The Style Files: Tilton Fenwick

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{Suysel de Pedro Cunningham and Anne Maxwell Foster}

Suysel de Pedro Cunningham and Anne Maxwell Foster of Tilton Fenwick have taken the design world by storm since co-founding their design firm in 2010. Based in Manhattan, the duo lovingly named their firm after their respective freshman year dorms back in Boston. Their affinity for the city of Boston and intense passion for design brought Suysel and Anne together and sealed their fate as friends and eventually, as business partners.

In just four years, Suysel and Anne have completed countless beautiful projects, participated in several designer show houses, and recently launched a line of fabulous fabrics with Duralee. Known for their “traditional with a twist” style, I love the work of Tilton Fenwick because of its fearless approach in terms of color, pattern, and texture. Suysel and Anne also happen to be two of the sweetest, most genuine women that I have the pleasure of knowing in this industry– proof that nice girls finish first.

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Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Suysel de Pedro Cunningham: We like to uncover hidden harmonies– mixing and matching things that at first glance, may not seem to work together. We love the mix of pattern on pattern, bold colors, antiques mixed with catalog pieces, etc.

Anne Maxwell Foster: New Traditional. Having worked for Brockschmidt & Coleman and Ashley Whittaker, I learned design from a very traditional mindset. From this solid foundation, I follow a gut instinct for taking risks and thinking slightly outside the box.

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PC: Why did you decide to form a partnership as opposed to working individually? What would you say is the biggest challenge in working with a partner? What is the greatest advantage?

SDC: To steal a line from Jerry McGuire– Anne “completes me!”. Our work is that much stronger because we push each other creatively in ways we would not be able to do if we worked alone.

AMF: Working with Suysel was a completely natural process from day one. It just felt right. We had collaborated on the design and plan for my wedding and it was remarkable how “in tune” we were on everything. From the very first days of starting our company – from talking about what we would call it to our first client schemes – it has always just been a perfect match. Challenge? There are business technicalities with a partnership that don’t exist otherwise though we have always had clear and straightforward business arrangement. Advantage? For us, there are so many professional advantages to being in this together, most important of which is our design collaboration. We do it all together and we have a natural synergy when we’re in the design process. And on top of all of the business aspects, Suysel makes the bad days good and the good days great. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

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PC: What does your home say about you?

SDC:  I am a collector– I learned very early on when working for Markham Roberts to buy what I love when I see it– from little boxes to plates to artwork, I am surrounded by treasures and finds.

AMF: In 2013, the NYTimes did a story on our loft apartment in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. The title of the article, “Colors to Make DUMBO Blush” is a great way to describe it!

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PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

SDC: Designer friends are constantly inspiring us. We meet monthly with Nick Olsen, Scout Designs, Ron Marvin, Rebecca Soskin, Nicole Gibbons, and Drew McGukin. Our portfolios are so different, but we are always sharing ideas and inspiration.

AMF: Everywhere really. We are all so connected through amazing editorial features, blog columns, Instagram accounts, etc. Incredible design is so easily accessible I’m constantly taking photos or screengrabs and compiling inspiration for our own projects. It’s the modern day tearsheet. Walking around NYC everyday also provides endless inspiration, most especially for me, prewar architectural design. I’m always snapping motifs and details that we incorporate into our designs – both interiors and textiles.

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PC: Who are your personal style icons?

SDC: Oscar de la Renta can do no wrong. And I love everything by the Spanish design label, Del Pozo.

AMF: I have a girl crush on Marlien Rentmeester of the fashion blog, Le Catch. There isn’t anything she posts that I don’t want to “Add to Cart” immediately.

DELPOZO Spring / Summer 2014 collection shown at New York Fashion Week

{A Chic Ensemble by Del Pozo}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

SDC: Christopher Spitzmiller Lamps

AMF: When not pregnant (I’m expecting again, our second baby due in December just 20 months after our daughter!) red wine is my true guilty pleasure. A single trip to Sonoma with my husband and our dearest friends turned us all into wine fanatics, some may say snobs!

spitzmiller lamps

PC: What trait do you most admire in a person?

SDC: Passion

AMF: Humility and honesty. It can be rare to find, but I always make note of those who possess these amazing characteristics and strive towards being humble and honest in my own life.

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PC: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

SDC: Pay for the best and you’ll only cry once.

AMF: Stop apologizing. It may sound harsh, but in quite a few major life decisions it has helped me push myself towards my own goals, rather than following what might otherwise be considered a more traditional or straightforward path. When I decided to leave my career in advertising, it was on a strong impulse that I wanted to work in interior design. My husband and I packed up our apartment in Boston and moved to NY! He is still awarded major points for supporting me in following my crazy dream.

tilton fenwick bedroom

PC: Finish this sentence: Before I die, I’d like to___________________.

SDC: Live in Spain with my family.

AMF: I’d like to meet a great-grandchild, or two.

tilton fenwick kids room

PC: Who/what has been your greatest professional influence?

SDC: My mentor Markham Roberts who taught me that no detail is too small.

AMF: Working for Brockschmidt & Coleman and Ashley Whittaker Design were been incredibly valuable to my understanding of scale, color, textiles, and running a design office. Having perspective and understanding from two different offices has been professionally valuable when starting Tilton Fenwick.

Tilton Fenwick bedroom detail

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

SDC: Living with passion. If you cannot figure out your purpose in life, figure out your passion. Your passion will always lead to you to your purpose.

AMF: To me, “la dolce vita” is a life filled with what’s most important: family and great friends. It’s also having goals, striving for something bigger and working towards that while also being able to enjoying the beautiful and some of the more indulgent parts of life – travel, design, food.

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{Anne and Suysel’s Darling Daughters via Tilton Fenwick’s Instagram}

PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

SDC: We worked on the Country Living Magazine House of the Year for 6 months and cannot wait for the final reveal in the September issue which will be on newsstands in August.

AMF: Suysel and I are working on projects in Austin, TX, Greenwich, CT and NYC. We’re in the process of styling and photographing a recently completed project which is always the most exciting part of what we do – the big reveal! We also have another licensed collection coming out in August that we can’t wait to share!

 Portraits, Interiors

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{Suysel’s Favorites}

Go-To Outfit: Simple clothing with fabulous accessories

Style Mantra: Flirt with trends but only marry the classics

Scent: YSL Rive Gauche

Piece of Jewelry: Cartier Ballon Blue Watch

Indispensible Design Element: Amazing Wallpaper

Era for Design: I would have to say the present. We have so many talented designer friends who inspire us everyday.

Dream Project: A country house collaboration with Gil Schaefer as the architect

Fabric/Textile: “Cecilia” in sea green from our Duralee named after my daughter

Hostess Gift: The artisan tote from Haven’s Kitchen– everyone loves their granola

Meal: Spaghetti and clams from The Clam Restaurant in NYC

Drink: Chilled Rose on a hot summer night

3 Things I Love About My City: I am surrounded by diversity, design, and culture.

Weekend Destination: My house in Woodstock, NY

Hotel: Casa Violeta in Tulum, Mexico

City: Florence

Museum: El Museo del Barrio, NYC

Artist: Cy Twombly

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson

Actor/Actress: Anyone in a Pedro Almodovar film

Prized Possession: My daughter’s passport. I didn’t get my passport until I was 22 and I love that my 7 year old daughter has been a little world traveler since birth.

Risk Worth Taking: All! “Only those will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go!”- T.S. Eliot

Greatest Extravagance: Leontine Bedding

Rule to Break: No pattern in small spaces– we break this rule everyday and push out clients to do so as well.

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{Anne’s Favorites}

Piece of Jewelry: statement necklace

Color I Never Tire Of: green

Indispensible Design Element: wall treatment of any kind

Era for Design: 70s

Dream Project: House in LA (we dream of a bicoastal lifestyle!)

Fabric/Textile: Tilton Fenwick for Duralee

Hostess Gift: John Derian tray, theme of course selected specifically for the person

Meal: Steak au Poivre at Raoul’s in Soho

Drink: Seltzer

3 Things I Love About My City: Morning walks on The High Line, amazing restaurants at every corner, theater date nights

Weekend Destination: anywhere outside NYC!

Hotel: Cap Estel, Eze, France where we stayed on the first part of our honeymoon. We loved it so much we tried to extend for a few more nights.

City: Paris…cliché, but favorite to visit!

Museum: Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. As an Art History major in college, I wrote my senior thesis on Rembrandt, so it was a dream to later visit there and view so many incredible pieces in person.

Artist: Impossible to choose one, but Matisse & Gauguin top my list

 Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: “Beast of Burden” by The Rolling Stones

Actor/Actress: Bradley Cooper is my main man

Prized Possession: Vera Wang wedding dress

Risk Worth Taking: Following your dream

Greatest Extravagance: Blow Dry bars, regularly

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9 thoughts on “The Style Files: Tilton Fenwick

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