California-based designer Sayre Ziskin has built a reputation for innovative and refined interior designs through her recent work in San Francisco—namely at iconic places such as The Paramount, Brass Tacks, Anina, and more. She is in tune with what today’s city-dwellers look for when it comes to their homes and neighborhood hot spots—and surprisingly, it isn’t necessarily the newest gadgets or the latest fads. Its simplicity.
Here are some questions we asked, and the responses she gave us.
Where do you find your design inspiration?
I keep my eyes open to the world around me (including the world of the internet and just searching that way). I do always feel like my brain wakes up and rejuvenates creatively when I travel.
Does the diversity of people and experiences in the Bay Area in any way influence the design elements that your work to develop in your projects there?
I find that the Bay Area is actually quite homogenous and that my work in Los Angeles is much more diverse and interesting. I’m trying to bring a bit more flavor to Bay Area design!
How do you define urbanism today? Does it provide a truly different setting that it did in relative terms say 20 or 30 years ago?
I think that now that people want to have all of the benefits of living in a city but they crave a more pleasant experience at home. In the past, living in a city for most people meant not spending much time at home, and now I think people want a beautifully designed sanctuary, and they want all the city has to offer right outside their door. People expect more now.
What makes San Francisco urbanism different from that of other geographies?
The buildings are older and often a bit difficult to design around. There are tiny weird corners and lots of stairs, so much of my residential design thought process has to change, whereas when I’m working in large spaces in Los Angeles, even when the home are older, it’s less challenging.
How does that drive what you design? What highlights of that design can you point to?
I do a ton of custom furniture in general but in San Francisco one has to think about how you’re going to get that piece through the door. I do a lot of multi-piece sectional sofas because the ability to take it apart and put it back together is priceless in San Francisco.
As it evolves over the years, design retains some core principles and changes others. What changes and what remains?
What remains are always the basics in the home, sofa, coffee table, bedframe etc., etc. What changes are the types of wood, the colors, the scale of the furniture. Trends in furnishings come and go and come back again just like in the world of fashion.
How did you approach designing The Paramount? What was the overarching vision?
I wanted to keep the space clean, contemporary, textural and just generally light and airy that appeals to both genders.
What matters to today’s urban dwellers? Does it change according to generations, or how do you design something that appeals to the aesthetic of a Baby Boomer and that of a Millennial?
I don’t design by generational standards, I just work for the person and feel out their personality. I guess I would say the only difference I notice between generations is just that people are wiser and more trusting of professionals when they are a bit older. It’s just a fact. It’s nice working with people in any generation that give you freedom, trust your judgement and understand and grow with you in the process of designing their space.
What guidance would you give to those following in your footsteps?
I would tell any young designer to learn the basics in school; CAD, hand-drafting, sketching in perspective, presentation, furniture construction basics, etc. Then start by taking on some small, one-room projects, then move on to a small apartment and go from there. You’ll be working for free at first, and for pennies next, but that’s part of your training. Always do right by your client, always communicate and do your best to stay on top of every detail. If you do that, then the referrals will begin to come in, and that’s where your career will start if you strive to work for yourself as I did.