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Fab Fridays: Designer Albert Sultan

ABOUT Albert Sultan creates interiors that make you stop in your tracks. With an eye for the unusual, Sultan scours the globe for rare vintage pieces of sensual shape and form and refashions them into show pieces, bold accent statements that complement an overall design scheme. “I take an existing piece that is already novel, and pair it with exotic materials to create something wholly new,” explains Sultan. Typically, each element of one piece of furniture comes from a different part of the globe - the fabric from Australia, the chair from Minnesota, etc. The artful fusion of time, place and pattern is what gives way to his vision. An Art Deco-era chair becomes a throwback to the 70s; a classic French Napoleon chair is given a pop rock feel. I mean...does it get any more fabulous than that?! See below! Robin Baron: What is your signature look? Albert Sultan: My spaces are layered in pattern and color. Shapes play off of shapes. A sexy retro chair can inspire a similar shaped pattern on a wall. Bold colors are used fearlessly. Break the rules! Einstein reinterpreted physics as we know it. Similarly, I aim to make you look at ordinary things you may have seen everyday in a whole new light. And like Einstein, my first name is Albert!

RB: What are you up to right now? AS: I am proud to share some before and after pics of my designed reading room at the Old Westbury Gardens showhouse. My theme is Winter Solstice. Think of a reading/cigar room in Superman's North Pole Ice palace. This is a luxurious retreat that retains an inviting accessible charm. Almost everything in the room has been hand refinished in some way by me. The Tony Duquette light fixture, on loan from Remains Lighting, is a showstopper!! Given my own penchant for theatrical and fantastical design, using a fixture by this legend of stage and film design was appropriate. Old Westbury Gardens Showhouse, through Sunday, December 18, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
RB: What project in your portfolio are you most proud of? AS: The project in my portfolio I am most proud of is an apartment I did in Miami. The client was going to sell this space and gave me a minuscule budget to make magic. I refinished furniture and created interesting paint details on the walls that brought up the level of the apartment from drab to glam. In the end, they were so proud of the result they kept the apartment and sneak off on regular holiday weekends from New York.
RB: What do you love most about your work? AS: I actually love being hands on. I like getting dirty. I am often covered in paint and plasters. I tell my clients after the first meeting they will never see me in a blazer or collared shirt again. They, in turn, feel confident that they are getting that personalized result that comes with my touch.
RB: What impact has working in the design industry made on you? AS: Working in the design industry has had an enormous effect on who I am as a person and how I relate to people socially. I started my business at age 24, shy and inexperienced. I learned the hard way that talent is not enough to get by in this business. Communication skills and service are essential every step of the way. The first impression you make is often the thing that will make a potential client take a second look at your portfolio. I’ve also come to embrace the unknown and even enjoy the unexpected. Believe me in this field, juggling a million details, there is always changes and deviations that take place. Being calm under pressure is a skill that can be learned through experience. Often times, a problem in the process—discontinuation of a fabric, an awkward space, can lead to more creative solutions. Tension is the secret ingredient of success. RB: What's your design mantra? AS: After a designer show-house I participated in this summer on the Jersey shore, I was overwhelmed by the positive response I received to my work from both my colleagues and the public at large. One designer commented that given my hands on approach my work represented to her “A New Conversation in Design.” In this one simple sentence she helped me clarify who I am as a designer. I am not content to fill a client’s home with just things and pieces. I want their home to be a transformative experience. We all have bad days and mundane days and we are looking to escape and recharge. A special room, or a whole home filled with energy and spirit can uplift the soul and give one the stamina to face the responsibilities of family and work. I’m addicted to the look of wonder and pride of the faces of happy clients; Knowing that when I leave them, they feel special and hopeful for another day.

This three story Sultan-designed stairwell was a showstopper in a New Jersey Shore designer showhouse last summer

RB: How would you describe your own home décor? AS: My own home décor is bold, eclectic, sexy and layered. As an artist and designer I need constant stimulation to be creative. My philosophy at home is "More is More!" Almost every piece in my home has a history. The “Tulip Chairs” in my living room are a pair of 1950s parlor chairs. I paired them with a fabric from an Australian company. The pattern on the fabric mimics the unusual shape of the chair frame. I look at these chairs every day and get excited. The soft feminine lines of the chairs are a counterweight to the two bold industrial landscape panels carved out of scrap metal I have hanging on my living room walls.

RB: What do you love most about your home and why? AS: My home was originally owned by my grandmother for decades. The space stayed on in the family serving as a home successively for my sisters before they married and now me. I can still remember as a boy visiting my grandmother on the holidays and the fresh scent of middleastern foods wafting throughout the apartment. This space is infused with generational love.

RB: What is the one thing in your home that everyone always comments on? AS: People always comment on my zebra stenciled doors. People often times will paint walls, wallpaper them and adorn them with art. But doors? They are relegated to being obscured, necessary evils of functional living. To me they are just another surface waiting to be transformed.

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Great design isn't always about symmetry, it's about balance.

Create equal but different visual interest on both sides of your space by playing with varying heights, weights, and quantities of your objects on opposing sides.