2021 Circle of Excellence: Interior Designer Susan Hall

Founder | Susan Hall Studio, Boulder
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Portrait by Jennifer Olson

Homes should tell their own stories, says Boulder’s Susan Hall, known for her striking but approachable interior design work.

“When I first walk into a house, I say to the homeowners, ‘I’m here for the very first time, and I am going to talk about the things that I see.’ I talk about what greets me, about the story the walls tell me. When you walk into a house, you want it to have a narrative.”

That is exactly what Hall tries to create in her interiors. “I like to incorporate family heirlooms so homeowners have stories to tell about their pieces for future generations. When houses and rooms tell stories, that’s where the intentionality is.”

Hall has her own interesting story to tell: Born in Boston to Polish immigrant parents—including a father with a “good eye” who bought and sold real estate and helped people fix up their homes—Hall moved at age 7 to Dania, Florida. The small, south Florida town had a design center and an antique row. “The owners would talk to me about the history of their furniture,” she says, “I just ate it up. That was heaven for me.”

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Photo by Emily Minton Redfield

Post-university, she relocated to L.A. with her husband. While there, she indulged her love of art by studying film photography and graphic design at UCLA and by working as a fundraiser at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Just being around all that art, I knew I wanted my life to be filled with art, too,” Hall says. “That experience was a further education that drew me into the design world.”

After five years in California, Hall and her family moved to Colorado, where she and a friend co-founded Buttercup Home Custom Interiors in 2011. Growing her business (now Susan Hall Studio) entirely through word of mouth, Hall has since worked on more than 50 houses, as well as a few commercial projects.

She draws inspiration from designers like Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe, Frances Merrill, and especially her design heroine, Ilse Crawford. Travel is another big idea source. “I like to mix design eras, and I’m obsessed with historic home tours.”

“When I start a project, my goal is to understand who will be living there and how they plan to live in the future. The task of renovation is a challenge, so the more knowledge I have about a client’s lifestyle and goals, the better. This is joyful work— to help others and discover what they need to live their best lives—and for that I am grateful.”

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Photo by Susan Hall

HER OWN FISH STORY
“As a designer, I love this color called Dead Salmon. It’s a red, toned down with a lot of black. As a teen, I painted my room a version that was more of an alive salmon. My dark room turned warm. It was an aha moment for me— something I will never forget.”

HOW HER CAREER FIRST BLOSSOMED
“After a friend and I got the treasure-hunting bug at estate auctions, we started an upcycling business, painting vintage furniture and selling it. It was so much fun. Then clients began asking us for help with the rest of their houses. It reinforced to me how much I loved furniture and design and color. I realized I was a visual thinker and could see the bigger picture in a house and talk through spaces and shapes with clients.”

CHEMICAL REACTIONS
“Starting a project, I’m often impressed by either the house or the client—often both. I want a certain chemistry between us so the communication will be clear. The ideal project is a full-scale renovation of a house that is a clean slate but has some architectural bones that provide the stage for something special to happen. I feel like my role is as a caretaker of a client’s house. I want those special details a client loves, but I also want to design a house with an integrity that will last beyond the current homeowner.”

PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST
“I have recently started a journey to be a painter. I’m teaching myself, and it’s incredibly fun. It’s like something just went off inside me. The act of painting calms a part of my brain that nothing else does. It calms me and revives me, and I see the world in a beautiful way again.”

COLOR MY WORLD
“My art goes hand in hand with being a good colorist. I can see color where others can’t. I’ll walk into a space, see that the tones don’t match and be able to say how the undercoats can be corrected. I can see the yellow in a white paint where a client might not, but then we’ll talk about it and the client will say, ‘Oh, I can really see that now!’ I intimately know a dozen white paint colors from Ben Moore! I also try to bring the outdoors in with organic colors. Our best views are through our windows, so two of my favorite colors are linen and dark, dark green.”

LAYERS OF LIGHT
“I always look for the light in a room, because well-balanced spaces play to the light. I don’t want my spaces to look perfect—I want them to feel lived in and authentic. I am mindful of what the Japanese call wabi-sabi—mixing the elevated and the simple, the old and new. Those layers are what make a house feel like a home.”

Categories: Stylemakers