“I guide my clients to reach slightly beyond their comfort level for results they will absolutely love and cherish for years to come.”
Last fall I attended the press preview for Iris Danker’s breast cancer research fundraiser Holiday House. You may remember I covered the event in a post here on the blog. I had the pleasure of meeting many of the interior designers who decorated rooms in the show house, including Suzanne Eason of Suzanne Eason Interiors.
Turning the corner into Eason’s small office I was instantly struck by her use of exuberant color. The second thing I noticed was the lacquered cobalt blue ceiling in contrast to the stark white walls, which I loved. On the whole the room was a jewel box, and exactly what I like a decorator show house room to be – tastefully appointed, risk taking, and slightly theatrical.
Last week I caught up with Suzanne to chat about design inspiration, her aesthetic philosophy, and the top 10 vendors and products she currently favors.
I understand you’ve had an entire career previous to starting your interior design firm. Tell me a bit about it.
Yes, at least 1 whole lifetime. For 20 years I was a Creative Director in the luxury cosmetics industry. Right out of college I started as an Art Director for Grace Mirabella’s newly created Nines, the 9 prestige famous cosmetics brands, Lancaster, Borghese, Guerlain, Ultima II, etc. To create complete environments around each brand, I had to first invent the woman who might wear that line, imagine where she lived, how she lived, what she wore, what fragrances she loved. Each brand was different and varied, but they all were portraits of women who embraced luxury and glamour.
During the early 90’s I moved to Santiago, Chile, and was a partner at a graphic design and identity firm called Arte y Función, where we designed South American luxury department stores Falabella & Ripley. Simultaneously, I was a consulting Art Director for J. Walter Thompson, traveling back and forth from New York to Santiago every few months. Before going completely AWOL from corporate life in 2004, I was the Global Creative Director for Avon Cosmetics, completely redesigning the beauty brands Avon owned around the globe.
My experience designing for Fortune 500 corporations taught me how to run a business, manage large budgets, deliver projects on time and on budget. But mostly it gave me the freedom to think outside the box and perhaps bring a new perspective to the world of Interior Design. At the very least, it’s been a varied, fun and inspirational journey.
What made you decide to shift gears?
When I was considering a career change I saw an exhibition of works by Julia Margaret Cameron, a portrait photographer whose works sell in the millions today. At 48, she was gifted a camera by her son and daughter–in-law. She was a break out success then, and remains so today. In our 21st century that might not sound so ground-breaking, but she was a Victorian wife and mother – and it was 1864. In that moment, I had an epiphany! I had had a full career. I was blessed with 2 beautiful girls, Sienna & Scarlett. (names inspired by my first initial and my husband’s favorite color, red). Suddenly I realized I had a rare opportunity to reevaluate what really motivated me. Corporate life had given me everything I needed to go out on my own. I decided I could more fully engage in the creation of beautiful, luxurious, enduring interiors for personal clients rather than corporate ones. Frankly, I knew it would be far more work, and require much more discipline, but it has been so incredibly rewarding. And so here I am, Suzanne Eason 2.0.
Do you have a design philosophy?
“Buy the best and only cry once” (Chinese Proverb)
It’s an eye-opening statement, I know, but I have to say things that are made well are worth obtaining. I love good quality. That never goes out of style. Have you ever seen the inside seams of a couture dress? They are usually hand sewn as carefully and considerately as the outside and are just as beautifully finished. It should be the same for your home. That doesn’t always mean breaking the bank, but whatever the outcome, it must be something enduring. I guide my clients to reach slightly beyond their comfort level for results they will absolutely love and cherish for years to come.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Are there other interior designers whose work you admire?
Where do I begin? Hermes scarfs (I have a collection of 30), fictional historical novels by Philippa Gregory, the wardrobes created for Gladiator, Anna Karenina, and Game of Thrones. And who can resist the music from the hit TV show, Smash?
My favorite inspirational people include Oscar de la Renta, Mies Van der Rohe, Carolyne Roehm, Carravaggio, David Hicks, Carolina Herrera, Alexa Hampton, Thomas Pheasant, Kelly Wearstler, Kathy Buist, Alexis Bittar, and Miuccia Prada. They are all crazy talent! I love good type, so naturally I’m influenced by Paul Rand, Steve Jobs and Arthur Cinader; they are all creators and they are all incredible typographers.
And of course I have to mention the many talented, creative, hard-working, intelligent people I’ve met & worked with over the years. James de Givenchy was a friend and classmate at FIT. We were both Graphic Design majors, and now he is a phenomenally successful luxury jewelry designer. In 2004, I co-founded Albemarle Eason, a design firm for the luxury and telephony industry, with the Earl of Albemarle. Rufus Albemarle was one of the most talented designer/engineers for the beauty packaging industry. Now he runs his eponymous bespoke men clothing line in the UK, Albemarle of London.
I’m curious. Many designers I know have adopted the idea of charging a design fee, versus a mark-up on products, for their services. What’s your business model?
Interior designers are the creators, and then the conductors. First you design, then you produce. Therefore, my firm charges a fee for the initial design of a room. Then for the duration of the job, we keep things on an hourly basis. Pricing on goods remains transparent so the client can see where they are spending their capital and we can be more effective finding the best pieces and prices for the clients.
You’ve been involved in Holiday House twice, and done great work both times. How important is philanthropic work for you?
It was great fun to be able to take Iris Dankner’s vision and effectively translate the task. I chose two potentially hazardous holidays: Halloween and Birthday. They both had “cliché” warning signs all over them, so it was invigorating and fun to make them both successful within the theme yet still beautiful, thought-provoking and livable.
As for philanthopy, we all know that time is the most valuable gift you can give. For me it was an honor to participate in such a worthy charity – the Evelyn Lauder Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I’m from a family of educators that has always pushed me to go beyond myself and be community-minded. I have a special needs sister who teaches me humility everyday. My husband and I serve the homeless in Stamford, CT the first Wednesday of every month. I have friends and family who have had life altering disasters and illnesses who are fighting for their dignity and their lives. I feel we are responsible in some way to give back when we can, however much we can.
Who are the top ten ‘go-to’ resources and products right now for you at Suzanne Eason Interiors?
1. Trove ‘Chroma’ Wallpaper
3. Baker, Thomas Pheasant Empire Chest
5. Lorin March, Coin lamp
6. Spanierman Modern Gallery, for Katherine Parker Paintings
8. New York Academy of Art, for the work of Daniel Williams
9. Domus Aerea, for Italian antiques
10. Pace Gallery, for the work of Josef Albers
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Designing and creating more for my clients’ homes, publishing a Monograph, curating another fabric line, expanding my furniture and accessories line at Plum Ridge Home. Vacationing in Telluride or Nevis, either one works!
A special thanks to Suzanne for taking the time to discuss her aesthetic with me, and for sharing her resources. I look forward to following her as her new career continues to unfold, and will report back here on the blog.
107 Parsonage Road, Greenwich, CT 06830-3921 855-765-8388