A book needs love. A lot of love. Those were the words of wisdom that Sandra Nunnerley’s creative director bestowed upon her when she was working on her debut book, INTERIORS. Encouraged by friends and clients, Nunnerley, a distinguished designer who has appeared on Architectural Digest’s AD 100 list, applied that advice to every part of the publishing process—from sourcing the finest imagery to hand-selecting the paper on which more than 20 years of her work would be presented. From cover to cover, all 240 pages of INTERIORS are evidence that the designer and her talented team paid meticulous attention to even the most minor details.
Not surprisingly, the book was well received by critics and the design community. Today, nearly two years after INTERIORS was released by powerhouse Books, it continues to warrant a coveted spot on the coffee table. Still, it’s hard not to secretly wish for a second book from Nunnerley, a New Zealand native who has called Manhattan home for almost 30 years and is the founder of Sandra Nunnerley Inc. which has offices in New York and London. Future plans, current inspirations and past successes—those are just a few of the things that Nunnerley recently discussed with Mecox. Here are the highlights.
INTERIORS stands out in a genre where is no shortage of inspirational books by some of the world’s most influential designers. How is your book different?
INTERIORS reflects the range of projects I have been fortunate to work on throughout my career and when published together, they look timeless as though they were all designed and photographed during the same time period. The chapters in the book are thematically organized because they represent qualities in the design projects, such as Subtlety, Individuality, Refinement, Serenity and Glamour. Each of the design projects falls under one of these qualities including a thoroughly modern home featuring site-specific commissions by world-class artists and a glamorous duplex that once belonged to Hollywood producer Jack Warner in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel.
Please tell us that you have plans to write another book.
Yes, I’m already thinking about my next book as INTERIORS has been so well received.
You’ve said that former clients who thought you should chronicle your collection of work were one of the inspirations for writing INTERIORS. What is one thing that new clients find surprising about working with you?
New clients are surprised by the depth of architectural knowledge we bring to the space. Often we reconfigure layouts and dimensions and add or subtract details to make the interior more functional and responsive to our clients' lifestyles. We also have several architects on staff and I myself have a strong background in architecture as well.
What present-day movement piques your interest the most and why?
I love seeing the young designers embrace the current trend of “mixing it up” – combining Louis XVI furniture with mid-century modern, juxtaposing contemporary with traditional creating an edited mix of fine furnishings and materials.
Can you divulge which colors, fabrics, metals, etc. you’re currently using?
The colors, fabrics and metals we choose to use always depend on our clients’ projects. For a ski chalet we chose very tactile fabrics, organic materials, wonderful woods, bronze earthy metals to create a very contemporary, industrial space. In a glamorous Park Avenue apartment we recently completed, we chose leather walls and wonderful marble finishes.
Are there any past trends that you wish would make a comeback?
Yes, I embrace a trend toward site-specific furniture commissioned from artists and architects and would love to see this make a comeback in a big way.
You have a reputation for creating refined, yet liveable spaces. What is one of your “signatures?”
My “signature” style is what I like to refer to as “tears of light” with many layers of lighting from wall sconces to overhead lighting to table lamps all infusing a room with iridescence. Of course, in the evening, the wonderful glow from a candlelit room always transforms a space.
We love following you (@SandraNunnerley) on Instagram. How does social media influence your design process?
Social media influences my design process by opening up a dialogue with people all over the globe and allows design aficionados in different corners of the world to be inspired by each other’s discoveries.
If you could collaborate with any designer, architect or artist in the world, who would it be and what would you collaborate on?
I would collaborate with Tadao Ando, a Japanese self-taught architect whose style is said to create a “haiku effect,” representing the beauty of simplicity. Zen influences show in Ando’s work and I would envision collaborating with him on any of my projects to bring in the simple beauty of his architecture.
Describe your dream project.
My dream project is best reflected in the two years that I spent in designing my own apartment. When, I first saw the two adjacent units in a turn-of-the-century Carrere & Hastings town house on a block close to Central Park I knew that I could transform these apartments into a beautiful space, reflecting my own appreciation for art, architecture and my love of travel.
How do you celebrate the completion of a project?
We celebrate the completion of a project by photographing the interiors. Most of our clients are delighted with the final projects and are proud to see their homes photographed and published in a broad range of publications.
It’s hard to find an article about you that doesn’t touch on your globetrotting ways. Is there anything interesting you collect?
I collect fabrics and bring back swatches from my travels around the world to Africa and Asia to Fiji, Bali, Mexico and Peru. Most recently I was in Java and brought back some fabulous blue and white batik prints I found there.
Finally, we have to ask, what do you miss most about “Kiwiland?”
I miss the natural beauty of New Zealand and my family. There’s nothing quite like sitting on Ninety Mile Beach in northern New Zealand, eating fresh Clevedon Coast Oysters and drinking a cold glass of Chardonnay from the Marlborough Sounds.
Bonus Questions: Filling in the Blanks with Sandra Nunnerley
1. The three things I most look forward to every day are black lapsang tea, posting on Instagram and my morning walk to the office through the streets of Manhattan.
2. At the top of my Mecox wishlist are the windows at the Lexington Avenue store. They are always so chic and inspirational, filled with classic Mecox home and garden furnishings, one-of-a-kind antiques and unusual re-editions that always delight our clients.
3. I knew I wanted to be a designer when I begged my mother as a little girl to let me paint the living room red.
4. But, if I wasn’t a designer I’d probably be a philanthropist.
5. My summer reading list includes Queen of the Desert by Werner Herzog, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang and 40 Years of Fabulous: The Kips Bay Decorator Show House by Steven Stolman. For so many years, I designed a room in the Kips Bay Decorator Show House. Steven’s book gives me the chance to sit back now and appreciate other designers’ work. It was wonderful to be interviewed by Steven and to reminisce about all of the exquisite work that went into creating the finest decorator show house in the world. 40 Years of Fabulous provides an insider’s look at the history of these spectacular rooms past and present, and you’ll feel like you were actually there.