The interior design work of Suzanne Lovell, Inc. has won national and international awards and been featured in Architectural Digest, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times, among other publications. According to Suzanne Lovell, founder and CEO, the secret to her success is her talented team—and a pinch of magic.
That “magic” lies in the firm’s distinctive three-dimensional approach to interior design, incorporating architecture, furniture, sophisticated textiles, and fine art and objects. “So many architects and designers will put the house together, but there’s no magic that brings it alive,” Lovell explains. “Nothing brings that magic like fine art selections that the client has been involved in making.”
Lovell’s expertise in both architecture and fine art makes her firm’s distinctive approach possible. Lovell inherited a love of furniture and textiles from her mother, an expert in American and Federal Furniture at the Winterthur Museum. She moved to Chicago after graduating with a professional degree in architecture from Virginia Tech and worked with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Her experience there inspired her current career. “I was working on apartments in Boston, and I started to enjoy how people live,” she says. “That was the impetus for starting my own business. I had a lot of knowledge about furniture because of my family history, so I knew I had something to bring to the table.”
She started Suzanne Lovell, Inc. in 1985, and the firm’s continuing success has proven that what she brings to the table is valuable indeed. The firm’s work can be seen both domestically and abroad as well as in Lovell’s book, Artistic Interiors: Designing with Fine Art Collections, published in 2011.
Lovell credits much of her firm’s success to her team members, most of whom have been with her for more than a decade. Their experience together means that each team member is well versed enough in Lovell’s process to have a sort of verbal shorthand with her. “We’re buying at auctions; we’re buying from galleries all over the world,” she says. “And we’ve been at this so long we can just look at each other and say ‘No. Yes. No. No. Yes!’ And our clients trust that we’re creating a story for them.”
Some of those stories include a Southern California residence that boasts numerous historical interior finishes yet is outfitted with modern amenities, as well as a collection of apartments done “from scratch” for a client with property both in Miami and New York. The business also recently completed a waterfront apartment in Naples, Florida, with 5,000 square feet of terrace space and unique finishes on every surface.
A Boca Raton client recently asked Lovell to evaluate an entire compound and give recommendations regarding the best way to capitalize on ocean views. “It was so exciting for me to be able to control the outside of a piece of architecture, then be able to go inside in relation to everything we’ve diagrammed outside,” Lovell says. “We’re getting to work full circle.”
According to Lovell, much of what inspires her team’s best work lies close to home, inside the firm’s Chicago headquarters, which is punctuated by treasures Lovell and her team already work with: artwork, art objects, and a space containing hundreds of drawers of samples. Lovell says she and her team truly think of the office as their home away from home. That gives them the freedom to dig into their work with even more creative abandon and get ahead of the client in terms of ideas to share.
“Some of the magic of how we work comes when, inside the office, I take on the persona of the client,” Lovell explains. “Then everything everyone does in the office is tested against that persona.”
When clients themselves visit the office, they are motivated by what they see to define their own perspectives more clearly. Whether it’s a simple hammered silver finish on a teapot that provides a small spark of inspiration, or a full-blown brainstorm that results in embossed leather from Paris being meticulously applied to a client’s walls, Lovell and her team are always excited to make the vision a reality.
Lovell and her team pride themselves on creating a cohesive artistic vision for each of their clients. “I think we’re really good at defining an architectural language— a strand that runs through the residence and lets you know you’re part of a well-thought-out whole,” she says.
After decades of success, Lovell is grateful for her team and focused on the task at hand: creating homes that are as artistic as they are beautiful. “I just want our group to be the best we can be,” she says. “The people who work here are fountains of ideas, and it’s all about being able to work together and piece things together into the most wonderful homes we can create.”
Photos: Eric Piasecki