The Style Files: Suzanne Tucker

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I have admired Suzanne Tucker for many years. She is known as the doyenne of interior design in San Francisco, and with very good reason. Suzanne and her business partner, Timothy F. Marks formed their design firm, Tucker & Marks in 1986 after Suzanne had worked alongside the legendary Michael Taylor for years. A native of California, Suzanne is known for her ability to marry a European aesthetic with a West Coast approach. Suzanne has been named to Architectural Digest‘s AD100 list multiple times and has also received the distinction of  “The Best of the Best in Interior Design” by Robb Report. Her work is consistently featured in every important magazine including ELLE DECOR, House Beautiful, Luxe, and Architectural Digest. Suzanne has also published two design tomes Rooms to Remember and Suzanne Tucker Interiors.

I recently got to know Suzanne a bit better while planning our stay at Auberge du Soleil in July. Suzanne was involved with the luxury hotel’s original design when she worked with Michael Taylor in the 1980s and recently completely redesigned the property, capturing her vision for a fresh approach, embracing the special light and sensibility of the Napa Valley. It was such a treat to enjoy a space designed by such a talented designer whom I’ve held in such high esteem for so long. Our maison at Auberge du Soleil was thoughtfully and beautifully designed, just as the spaces Suzanne designs for her clients. I recently had the opportunity to interview Suzanne and am so inspired by her talent and kindness. Enjoy!

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Suzanne Tucker: I don’t really like being pigeon-holed and prefer adjectives like comfortable, elegant, and inviting, whether the home is casual or formal, in the city or in the country. It’s a very personalized style for each individual project.

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PC: Has living in California influenced the way you decorate?

ST: Absolutely, though I was also strongly influenced by living in London for several years. Growing up in Santa Barbara has had a powerful influence given the beauty of the local architecture, inherently gracious houses, historic precedents of style, enchanted gardens, fabulous parties, the unique quality of the light, colors of the beaches – all this is lodged deep in my visual and sensual memories, grounding how I create layered and elegant environments for others. I would say London gave me my extended education in decorating and architecture: putting a house together and living comfortably, whether casual or formal.

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PC: What does your home say about you?

ST: My own home – a Mediterranean je-ne-sais-quoi – is a little bit French, some Italian, and a good dose of my Montecito roots. It’s definitely a decorator’s house: always a work in progress. I’m always bringing in pieces from dealers, auctions, show houses, flea markets, for my own version of musical chairs. As a friend observed, it’s my decorating laboratory where pieces come and go; I live with them, analyze them, conjure up new design ideas. But certain pieces are near and dear to my heart, especially those from Michael Taylor, Tony Duquette, Sister Parish, Pamela Harriman, Brooke Astor, Dodie Rosekrans, Nancy Dollar, and of course, family. Given their sentimental provenance, those will always be staying.

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PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

ST: I’m always nursing a mild to strong case of wanderlust: travel energizes and inspires me more than anything else. I find my most enduring design education in other countries and cultures. No matter where in the world I go, I always come back with a mental suitcase full of ideas and a camera loaded with images….

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{An Instagram Shot from Suzanne’s Recent Trip to England– Follow her @suzanne_tucker!}

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

ST: Dodie Rosekrans for her sense of fashion, fabulous houses and great taste, Diana Vreeland for her unerring eye and fearless approach to business, love and life, Grace Kelly for her classic style and elegant demeanor.

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{Dodie Rosekrans’ Iconic Apartment at the Palazzo Brandolini in Venice}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

ST: Really good dark chocolate and staying in bed on sunday mornings reading whatever I can get my hands on.

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

ST: Integrity, authenticity, a sense of humor, loyalty and good manners.

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PC: Who has been your greatest professional influence?

ST: I. Magnin executive Doris Fields was a fabulous mentor to me as a woman in business. Michael Taylor, incorrigible tyrant that he was, was most certainly my design mentor and took me under his wing. His mastery of scale and proportion, his use of color and light, and his knowledge of furniture and antiques were greatly influential to me. I’ve definitely done my own thing, but every once in a while I find that I wonder to myself “What would Michael do with this room?”

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

ST: Carefree living, lots of laughter, being deeply in love… and chocolate.

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

ST: I am immersed in a really busy fall! I am working on a wide variety of decorating and architecture projects that are taking me from the Bay Area to Texas and Aspen. I am happy to be chairing the 2015 San Francisco Fall Antiques Show this October. For anyone interested in the decorative arts, buying, collecting, or simply learning about art and antiques, this show is not to be missed. After 34 years, it’s a Bay Area “Must do!” of the most wonderful, vibrant four days filled with terrific dealers, fascinating lectures, and gobs of eye candy!

Later in the fall, I am launching a collection of beautiful hand carved stone mantels for Chesney’s. They are the world’s leading purveyor of luxury fireplaces and do the most amazing bespoke work. I am also in final stages of designing and prototyping a collection of outdoor furniture for Michael Taylor Designs, which will be launched early next year. I am also developing half a dozen new textiles for my Suzanne Tucker Home line, to be launched in the spring of 2016. And in my sleep, my third book is already percolating in my head, phew!

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{Corsica, one of Suzanne’s Fabrics, which I Fell in Love with during our Stay at Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley}

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Go-To Outfit: My uniform is always black pants and either a crisp white shirt or black top

Style Mantra: When in doubt, take it out!

Scent: Eau d’Hadrien by Annick Goutal

Piece of Jewelry: My Cartier watch

Place to Shop: Neiman Marcus

Color I Never Tire Of: Every decorator’s favorite – “goosepoop” green

Flower: Pink peonies

Indispensable Design Element: Something old… have at least one piece in a room with some age to it.

Era for Design: 18th century Georgian

Dream Project: The ones I am currently working on

Fabric/Textile: My own linen print Hatley (named after my daughter)

Hostess Gift: McEvoy Ranch olive oil

Meal: Sushi

Drink: Margarita on the rocks

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: Peace and quiet

Favorite Place: My house in Montecito

Weekend Destination: Home sweet home

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Hotel: Auberge du Soleil in Napa, The Lowell in New York and The Crillon in Paris

City: London

Museum: Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston

Artist: Mark Rothko

Coffee Table Book: The Givenchy Style by Francoise Mohrt

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars

Actor/Actress: Carey Grant and Myrna Loy

Prized Possession: My collection of antique cowrie shell boxes

Risk Worth Taking: Pushing yourself to do what you think you can’t

Greatest Extravagance: Years ago I fell in love with a beautiful 18th century Italian walnut commode I could ill afford at the time but thirty years later I still have it and love it.

Go-To Color Palette: The Benjamin Moore Historical Colors

Rule to Break: All of ’em!

Movie Set Design: A Single Man (I did not expect any less from Tom Ford!) and Il Gattopardo by Visconti

I can never have too many… Shoes

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2 thoughts on “The Style Files: Suzanne Tucker

  1. Suzanne is such a talented lady and has style beyond! Great interview Paloma as always. I loved learning more about Suzanne!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena
    Featuring India Hicks!

  2. Dear Paloma
    I really enjoyed your post today,as I have admired the beautiful work of Suzanne Tucker for some time..she has a lovely approach to life too.
    It is very interesting to read that Suzanne is designing for Chesneys, as I have used their exquisite fireplaces on my projects.

    Your quote for this week is also very apt !

    Best Wishes, Sally

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