Susana Simonpietri founded Chango & Co. in 2009 and earned instant acclaim for the design of The Mermaid Inn in NYC's West Village. Her second project was the historical renovation of the 19th century brownstone she currently calls home. Simonpietri's favorite color is navy blue, she speaks four languages fluently, and she credits the Lego building brick system for her success. Chango & Co. is a full-service New York interior design firm specializing in interior design and architecture, custom furniture and millwork design and fabrication, audiovisual design and art curation for residences, restaurant, and hotels.
We asked the designer of this chic and cozy Manhattan apartment to reveal how it all came together. Lucky for us Susana Simonpietri, the founder of Chango & Co. in New York City, didn't stop there. Read along as she shares her top designer tips for decorating any room and for recreating the look of this industrial-meets-fresh traditional space.
1. What were you trying to accomplish with the design of this project?
Our goal for this home was to maximize the size of the existing layout, and invite as much light as possible into the space. Stripping the space allowed us to begin anew and the addition of extensive custom millwork provided much needed storage and architectural detailing, and completely repurposed the rooms in terms of functionality. We also wanted to lighten the spaces and make them appear as large as possible, to create a calm, light, and open city retreat. We managed to do so with the implementation of very light grey walls and crisp white trims, millwork, and ceilings.
When we first met to discuss this project I knew instantly that I wanted to capitalize on my client's British descent. I had a sort of fantasy of a modern-day upscale English gentlemen's club from the 1920s. This was the main source of inspiration for the project.
3. How did you choose the color palette?
I knew right away that I wanted to work with navy blue. It's such a timeless color, but still works perfectly with modern design elements. It's masculine, but without the coldness or starkness so often found in bachelor apartments.
4. How did you begin the design process?
For me, the design process begins the second I step into the space for the first time. I essentially design the entire layout of the space within the first twenty minutes of seeing it, then I put it down on paper to make sure it works in reality as well as it does in my mind. We take many of our design cues from our client's personalities and needs, so that first meeting with the client also influences my process tremendously. Sometimes it's the little things--for this client it was his British descent, for another client it was her gorgeous strawberry blond hair. The little things are sparks that convince me they would feel at home in a certain space or look beautiful surrounded by certain colors and objects.
We took an antique shopping trip to Amish country in Pennsylvania one weekend and found an old wooden machinist's wheel (right). We fell in love with it and lugged it all the way home with the hopes of turning it into a mirror for a project. When the client called us for the job I pulled it out of storage about five minutes after we hung up, and the item remained next to me during the weeks that followed as a sort of project icon while we designed the rest of the space.
6. What is your favorite room in the home and why?
My favorite room of this particular home is the living room. I love the way we were able to capture light and diffuse it throughout the space. This was quite a challenge because it was as dark as a cave when we began, but it turned out feeling light and airy.
7. What are your tips for someone trying to recreate the look of this project?
Use color sparingly, save it for the accents. Although blue is the color people will remember most about this space, all the larger furnishings, window treatments, and floor coverings are in neutral colors and are the key to ensuring that the hits of blue are so pronounced.
8. What is your favorite designer trick?
I've been told that I'm very good at selecting the perfect wall color, and I think it's because I always look for colors that have blue in them. I always recommend staying away from whites with hints of yellow. Instead, opt for whites with the slightest tint of blue and greys that gravitate towards blue instead of red. The faintest hint of blue in a white paint will always make a room look lighter and brighter than white paint alone.
9. Finish the sentence: Every room needs _______.
Plenty of table lamps, carefully selected artwork, beautiful throw pillows...and a glass of champagne.
10. What is your best piece of advice for someone who is redecorating their home?
Hire a professional whose work you love. You probably wouldn't attempt to replace the roof on your house yourself, now would you? Well, it's not so different. A good designer can help you realize all of your ideas, they'll save you a lot of money in the long run, and ensure that you walk away with a home that makes you happy for years to come.