Captivating Interiors

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Talking with well-known interior designer Susan Zises Green is like taking in copious amounts of fresh air. She is like the month of May; her overwhelmingly positive and genuinely sunny outlook – about her family, about her clients, about her industry, about the blessings of her life – is mood-enhancing and simply lovely. Talking with her not only makes me want to hire her to design my own living space, but also invite her to be a guest at my next dinner party.

Transcript of Captivating Interiors

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    CaptivatingInteriors

    Talking with well-known interior designer Susan Zises Green

    is like taking in copious amounts of fresh air. She is like the month of May; her overwhelmingly

    positive and genuinely sunny outlook about her family, about her clients, about her industry,

    about the blessings of her life is mood-enhancing and simply lovely.

    Talking with her not only makes me want to hire her to design my own living space,

    but also invite her to be a guest at my next dinner party.

    by Ma r i e C l a i r e R o c ha tp ho t o s c o u r t e s y o f S u s an Z i s e s G r e en

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    Today, nearly 40 years later, Susan Zises Green is consideredone of New Yorks most prominent interior designers. She hasparticipated in the premiere designer show houses (includingseven years at New Yorks notable Kips Bay Boys and GirlsClub Show House) and her work has been featured in nationalpublications, including House Beautiful, Traditional Home andArchitectural Digest. Her solid reputation and well-establishedclient base has opened up opportunities around the countryas well; Zises Green has worked on major projects in Connecticut, Nantucket, Tennessee, Florida and Texas.

    Her rise to prominence in her field has certainly not been withoutstumbles; there is always a learning curve.

    My first client was a single man who asked me to prepare anestimate for work on his one-bedroom New York City apartment, she said. I put my heart into it and presentedhim with a very precise, very thorough proposal, including thenumber of yards of fabric needed, where to get it, etc. He hadhis secretary order everything and never hired me.

    Not to be deterred by the mistakes of a young, nave businesswoman, Zises Green slowly began to build her

    SSusan Zises Green believes that she has followed her calling,that she was born to be an interior designer. As an adolescent, she recalls walking the grounds of the grand estates of Long Islands Gold Coast and being captivated bythe stature and beauty of the homes. Sharing her parents interest in design, she often tagged along with them when theyscoured the showrooms of New Yorks Citys D and D Building. While her contemporaries were tuned in to the teen sub-culture of the decade, Zises Green was flipping throughbooks of fabric samples at Clarence House and Cowtan & Tout.

    Her early intrigue was recognized by a close friend of her parents,prominent New York City-based decorator David Barrett.

    He looked at me one day and said, Child, you should getinto design. Someday you should go to design school, saidZises Green, fondly recollecting the words of her early mentor.

    His advice didnt fall on deaf ears; Zises Green went on to attend the New York School of Interior Design. Upon graduation, David Barrett offered her a job at his firm.

    I did not accept, she said. I wanted to go out on my own.

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    business, meeting potential new clients at trade shows, in theshow houses of New Yorks Seventh Avenue and through wordof mouth. Many of her first clients were like Zises Green herself; they were young, just starting out in their fields, hadlimited budgets and, in most cases, small, architecturally unimag-inative one-bedrooms in New York. But while many designerssnubbed low-budget or small projects, she was hungry. Inmany cases, I was the only designer who called people back.

    Zises Green embraced those little jobs, worked within the modestfinancial parameters and transformed those little apartmentsinto pretty, comfortable living spaces. Today, Zises Green isstill working for many of those early clients. Having grownup together in their respective industries, she is now designing their luxurious country homes and vacation retreats.

    I have one client who I have worked with for more than 20years, explained Zises Green. I hadnt heard from her for awhile, but one day she called me and asked if I would overseethe construction, renovation and design of her home in PalmBeach while she and her husband were in Venice. When theyreturned, the house was completely transformed. They brokeinto tears.

    Her commitment and dedication to her work and to her clientsis, she believes, a key component to her success. I haveknown many of them for so long I have really developed arelationship with them. It is such an intimate business, in a way.You learn about how people live, about their lifestyles.

    Zises Green describes her design style as very luxurious, veryclassic and also very warm, inviting and, well, friendly. Shedesigns spaces for living; rooms should not come across asbeing only for company. She subscribes to the philosophythat children with untied shoes and scraped knees should becomfortable curled up in an overstuffed, chintz-covered arm-chair in the family living room or enjoy chocolate cupcakes atthe formal dining room table. Good design can blend elegance, formality, comfort and practicality, she explained.The challenge is creating the right balance.

    In her own homes, Zises Green focuses first on comfort andwarmth. She works long hours and travels frequently, so it isimperative for her nest to be full of fluffy sofas, plenty of cozythrows and pillows, soothing lighting and lots of books strewnabout. Its a cold world, she said, referring most specificallyto the outdoor temperature on this dismal March afternoon.

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    There is nothing predicable

    about Zises Greens style.

    Part of her success in

    avoiding the cookie cutter look

    of a home taken over

    by a designer is in

    making the interior

    reflect the

    lifestyle of the client.

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    I cant wait to get home at night!

    There is nothing predicable about Zises Greens style. Part ofher success in avoiding the cookie cutter look of a hometaken over by a designer is in making the interior reflect thelifestyle of the client. Zises Green likes to work in details orpieces that are meaningful. These touches not only add visualdepth and interest, but make the space unique to the client.

    In one job, the client had a lot of formal, French furniture.They also had a Lucite lamp from the early 1960s that theyloved. We placed it on a formal chest of drawers; it made theroom look very livable and added an element of playfulness.

    Whenever she can, Zises Green looks to create interiors thatborrow from and are harmonious with the surrounding landscape or artistic and cultural traditions of the community.In her own Nantucket cottage located in the heart of the Islands historic district, for instance, Zises Green showcases

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    her collections of lightship baskets and sailors valentines (twoartifacts that harken back to Nantuckets rich whaling history);the name of one of Nantuckets earliest families (and thebuilder of the house) is painted into the border of a wall muralin the sitting room.

    During the course of our talk, Zises Green is periodically interrupted by one of her assistants confirming plans for a consultation with a new client, making travel arrangements for an upcoming trip to Palm Beach, following upon her charity work and the plethora of trusts and boardswhich vie for time on her busy agenda. This work her opportunity to give back is as fulfilling to Zises Green as herwork as a designer. She feels so blessed: I have wonderfulchildren, lovely friends, a great career, a really well-roundedlife. I am lucky.

    My father always used to say, You come, into this life with agood name. You want to go out with one.

    It seems Zises Green is on the right track.

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    Whenever she can,

    Zises Green looks to create

    interiors that borrow from

    and are harmonious with

    the surrounding landscape

    or artistic

    and cultural traditions

    of the community.