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Susan Ferrier: Layering with Light

Of all the tools in a designer’s kit, from color to texture, natural light is one of the most misunderstood. Often considered the province of architects, light in the hands of the right interior designer casts a spell over a room, transforming it from a space that is simply used and seen, to one that is deeply felt and remembered. Few are as skilled at conjuring light as Susan Ferrier. Whether softening the sun with gauzy full-length curtains or coaxing it into the corners of a dark room with metallic pieces, Ferrier understands how to layer a space in light.

Luxurious Waterfront Retreat by Susan Ferrier Interiors. Photography by Erica George Dines.

Based in Atlanta, the veteran designer describes her aesthetic as “timeless glamour with cinematic drama.” She achieves this by spending time with clients, listening and tuning into their “view of the world,” then curating objects and spaces that marry her experience with the client’s perspective.

“I design spaces to evoke emotion with sultry, earthy colors and diverse textures — I want my rooms to make you feel something,” she explains.

In a recent waterfront house overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, wraparound windows reveal expansive views of the ocean. Everything in the home converses with the water, from the cloud-like palette of gray, white, gold and silver to contrasting black details that anchor the airy space. More than a beach house, it’s a place that inspires a certain understanding of the world. The boundless horizon creates what Ferrier calls “a juxtaposition to the sense of self you feel when you’re surrounded by and living in beauty.”

Luxurious Waterfront Retreat by Susan Ferrier Interiors. Photography by Erica George Dines.

To play with luminescence, Ferrier often uses metals and reflective surfaces. “Light and reflection make a space more buoyant and fluid,” she says. Antiqued mirror, gold and silver leafing, and metallic glazes all appear throughout her work, balanced by earthy natural materials like linen, iron and aged wood.

“Contrast is a great way to activate a space and create atmosphere,” she elucidates. “Light and shadow, reflection and warmth & gradation of tones all add interest.”

It takes talent to bring such a broad expanse of textures into a balanced whole. Ferrier likens it to being a chef who learns to deepen a recipe by experimenting over time. “It’s equivalent to using several different spices together in one dish,” she says. “Done well, a combination of textures brings about a more sophisticated flavor.”

Kips Bay Show House by Susan Ferrier Interiors. Photography by William Abranowicz.

Inspiration also comes from travel. Ferrier recently returned from a trip to India, where she explored the country’s architecture, history, and fashion. Moved by the people she met, she describes India as “a complicated place where the beauty of ancient temples intersects with a destitute population, where the ancient craftsmanship of old stirs worry about whether the country can foster and support its continuity.” That same depth of thought extends to the way Ferrier selects objects for interiors.

Kips Bay Show House by Susan Ferrier Interiors. Photography by William Abranowicz.

Antiques and art bring layers of meaning and narrative to a room, particularly when they’re displayed in thoughtful ways. Everything depends on place and context.

“Antiques can be elevated in importance and scale to a museum quality presentation when they are placed on plinths or wrapped in fabric screens to focus your attention,” Ferrier says. “Sometimes you just have to know the right way to use something in order to enjoy it more thoroughly.”

An intimate study or dining nook might benefit from a grid of framed pictures, while a grand living room requires a large-scale artwork. Contrast also plays a role in art selection, with classical sculpture and contemporary paintings brought together in the same space.

Lavish Tudor Oasis by Susan Ferrier Interiors. Photography by Erica George Dines.

While each of Ferrier’s spaces has its own custom fingerprint, the mark connecting them is a grasp of timelessness and a sense that they will survive the ebb and flow of trends.

“Instead of focusing on what’s “hot,” I always tell my clients to focus on what’s “them.” The end result will feel true and lasting,” she says.

Interior Designer Susan Ferrier. Photography by Peter Olson.

To learn more, visit Susan Ferrier Interiors.

Hero Image: Luxurious Waterfront Retreat by Susan Ferrier Interiors. Photography by Erica George Dines.

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