New York designers Suysel dePedro Cunningham and Anne Maxwell Foster, known together as Tilton Fenwick, have become seemingly ubiquitous in the interior design world — appearing on the pages of TradHome, Lonny, Apartment Therapy, So Haute, and more. Additionally, they were recently chosen to design the 2011 Hampton Designer Showhouse presented by Traditional Home. We asked Suysel and Anne to share with us their story, their inspiration, and a few design tips. Enjoy!
How did you get your start in interior design?
We both had a similar start in the field, starting our careers out of college in advertising and later making a complete shift to follow our true passions in interior design. For both of us, the first move was landing an entry level job at a prestigious NYC design office, even if it meant filing paper, answering phones, ordering office supplies or organizing the books in the office library.
Who has influenced your career or style the most?
Those firms where we learned the business: Markham Roberts, Brockshmidt & Coleman, and Ashley Whittaker Design. With a combined decade plus of experience at these firms, they have all had a huge impact on how we work in color, furniture plans, materials, composition, details. They have all had an incredible influence on our style, what we view as great interior design, and the way we run our office day to day.
How does New York City inform your style?
Living in New York City means culture, architecture, design, cuisine, theater, music and inspiration are at our fingertips 24/7. It’s fairly subconscious, but all of this is constantly being infused into our work.
How would you describe your design style?
We were named by Traditional Home and Lonny as their Top 20 “New Traditionals” and we most closely attach our style to that term: New Traditional. We have a deep appreciation for traditional decorating style, but love applying a fresh approach for the 21st century.
What’s most important in a relationship with a client?
Working with clients becomes a very intimate process. It’s a matter of really getting to know them, discovering how they live day to day, behind closed doors, down to the level of detail as how many pairs of shoes they own or which side of the bed they sleep on. Trust between us and our clients is one of the most important pieces of our relationship.
What’s the first thing you ask a client?
Perhaps one of the first things we ask is about pure function. Will your home need lots of space for formal entertaining? Ample storage for hiding and organizing baby toys? Super comfy rooms for weekend relaxing at home? A combo? This conversation gets us started and transported into their world.
What are your favorite design resources?
We love spending afternoons at both the New York Design Center (Baker, Floor 3!) and the Decoration and Design Building. We scour top to bottom and always return to the office with incredible new finds in fabric, trimmings, furniture, floor covering, lighting, accessories. We are also huge online web shoppers through sites such as 1stDibs (which also now has a floor at NYDC). Lastly, you’ll often find us at flea markets on the weekends, great resources for accessories!
How have you designed your own home?
We couldn’t be more excited to be currently working on a gut renovation downtown apartment for the Cunningham family, to be completed (fingers-crossed) Summer 2012! It will be a place where we take risks and go headstrong with a list of favorite design concepts we’ve wanted to experiment with, that are often difficult sells to clients! Similar to the Hampton Showhouse we completed this summer, it’s a project where we can go wild with creativity, throw out the rules. We’re already giddy with excitement and just starting to work with the architect on floor plans, elevations and interior millwork details.
What is your favorite color to use in a space?
Color is one of our favorite elements of design. We love so many, in so many combinations and permutations we could never narrow it to one shade!
What is your go-to Baker piece?
We are obsessed with the Collector’s Edition Bamboo Server, No. 8531. We have been eyeing it for months and are waiting for the perfect client for this piece!
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about interior design over the course of your career?
We make certain we never take ourselves too seriously. We absolutely love each day at the office, working for our clients. When things don’t work as perfectly as planned, we take a step back and solve the problem quickly, efficiently and without dramatics. Our website states, “There’s nothing we’d rather be doing” and it’s true!
When do you consider a room “finished?”
Not until we’re on the granular level of selecting the perfect candle scent for a room are we content with the word “finished.” We are passionate and insistent about finishing every room with accessories and artwork that has meaning and relevance to the occupants. They bring life to a space!
In your opinion, what is the best interior design investment one can make?
We always advise our clients on how best to allot funds of a set budget and often discuss the concept “good, better, best” in regards to all purchases. While each case is different, we frequently advise investing a higher percentage of the bottom line in quality upholstery pieces. The quality of materials and workmanship of handmade custom upholstery is truly worth every penny. Each piece is made exactly to specification and will last a lifetime.
You can find more information about Tilton Fenwick at TiltonFenwick.com.