September 29, 2015

Design Dossier:
Suzanne Lovell, Inc.

At the intersection of architecture and interiors, design and fine art

  • Suzanne Lovell Inc.

With a unique approach toward designing environments that express a client’s passion for home, Suzanne Lovell, Inc. is a Chicago-based, international, full-service architectural interior design firm. Founded in 1986 and led by Suzanne Lovell, the firm prides itself on carefully designing, crafting, and executing each project to reflect clients’ individual and very personal style.

Suzanne Lovell, Inc. provides a complete spectrum of services, from renovation to custom furniture and millwork, antiques to art. Along with the complete integration of art, architecture, furniture, and textiles into a home, and with an understanding that architecture and interior design should be integral from start to finish, the firm is well known for sophisticated signature interiors.

Interior designer Suzanne Lovell

For more than 25 years, Lovell has specialized in residential interior architecture, design and decoration, and she has created custom fabrics, furnishings, and rug for clients as well as for the retail marketplace. She penned a tome, Artistic Interiors published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and is among Architectural Digest’s “Top 100 Interior Designers and Architects.”

We were able to catch up with Lovell on a rare break to chat about design and what inspires her, her design philosophy, and what word she utters when the going gets tough.

Suzanne Lovell, Inc.

  • Astor Street Duplex

    This glamorous Deco-era building on Chicago’s historic Gold Coast includes tall bronze-and-glass doors that heighten the elegance of the space. The Suzanne Lovell, Inc, team added a pair of French Art Deco wrought-iron gates by designer and metal craftsman Gilbert Poillerat, exceptional antique finds including black lacquer Biedermeier cabinets from Austria, and a collection of Jazz-Era photography by Lee Friedlander. The outcome is a gracious home in which architecture, design, and art are at once highlighted and held in balance.

    Photography: Simon Upton, Tony Soluri
    • Astor Street living room

    • Astor Street Dining Room

    • Astor Street Bedroom

    • Astor Street home

    • Bathtub and bathroom in Astor Street home

  • Manhattan Pied-à-terre

    This idyllic space is designed to showcase the client’s contemporary art collection, including some of the best examples of work by Mark Bradford, Antony Gormley, and Roy Lichtenstein. The Lovell design team highlighted the property’s unobstructed view of the Hudson River, Central Park, and the down the East River, adding in minimalist architectural elements in white lacquer as a discreet backdrop for the artwork and vistas. The naturally dyed carpets are retrained in color, while Wendell Castle’s Lap Dog, iconic designs by Giorgetti, and Soane’s metal-and-lacquer Yacht Table create an elegant environment to enhance the homeowners’ experience with their collection.

    Photography: Billy Cunningham
    • Manhattan Pied-à-terre Living Room

    • Manhattan Pied-à-terre skyline views

    • Formal dining at Manhattan Pied-à-terre

    • Manhattan Pied-à-terre casual dining

    • Manhattan Pied-à-terre bedroom

  • Skyline Penthouse

    This warm, luxurious, and livable interior emulates the rich palette of the client’s yacht. The design team added monumental architectural and decorative elements to humanize the volume of space, and created a series of vignettes to allow one to feel held within it. Significant additions include a dome chandelier from the Hotel Bristol by Flavio Poli, an important pair of Mazzega chandeliers, and antique fireplace mantels acquired in Paris throughout. We brought together large-scale King and Queen mixed-media works by Manolo Valdés, an important painting by Cecily Brown, and Thomas Struth’s Museo Del Prado to create an art collection with historic reference and depth, most fitting for Lovell’s sophisticated client.

    Photography: Tony Soluri
    • Skyline Penthouse entry

    • Skyline penthouse living room

    • Skyline penthouse dining room

    • Skyline penthouse bath

    • Skyline penthouse den

  • North Shore Contemporary

    Conceived as a contemporary expression of a Japanese box, this modern home reveals a synthesis from a well-curated collection of fine art and antiques. The home is configured for a couple who entertains, and features a circular specimen wood dining table from Sri Lanka c.1820, a custom hand-blown sculptural chandelier by Dale Chihuly, and custom buffet cabinets with ivory inlay. A fine art collection that includes works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Joan Miró, and Wang Wusheng is featured in an environment made warm, classic, and elegant by Lovell’s team.

    Photography: Tony Soluri
    • North Shore Contemporary foyer

    • North Shore Contemporary dining room

    • North Shore Contemporary custom buffet

    • North Shore Contemporary living room

    • North Shore Contemporary bedroom

  • Lincoln Park Residence

    Influences of Eastern and European cultures are evident in this large residence crafted for a well-traveled client. Lovell’s design team warmed up this expansive volume of space by selecting a toned French limestone floor and rich walnut in the architectural elements throughout—doors, ceiling beams, archways, and a grand staircase. Southeast Asian gates, a bust of Shiva, and a carved Asian center table intermingle with a fine art collection that includes portraiture by Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vic Muniz, and Candida Höfer, creating a dynamic series of juxtapositions and cultural references.

    Photography: Tony Soluri
    • Lincoln Park library

    • Lincoln Park entry

    • LIncoln Park living and dining

    • Lincoln Park dining room

    • Lincoln Park kitchen

Q&A Starts

Interview by Lacey Howard for Global Trends

GT: Who in the field of design (or any field for that matter) inspires you and why?

SL: Dries van Noten, fashion designer, for his integration of textiles, history and his imagination with craft techniques. Pae White, mixed-media artist, from the tiny to the enormous: Ceramic Popcorn to a crinkled aluminum tapestry curtain she created for the Oslo Opera HouseJennifer Steinkamp, installation artist, for environment and motion in the 3-dimensional experience. I want to create a residence with her work in every room, expressing the emotion of that function within a home!

GT: What is the first room or building you remember falling in love with?

SL: Kalmann House by architect Luigi Snozzi, c. 1976, on Lake Maggiore in Ticino, Switzerland. I’m inspired by the Swiss-German thought process of bringing the outside in, and their intent to consider ease of function for the plan of a home environment.

GT: Did this space or building influence your career choice?

SL: Yes, I chose residential design so I could affect the way people experience space in their everyday life!

GT: If not, when was it you knew you were destined to be a designer?

SL: When I entered the halls of the College of Architecture at Virginia Tech. They considered all approaches to the craft of materials as design and architecture.  They could see architecture in the weave structure of a textile.

GT: Do you have a signature design element that you find yourself using time and again?

SL: Tall doors, drapery from the floor to the ceiling, symmetry, uniquely crafted fine art furniture…

GT: Tell me about your personal design philosophy.

SL: A clear architectural language sets the stage for elegance in design, and also serves as a consistent backdrop for the daily three-dimensional experience of “Home.”

These next 10 questions originally came from a French series, "Bouillon de Culture" hosted by Bernard Pivot. They are better known as the questions that James Lipton asks every guest at the end of "Inside the Actor's Studio.” We have tweaked them just a bit to be relevant to design:

GT: What is your favorite design word?

SL: symmetrical and pair

GT: What is your least favorite design word?

SL: Rococo


"I’m inspired by the Swiss-German thought process of bringing the outside in, and their intent to consider ease of function for the plan of a home environment." —Suzanne Lovell


GT: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally about design?

SL: The flow of generating ideas around an architectural material palette of the interior that carries into fabrics and textures, creating a consistent, precise experience.

GT: What turns you off?

SL: Copying a style or period room

GT: What is your favorite curse word when on a project?

SL: F***

GT: What sound or noise when a client visits a project do you love?

SL: Silence

GT: What sound or noise when a client visits a project do you hate?

SL: Silence

GT: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

SL: Couture fashion

GT: What profession would you not like to do?

SL: Lawyer

GT: If Heaven exists, what style of room would you like God to escort you to when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

SL: Palladio’s Villa La Rotunda


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