Known for creating one of the most fashion forward lifestyle lines in the interior design industry, tastemaker Susan Hornbeak Ortiz shows us how inspiration can be found all around us, especially in the things we love. In this interview with BluLabel Bungalow, she gives an intimate look into the birth of her business (Shine by S.H.O.), her personal style, tips on making a style statement in your home, and why her next venture my be in fashion and jewelry design.
Erika Ward: How did you enter the design business?
Susan Ortiz: My mother started her interior design business when I was 2. I grew up with architects, designers and builders (my father was a builder, my grandfather was an architect). My education in design
was very informal where I observed and absorbed this world from a very young age. I grew up reading floor plans, walking jobs sites, and frolicking in fabric. My formal education, however, is in fine art. I received my MFA from UCLA in sculpture and photography in 1990. I have been a working artist for most of my professional career. In the Fall of 2004 my husband and I decided to move back to California (from Portland, Oregon) to be with family. I needed a break from the art world and decided to dive back into design. I launched Shine officially in January 2005 + never looked back….
I had a “clutch my pearls” moment when I saw your lighting designs, what inspires you to create such gorgeous pieces?
You’re so kind – thank you….I am drawn to making beautiful objects and lighting seemed like a logical place to begin. My mother gave me a wonderful vintage glass lamp for my 35th birthday. That lamp became my touchstone…it truly inspired me.
As for process and design, my background in sculpture and fine art play a strong role in the success of the designs. I do not “source” my lighting. All of my designs begin as a small sketch in my sketchbook (always with me), then they evolve into a CAD drawing for the factory. The artisans in the factory then carve a mold off of these sketches. Most of the initial approval and discussions are done via email (I am a Photoshop junkie) but some travel is involved. I do go to China to approve all the designs and put the final touches on the line. This experience could fill a book! I am currently working on a high end lighting line that will be fabricated in the USA. I am very excited about this project…
How do you describe your personal style?
Coastal Couture….my signature style is a unique approach to coastal living that is global, eclectic, and modern. I am fearless with my use of color and pattern-I have no problem breaking the traditional rules. I feel very strongly about the couture and “crafted” portion of the line – Shine is about beautifully crafted and bespoke furniture.
With turquoise as the Pantone Color of the Year, can you give us three color palettes that contain the color turquoise?
My favorite color is Turquoise (all hues) and whites w/ a touch of metallic silver.
I also love turquoise and pink (very punchy and a little more risky) the safest combo and more soothing would and turquoise and chocolate (earth + water).
In the design of your own home, is there a particular color you are drawn to?
Turquoise (and blue) is my comfort color. Being near the beach and having a pool, it is the color that I am constantly surrounded by. It is a soothing color…water + sky…submersion + freedom …I believe the ocean is our mirror to heaven…I also do not leave the house without a piece of turquoise jewelry on (I have a wonderful collection of old + new pieces).
What are three ways we can make the greatest style statement while maintaining a family-friendly environment?
Fabrics and finishes become important when designing for a young family. I do not feel you need to sacrifice style for practicality. I use high tech fabrics (especially designed for Shine) on tightly upholstered items. I also love the crisp, shiny texture of the vinyl patents – they are chic and very durable. Wood finishes are important as well. I use the lacquer finishes only in low traffic areas (they are more delicate) and use my natural cerused
oak finishes in areas that have higher traffic. Fantastic chandeliers can add drama and charm to any space + they are hung well above out of harms way (unless they are playing ball in the house!). Lastly art, if you can’t afford original art be creative blow up small family photos and print on canvas. Also, scan and print fabrics and frame in interesting frames. Let the walls in your house express who you are as a family.
What do you think about fashion and its influence on interior design?
Fashion is my “go to” inspiration source. It is one of the main things that inspires me and drives me to create.
I watch all the new collections from Paris and NYC on the web, devour fashion magazines and photograph interesting store windows in Paris, Hong Kong, and NYC. Sometimes I think I am in the wrong business because I am so drawn to fashion and constantly creating and sketching. The metabolism in the furniture business is very slow. Ideas that I worked on 3 years ago are now just being accepted in the marketplace which is very different from fashion. I am full of ideas that have yet to be made or fabricated. Maybe in the future Shine will expand into fashion and jewelry design…
As a wife, mother of 4 and entrepreneur, describe a “typical” day in your life?
Oh my – this is crazy!
5:00am (earlier if I can’t sleep)
This is my morning time (with no interruptions) to be quiet, possibly sketch, return emails, and start the day with my European office and wrap up with the factories over seas.
6:30 – 8:30am
My husband and I share in the morning routine…start breakfast/make lunches. Get all 4 kids up (kids range from ages 7 – 17) and out the door. We deal with a large gap in ages/issues – mornings are interesting! Off to school (Russ takes High school and I do Elementary) Back home to finish getting ready/chores/tidy the house….leave for work by 8:30 am (office/studio is 5 minutes from the house).
9:00am The fun begins…
Mornings are spent catching up with emails and organizing my assistant and team on the day. Everyday seems to have a cadence or theme. We have days where we are billing/shipping, production days that are devoted to checking on all orders/visiting our upholstery factory in LA. etc. I may have a meeting with a fabric rep or a photo shoot for a new introduction.
I have had my daily conference call with my European office (as their day is ending) we also chat on Basecamp to keep all our current projects/clients up to date. Afternoons are dedicated to juggling customers and balancing design time. When I am working on a new collection I seclude myself for weeks at a time (away from all the chaos and phones) so I can focus.
Kids are out of school and my mother in law (a Saint) does all the pick up etc. We have typical family after school stuff – tutoring, music and sports – everyone is going in a million directions – when all 4 have activities my assistant and I may dive in with pick ups and drop offs. I get a lot of phone calls from them around 3pm – this is not my quiet time!
I try to add a work out in the morning or afternoon 3x’s a week (to relieve the stress) and of course….when I travel for business this schedule completely gets blown to bits! I am in Paris 2x’s a year for a few weeks at a time. My husband and I try not to overlap with our travel schedules so we can have some sort of consistency and balance in our family. I am due to go back to Europe for a showroom opening in Monte Carlo in April – very excited (please, take me with you).
What a day! As the busy woman you are, thanks so much Susan for taking the time to share with us and to you my readers for your comments!