By Michelle Konstantinovsky
Creating a cohesive, well-curated space takes time, patience and talent…or a connection
to Suzanne Tucker. The renowned San Francisco-based interior designer has made a name
for herself around the country as an expert on elevating homes of all kinds to elegant,
timeless architectural havens for decorative art and domestic bliss.
Tucker trained with legendary designer Michael Taylor, who’s often been credited with creating the “California Look” of interior design (think: muted backdrops, oversized furniture and fossilized stone). As the icon’s protégée, Tucker learned the tricks of the trade and developed her own distinct approach to style. In 1986, she and husband Timothy founded Tucker & Marks, the SF-based design firm that’s grown to be one of the largest of its kind on the West Coast.
And while all that success might be enough to satisfy most, Tucker felt the pull of a whole new venture in 2010 when she launched Suzanne Tucker Home with a signature line of textile, tabletop and home furnishings. Not to mention that as the founding director of the Northern California Chapter of the ICAA (Institute of Classical Architecture & Art), she’s served on the board for 13 years. Tucker also currently serves on the national Board of Directors of ICAA, and has co-chaired the prestigious Arthur Ross Awards since 2014, and if you’ve heard of the San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show (who hasn’t?), you might know that she’s the chair and advisory board member who makes it possible.
If you’re exhausted just reading about Tucker’s ambitious professional evolution, then kick back, relax, and passively take in some of her best how-tos:
European style, West Coast flavor:
Many have noted Tucker’s effortless amalgamation of an international influence and a California aesthetic. “I grew up in Santa Barbara and was surrounded by beautiful architecture and gardens from a young age,” she says. “I lived in London for several years and was heavily influenced in the decorative arts by my early travels. And I’ve now traveled much of the world and never want to stop. I tell everyone to collect what speaks to you…look at your early influences and travel! Travel with your eyes wide open and your mind a sponge.”
Antique it up:
Tucker says there’s nothing better than the real deal when it comes to classics. “It’s all about that mix of new and old,” she says. “While there are fabulous reproductions out there and wonderful new designs, you can’t achieve years of age and luster overnight. That depth of patina conveys a history and a provenance that I find so seductive and compelling. And for those who don’t understand why a piece of ‘old furniture’ is important, I just tell them that they don’t want to be the oldest thing in the room!”
Collect like a pro:
If you’re hoping to become an antiquing king or queen, head to the mecca. “Certainly the SF Fall Art & Antiques Show is a must for both the collector and the novice,” Tucker says. “And now that it’s opened up to more contemporary dealers, it’s become even more exciting. New collectors should ask and learn, attend the lectures, develop an eye.”
Avoid this “don’t”:
When asked about her biggest design pet peeve, Tucker doesn’t hold back. “Scale and proportion is number one!” she says. “Those two words are my mantra no matter what the style or look. I just cringe when I see bad proportions in architecture and rooms out of scale—ditsy lamps, sofas too shallow, pictures hung too high or too low, anything trying too hard to be ‘grand.’ Ugh!”
“I’m so tempted to make up a wonderful fantasy of decadent, leisurely mornings!” Tucker confesses of her daily beauty ritual. “But the truth is, although I’m fairly fanatical about taking care of my skin, I’m always in a rush, so my 10-step routine is generally compromised down to five: A vitamin C serum from Medik8; skinbetter Daily Treatment eye cream; Neocutis Blanche; DefenAge 24/7 Barrier Repair Cream and Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer with SPF 30!”
Aside from Tucker’s own line, she has lots of love for local home furnishing spots. “The SF Design Center showrooms are a constant go-to, but I also love Sacramento Street for home shops: Sue Fisher King, Anthem and Hudson Grace,” she says. “For antiques, I always shop at Foster-Gwin, C. Mariani, Epoca and Antiques & Art Exchange. And yes, I shop at midnight from home in my nightie!”
The universal styling rule:
“When in doubt, take it out!” Tucker stresses. “If something doesn’t look or feel right, trust your instincts, don’t ask everyone and their brother, just listen to your gut and get rid of it!”
The SF Art & Antiques Show: A few of Tucker’s favorite things
“Of course, I will be shopping the show for myself as well. I am delighted that Kentshire has returned to the show after being greatly missed last year. A crowd always forms around their sparkling booth and this 1950s cocktail ring is perfect for the Flower Power theme—chic and bold, unique and beautiful!”
“I am thrilled to welcome Modernism to the show this year. Throughout its 37 years, owner Martin Muller has striven to keep this San Francisco gallery’s museum-quality program at the forefront of the art world. I love Cy Twombly’s Studio (Gaeta/Italy, 2007) … and I’m crazy about Big Rose (2012), a uniquely toned gelatin silver print by Robert Stivers.”
“I always make a beeline for the Foster-Gwin booth, as dealer Collier Gwin has a unique talent for curating a selection of both exquisite antiques and contemporary art, always great scale, design and originality. I know he will juxtapose these 1730 Régence fauteuils and their colorful foliate tapestry with a spectacular modern painting to make them both sing.”