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Ten Minutes with Susan Anderson

Susan Anderson of Westport’s White Birch Studio on Creating Personality-Packed Spaces

Photographs: Ann Loynd

Westport-based interior designer Susan Anderson opened her store, White Birch Studio, to provide clients with a gallery of ideas different from any other design shop. “You have more roads to take,” Anderson says of the varying aesthetics in her store, which features an eclectic mix of offerings from vintage to modern with touches of elegance and whimsy. “It’s not a carbon copy” of competing businesses, she says.

As a result, the store’s unique items help the designer tune into her clients’ tastes. “I see what they’re drawn to,” Anderson says. “I want them to get comfortable with choices that are very scary to make,” choices that create a room’s concept. Anderson prefers interiors with some negative space, clean lines and a few objects. “I’m not the kind of designer that feels you have the fill every corner.”

Which is why finding the right things is so important. Though she insists there’s no magic formula, Anderson’s honed eye leads her to one-of-a-kind gems. She points to “elegant yet earthy” 22-karat gold lined clay bowls she found on a weekend trip to Vermont as an example. “I stumbled upon them and knew they were the right look for my store.”

Intuition plays a role, but the designer suggests starting out with large, neutral objects and layering from there. She chooses beiges, grays and creams for sofas and staple pieces, then adds pops of color.

But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Anderson says that she often finds a great item that inspires a room. For a recent project, it was a wood-topped table featuring a sculpted metal base. “That item told me: This house is not industrial, it is not cold modern; it has clean lines and elegance that has to continue,” she recalls.

In her own home, her work is never done. When her 19th-century barn-turned-house was completely finished, it was time to move on. The designer chose a mid-century modern—the antithesis of that old barn—as the place to start the design process anew. “It was time for a new adventure,” she says.

Next on the docket, look out for White Birch Studio’s online store, coming in September. Anderson says the site will feature items with the same feel, but with a broader selection.

White Birch Studio

3 Sconset Sq., Westport; 203-557-9137