The Doyenne of Understated Elegance
Designer Suzanne Kasler’s latest anthology celebrates the art of restraint
The beauty of Suzanne Kasler’s residential designs isn’t only in what she adds to a room; often it’s in what she doesn’t. With a renowned firm based in Atlanta for more than 20 years, Kasler has produced a far-reaching portfolio of interiors and furnishings that exude a timeless elegance and practiced restraint.
“I never look at design as decorating,” she says. “I look at it as a composition of layers that create a home. I really try to edit my designs and make them about the architecture; I work hard with how it’s going to flow and how it’s going to unfold from one area to the next.”
The Atlanta-based designer.
Her latest book, Sophisticated Simplicity (Rizzoli, 2018), includes a bevy of recent projects that showcase this pared-down philosophy. From New England beach houses to Southern estates to a Denver manse, each design incorporates Kasler’s classic sensibility, command of color and old-meets-new aesthetic.
Here, we provide a peek into the new tome, as well as Kasler’s take on the modern design process.
TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE
“I was a military brat, so we moved every two years when I was a kid. But one thing that was always an anchor was visiting my grandparents every summer. Grandmother Kasler always took me to little antique markets in the Indiana countryside. She was always making quilts and painting and baking. Visiting her brought a consistency to things. I think that had a subconscious influence on me that I really didn’t think about until later in terms of my work.”
A Ruggles Mabe Studio-designed Denver home in which Kasler worked on the interior
THE MODERN CLIENT
“When people hire designers, I think they really love design. What we’re finding today is a client comes to us already very sophisticated. They point out pictures in magazines. They might have a Pinterest board or pictures they’ve saved on Instagram. So I always like to hear what their vision is, and a lot of times, the client really does become the designer. They pick you because they already know and like what you’re doing. We’re attracting a lot of young clients who want something timeless but not traditional. They want it to be edited, more modern, with contemporary art mixed in.”
“This entry is my ideal of sophisticated simplicity,” Kasler writes of this Chanel-inspired entryway in a South Carolina home featured in her new book.
“I think residential design is always about creating personal relationships. Certainly we have an office with a full-time CPA on staff, but it has to be much more personal because you’re reflecting on how your clients are going to live. Design is really about creating a lifestyle and having things that are really comfortable—they can be beautiful, but they have to be livable.”
Diverting from her usual oyster-hued ceilings, Kasler added a subtle splash of color by painting the ceiling in this formal dining room a French gray-blue shade.
ON SENSE OF PLACE
“When it comes to place, there’s a whole vernacular of architecture style and way of living, whether it’s a city house, beach house or country house. For our clients, we always want to reflect that sense of place in the design. Whenever we’re installing a house, we always shop locally for the finishing touches. When we were in Maine, we went to the little shops in Hampden. You always find things that are fun to mix in, and you’re also supporting the local community.”
“What I’m seeing that’s fun and exciting in interior design today is the influence of fashion. I have always had a fashion sensibility about my interiors; I’ve always brought in pieces from Hermès or Missoni blankets, but I think today it’s much more literal. I see a huge focus on patterns and wallpaper and bold tile. I think it’s an exciting time in design in that there is so much change. I’m getting my clients to really embrace that.”
For a Manhattan showhouse, Kasler added layers of sophistication with new, old and found objects.
CURATED & COLLECTED
“If you’re a designer, a lot of times you are a collector. I always say, ‘I never regret what I buy. I regret what I didn’t buy.’ Years ago, my first collection was of Eiffel towers. I’m always looking for interesting objects and sculptures and art. I also have an entire collection of antique chairs that are fabulous. I really love chairs. They feel like art pieces to me.”
“You can sequence color strategically throughout a house, but it doesn’t have to be obvious,” Kasler writes. The chairs in this Atlanta kitchen were chosen for their hint of coral, a color woven into each room of the home.
A light and airy kitchen Kasler designed within a Georgian-style Nashville manor. Light-blue and lavender hues were used throughout the home.
“Kitchens today are always part of another space, whether it’s a sitting room or dining room or a family room that’s peeking in. My biggest rules are not looking at the kitchen as a singular design and not overdoing it. I like to have it be part of the composition, have it be more classic and timeless and fit into the whole architecture of the space.”