SAH You describe yourself as a lifestyle architect – what does that mean?
WS I’m always considering how we can shift the old paradigms of how rooms are architecturally set up to best suit the way we live. I want to set people up for a better lifestyle within the context of their home – it’s more anthropological than it is interior decor. For example, having a games table in the room adjacent to the kitchen would inspire family time because they’d naturally go to that table after dinner and maybe play backgammon. But if that table never existed, no one would think to go there – the room would just become a pass-through. I want to take a room from something you’re just looking to something you’re actually living in.
SAH How did you get into the business?
WS I really cut my teeth in terms of design when I flew to Paris to visit a friend. I spent days shopping in the Marche aux Puces de Clignancourt and then travelled down to the Atlantic into the Pyrenees and Spain. I came back to LA with shipping containers full of great architectural that I’d never be able to use in my own house.
SAH So what did you do with it all?
WS I opened a little trunk-show warehouse in California, where prominent magazine editors, designers and architects started shopping. Soon, they started asking me to look for specific items for their homes, and when I could find them, they’d say, “you’ve found so many great things for my home, why don’t you just come and take a look at it?” which introduced an unexpected interior design component to my work.
SAH Describe your ideal client.
WS My ideal client is someone who has a strong point of view and who also has confidence in my choices. You need to intuitively be on the same page in terms of style, aspirations, colour and so on. A red and orange person, for example, will never hire me. They’d just never see those colours strongly represented in my work. I want to enhance my client’s point of view rather than put my own heavy-handed imprint on their home, so we need to be simpatico.
SAH What are some of your main style influences?
WS I’m strongly influenced by that and the romanticism of different periods. I don’t respond very well to things that are sparse and barren. I tend to like shapes. I love the neo-classical periods; I love Federalism.
SAH In what ways are your designs influenced by the past?
WS My designs are incredibly nostalgic by nature. I love optimistic periods in our history, such as the Gilded Age. I also love classical proportions and furniture arrangements with multiple seating areas on periphery of the room rather than the tri-configuration in front of the fireplace…which I call “the easy way out.”
SAH Tell us about one of your earliest decor memories.
WS Decoration wasn’t at the forefront of the household I grew up in. My grandparents were land developers. We were rural, kind-of rough-and-tumble. Things were more sensible, less decorative. So the first big impact for me was simply visiting the museum homes in Kansas’s historical district. It was extraordinary. I thought, “Oh my goodness! Wow! Your home can feel like this?
SAH So, you started as somewhat of a collector – what sort of things do you still collect?
WS I have an obsession with antique reticulating fish from China.
SAH How many do you think you have now?
WS I constantly edit the collection, so as I get better ones, I let go of older ones. So, maybe around twenty pieces or so.
SAH Did you make any big changes in your own home this year?
WS I changed the facade of the house and added a mudroom, which pushed our entry forward, so I added a beautiful door pediment and a pair of new paneled doors. We’re just getting ready to renovate the driveway and the court…. I don’t think we’ll ever be done.
SAH What inspired your new collection with Kravet?
WS Fun! In light of all this 2012 apocalyptic chatter, I wanted to look back to optimistic periods from American history. Nobody has touched tropical style in a long time, so I went for that nostalgic feeling of summer holidays in the 50s. I started collecting photographs of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Acapulco that captured this warm, bronzy summer fun. So I knew I wanted a thatched, woven look into the line. I wanted to expand on the success of my first collection with Kravet, which had geometric prints with implications of exotic places that felt guarded and felt light and playful. I wanted to expand on those, and ended up somewhere between Tahiti, Acapulco, and then a great country club in the 50s. It’s sort of like a hip, pared-back version of Lilly Pulitzer.
SAH Tell us about some of the other destinations you love.
WS I love the exile of the Bahamas; I love St. Bart’s; I love Turks and Caicos, Sestri Levante, a little coastal city on the Italian Riviera, Capri, Barcelona, where my kids play a lot of clay-court tennis. I love Venice for its architecture, but I also love buildings by Tadao Ando in Japan. I don’t discriminate – I kind of love it all, but that’s just my travel story.
SAH What can we look forward to next?
WS I want to continue building from the ground up – I’m just really enjoying creating homes that set a family up for success more so than simply creating pretty rooms. And I’ll be introducing a lot of products this next year – just wait!