing collection that they want to incorporate into the interior, which we know about at the beginning of the process, and plan for. Others need some guidance and/or want to do it after the interior is completed. Art is extremely personal and we prefer to have our clients use pieces that resonate with them and are unique.

Kitchen in New Jersey.

Kitchen in New Jersey: “Taking cues from the rest of the house, we created a kitchen that is white, but far from boring.” —Tyson Ness

ABC: Many of your interiors could be described as “moody”: what sorts of visceral-emotional responses do you like your work to invoke?

TN: I want my interiors to feel sexy and unique. Obviously this depends on the client, but I’m lucky to work with a great firm and clients that allow us to have fun. Life is too short to play it safe, having fun with an interior and tailoring it to the personalities of the client is what we live for.

ABC: I was especially taken with the rooftop garden of your Tribeca Penthouse, and felt as though it took me to another time and place. How collaborative was that space? Where did the inspiration come from?

TN: That client was from Texas, originally, and split her time between Texas and NYC. She really missed the open, private outdoor spaces of her Texas home, and wanted us to help her recreate that feeling in the city. The terraces (there were three) were a major reason why she purchased the apartment in the first place.

ABC: What sorts of factors do you consider when choosing a light fixture for a specific room? Does a particular kind of bathroom, kitchen, dining room, necessitate a particular kind of bathroom-, kitchen-, or dining room-lighting fixture?

TN: Whenever I start choosing lighting for a room, I take into consideration what the room is going to be used for, and what other light sources are available. I typically like to do “layers” of light. An overhead light to generally light the space, sconces and tall floor lamps to light the middle of the room, and task lighting and table lamps for more directed spots. In bathrooms, kitchens, and utility rooms, I tend to “over-light” the space, as I find that I can never have enough light. We always put lighting on dimmers to really add another layer of adjustability to the space.

ABC: In designing dining rooms and kitchens, to what extent are you influenced by restaurants?

TN: More so in dining rooms than kitchens. I find that restaurants are able to take more risks on a larger level that help to inspire spaces that are usually very standard. Some of my favorite restaurants, from which I’m pulling inspiration lately, are: Le CouCou by Roman and Williams; The Durham Hotel by Commune Design; Monsieur Bleu by Joseph Dirand; The Gallery at Sketch by India Mahdavi; Llama by BIG and Kilo Design; The American Restaurant by Warren Platner.

ABC: To what extent do advancements in the technology of the present influence your work: is there anything you’re able to do now that you might not have been able to do five or six years ago?

TN: I think that technological advancements have really made major differences in interiors, with items becoming thinner, wireless or cordless, we are really able to clean up the technological “clutter”—think multiple switches on a wall, bulky televisions and entertainment centers—to really allow the interior to shine. I don’t have to center rooms around a major built-in, that houses the television, stereo and entertainment consoles, because everything is neatly tucked away into A/V closets and accessible via iPad. In terms of product or furniture design, the advancements in CNC (computer-controlled) cutting have really allowed us to create interesting shapes and cutouts that are more precise and take less time—and less money.

ABC: Your graduate project was a re-imagination of the Kemmerer Hotel: what attracted you to the Kemmerer, what do you find interesting about it?

TN: Kemmerer, Wyoming is my hometown! The hotel was a downtown landmark that fell into neglect and was eventually demolished. It was one of the first buildings built there, and was actually older than the town. It was something that had been woven into the fabric of who I am, and when it was torn down (to become an empty lot) it really struck a chord with me. I think it was at that moment that a spark was ignited that would eventually lead me to the path of becoming an interior designer. Taking spaces that have been forgotten or abandoned and bringing them back to life is always something very rewarding to me. My graduate project was done to help show members of my community what could’ve happened with the hotel. Though it was very idealistic.

ABC: And you started work as an assistant, and later project manager, for a stone company, and have said it was there that you learned the in’s & out’s of stone. Was this experience influential upon your design ethos and aesthetic?

TN: My first job in the design industry was working with one of my professors for a marble and stone fabricator in Utah. I later became a project manager. This experience was extremely beneficial to and formative for me as a designer. Since I was a salesperson and in the fabrication side of stone, I really was able to learn what was possible with stone, and its different attributes. I think this experience really allows me to speak intelligently and give my clients the confidence to take a chance on a stone that isn’t typical or standard.

ABC: Did it inspire a pointed interest in or preoccupation with stone as a decorative material?

TN: I think that it did, in a way. Stone offers something totally unique and one of a kind. A quality that I think all projects can benefit from. I like to try to push the way that I use stone in my projects, whether that’s from an unexpected location to a different application or installation method. I think the natural qualities of stone lend themselves to any style of interior. I also know that stone is all about the context in which it’s used and how it’s fabricated.

ABC: Could you elaborate more on your stone experience as formative in your evolution as an artist?

TN: Working on the fabrication side of stone really gave me an advantage in knowing what was possible. I worked in a place that utilized technology and classic techniques for fabricating stone. While most people continue to do the same thing, and are exposed to the same thing, I know of a completely different world in terms of what is possible. I think this knowledge really helped me approach stone as a puzzle, to help unlock its full potential.

ABC: Complete the sentence, a well-designed space has to__________.

TN: Feel like it wasn’t designed at all, but was an evolution over time.

ABC: Who/what are some of your “design muses”?

TN: Current obsession is Dimore Studio, anything they touch is magic. Gio Ponti will always hold the key to my heart along with the architecture of McKim, Mead and White.

ABC: What are some of your favorite decorating sources?

TN: 1st Dibs, Pamono, Vintage Stores, Dering Hall, Pinterest, and Etsy; also, Instagram has been killing it lately with people/artists for me to follow.

ABC: Who/what is inspiring you right now?

TN: Ilse Crawford and India Mahdavi (have you seen India’s bishop stool in stone? I just… can’t).

ABC: Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

TN: Interiors are, first and foremost, for the person who lives there. Who cares if everyone else says it’s ugly. If it’s something that speaks to you and makes you happy, do it.

Designer Spotlight: Kroesser + Strat

Our love-affair with Brooklyn-based design mavens Anna Kroesser and Amelia Strat (@KroesserStrat) began as a severe Instacrush. It’s hard not be completely enamored by the duo’s elegantly crisp, minimalist vibe that always feels exceptionally livable and never fussy. By consciously mixing modern and vintage design elements, Kroesser + Strat are united by an innate love of a life well-curated and well-lived.

We spent an awesome day shopping for stone, discussing motherhood (check out K+S’s Instagram hashtag #momprenuer) and sourcing vintage inspiration at Greenpoint staples, Brooklyn Curated and People of 2morrow. Get to know Anna and Amelia, learn their secrets for creating savvy, bold spaces and see all the pretty photos below!

ABC Stone: What was the impetus behind E-Design, and what are your thoughts generally on the democratization of your medium?

Kroesser + Strat: We wanted to create a service that didn’t require full interior design or the cost associated with it. We really believe that you don’t need to be a millionaire to have a beautifully designed home. If someone came to us and said we could only use IKEA, we could create a pretty amazing space, and it could be done virtually, to boot. Spatial awareness isn’t something everyone has, just like we all can’t go put together a presentation for an advertising firm or a lesson plan for a classroom. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be accessible to everyone, with any type of budget. We still have pieces from IKEA in our homes that we love—trust us, we aren’t out there buying a twenty-thousand dollar sofa for our homes, so we get that there’s a gap to be filled in terms of affordable design.

ABC: To what extent does research play a role in your creative process?

K+S: The most important research we can do for a project is with and for the client. What is their ideal aesthetic? What did their home look like before? Do they have existing furniture that they want to reuse? And what’s the most important part of this process to them—do they want to have a completely casual, lived-in space, or do they want it to be elegant and streamlined?

ABC: Does fashion design have a significant influence on your work?

K+S: Fashion always has an influence on our work. HonestlyWTF, this amazing blog, if you don’t read it yet, does a great job featuring trends in fashion and how they make it into the interior design world. If it’s on the runway in the fall, you’re going to see it in one or two seasons on a pillow.

ABC: For whom do you design, and why?

K+S: We design for our client, but always try to make sure that Kroesser + Strat vibe is in there. Some clients are more traditional, and that’s okay! But we are going to do a killer piece of marble on that 1920’s fireplace!

ABC: Can you talk about obstacles you encounter in your work?

K+S: The most common obstacles are logistical. Examples are: a client’s expectations in terms of how fast a project can be completed; or that custom costs more; that sometimes a piece of furniture gets stuck in customs for weeks, or that it was damaged on the way over from Europe. We have our pulse on all facets of our projects, but keeping the contractor and their subs on schedule can be tricky. We always try to tell our client that it’s going to take longer than the contractor says, and that it’s going to cost more than they say. These are the realities of a project, especially a renovation. But creating a trust between us and our clients, letting them know that no matter what happens they are going to have a gorgeous space in the end, is our most important goal in this all.

ABC: You use the hashtag #momprenuer in your Instagram posts. What does that mean to you?

K+S: We think being a #mompreneur means we don’t have just one baby, we have two babies: our business + our real, live baby-babies (well, three if you count our husbands… haha!) and everything we do, we’re doing in an effort to leave something wonderful behind for our sons. We both have boys, and think it’s important, especially in this day and age, for our sons to see us as strong, independent women who they can be proud of and look up to as role models. And that, although our boys truly are the center of our universe, there’s more to us as women than simply being “mom”.

Palissandro Bronze fireplace surround creates the perfect update on a 1920's hearth

Palissandro Bronze fireplace surround creates the perfect update on a 1920’s hearth

ABC: You talk a lot about seasons on your blog: in what ways if any do they influence you?

K+S: Seasons are a time for change. At the end of the summer, everyone’s waiting for that crisp fall weather to hit so they can throw on their coziest sweaters. And when winter keeps dragging on and on and on into April, we all just want to throw our boots in the fire and put on some sandals. The same applies to interiors: in with the old and out with the new. Summer means lots of light, fresh art on the walls, and winter requires Moroccan wedding blankets on our beds, and lots and lots of throw pillows to curl up on.

ABC: You’ve said you “understand how personal (and sometimes stressful) creating a client’s dream space can be, and you pride ourselves on making it a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.” Can you talk a little bit about bringing a client’s vision to fruition, how you accomplish this, what it entails?

K+S: At the end of the day, we want our clients to be happy. Truly, it is something that means more to us than clients tend to believe. We love putting together a presentation for a new project—we are so excited for that day where we walk our client through design inspiration, materials, fabrics, finishes; but that first meeting is so important. It sets the tone for the project. If we don’t more or less nail it, the client is not going to be excited, and already that trust we talked about building hits an immediate road block. So what we know is that really listening to a client about their vision for a space is step one, and then we take it up a few notches. We will show them the dream and then scale back from there.

ABC: Complete the sentence, a well-designed home has to__________.

K+S: Be comfortable. Not every piece of furniture has to be slubby and cloud-like, but you need to be able to walk into that space and feel good about being in there.

ABC: Who/what are some of your “design muses”?

K+S: Our #1 muse is, and always will be, Kelly Wearstler. She is a risk taker, fearless and there is no question what the Kelly Wearstler brand is.

ABC: What are some of your favorite decorating sources?

K+S: We have two huge sources we use right now. Etsy + Instagram. Some of the absolute best furnishings, lighting, textiles, etc. are coming from designers on Etsy. And because it is a global website, you’re getting access to more than just what’s at your local retailer. Instagram is everything, and for sort of the same reason. We are seeing what design is looking like in Belgium, Morocco, Australia, and let us tell you: there’s some really amazing design happening out there!

ABC: Who/what is inspiring you right now?

K+S: Maybe because of our obsession with Etsy, we are really into handmade pieces. If you walk into our own homes, you’re going to see pillows from Thailand, a chandelier made by some guy in a rural town in the Pacific Northwest, and because we have a really amazing woodworker in the family: a crib, changing table; dining table and cocktail table, all made with so much love.

ABC: Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

K+S: This might change by tomorrow, but be true to who you are and what your brand stands for. Know that you can try to make everyone happy, but that you won’t, so it’s okay. And when things get really hard, try to find the fun, even if that requires a bottle of tequila to help you do so. Oh, and sleep! As new-ish moms running a small business, we realize more than ever how important sleep is in order to be a functioning member of society. So sleep, sleep, sleep… when you can.

Want to be in the Spotlight?
If you’re an architect or designer and have completed a project using stone from ABC, we’d love to hear from you! Each month, we feature a design professional and a space they’ve created that features our product. We’ll share it on social media, on our website and in our e-newsletter. If you’d like to be considered for an upcoming Designer Spotlight, drop us a line: