We had the opportunity to sit down with Andrew on a couch in his beautiful Chelsea office, blocks away from iconic Penn Station in the heart of New York City. A river of blues flowed through the room, from Andrew’s blue sweater, to his deep blue eyes, to an arresting orange accent wall dabbled with blue splotches.
As we listened to him speak of both interior design and business with a confidence that originates from a combination of natural ability and pronounced intelligence, we were drawn to Andrew, as so many of his clients are. His passion for not only interior design but art and life as a whole influenced and inspired us.
During our chat, Andrew divulged his secret to choosing colors, his insights into collaborating with clients to fashion idyllic spaces, and his thoughts on running a business in the competitive chameleon that is New York City.
Q. You’re often called Mr. Color. How do you select colors for rooms?
A. I trust my instincts. Just by my nature, I'm very open to color. I view colors as great tools. So I’m not locked into one mindset of colors. Let the channel be open, and I'll just start pulling fabrics and colors together, and if it feels right for the energy of the project, then I can develop it to the next level of presenting. Most importantly it starts by being very open to the spectrum, not being locked into any colors.
Tarrytown, NY Residence by Andrew Suvalsky
Q. How do you usually go about interviewing new clients?
A. I do prefer if we meet face-to-face; it can't always happen. But if I can meet them face-to-face initially, it's kind of like I start interviewing them very passively. Like how do they spend their time, the way they think about their home, what the home is to them at this stage of their life. Is it a transition from one phase of their life to another? The why. Then from that, I find out the personality.
Q. Do you have an ideal client or would you turn clients down?
A. I do sometimes turn clients down. I try not to turn them down. I almost want it to be their decision, because I clarify my process, and the things I need to be able to do my best work for them. I'm fairly open, but I do know certain things work and others don't. So if it's not a fit, I say that in a polite way. I always want to put some goodwill out there, so I'll give them advice on how they could proceed based on what I'm hearing them say. If they come to me and want a million-dollar project, but they want to spend $1,000, then I say, ‘Okay it will be a little tricky. So here's some options.’ I figure goodwill is goodwill.
Q. We know that you’re both an interior designer and an established musician. How do your musical talents inspire your designs?
A. Not overtly, but for me, it's all about the total experience. I get excited about the elements, but I really get excited about the atmosphere that I can create. In any situation, I've got to be aware of what your senses take in. I've got to be visual, which includes lighting, and what your ears take in: music. The right music is a great complement. I feel like that creative side of my music shows up in my design. So if I do a show, I'm thinking about the whole experience. It's not just listening to a good song.
Q. You design and manage projects from concept to installation. How do you manage all of the details of interior design projects?
A. My mom asks me this all the time. How do you keep it all straight? That's a good question. I have many systems in place (one being Design Manager!). I have help. I guess I'm built for it. We're all built for different things. It's not difficult for me to think about many projects at one time and shuffle the cards in my brain. So you have to constantly be thinking and you just kind of get used to it. Like the decisions, but also where does that decision fall into others that have to happen. It's tricky, but good communication, constantly being in touch with the people doing work for you. I don't leave anything to chance.
Q. Why did you decide to start your own design firm in 2005? And what challenges did you face starting an interior design firm in New York City?
A. For a couple of reasons. One, because I just had big aspirations. I had great training before that with the firm I was with. That person that I worked for was really gracious and even before 10 years ago, he encouraged me to take other projects which did come my way. When I first started working for him, I asked for a raise and he said no but if you want to take other work on the side, go for it. I got up really early, got jobs at lunch and I'd work at night. I started building a business on the side, but I was still very in the mix and very happy and learning all the time where I was. After 6 years there, he said to me, "I will never fire you, but don't you think you don't need this anymore? Why don't you go out on your own?" So I did and I never looked back.
Q. Would you say you had some challenges? Particularly, in New York City with a saturated market or was it really just challenges running a business in general?
A. I would say it’s challenging running a business in general. I never felt like I didn't get my part of the market share. I feel for people who have no head for business because they have to be very trusting and they have to have a lot of money to hire people to do everything for them. I like the business side of it. I like to know what’s going on in the books. The challenging part is things not happening quick enough for me. I want things done yesterday and it doesn't work that way. You have to be patient.
Andrew Suvalsky masterfully constructs color paradoxes. The colors throughout his interiors simultaneously captivate the eye while effortlessly belonging to their surroundings. If you would like to see what Andrew has been up to lately, head on over to his website: http://suvalskydesigns.com/.