Written by: Annette Mashi
Ever wonder the difference between an interior designer and an interior decorator? This is just one of the topics Tanya Shively discussed with Adrian Ramsay, host of the TALKDesign show. Tanya, the creator of WELL DesignedTM Homes gives you a behind-the-scenes look at her interior design firm Sesshu Design Associates with the design philosophy and processes that create award-winning homes for her clients. Based in Scottsdale, Tanya is Arizona’s foremost authority on green design. Her mission—to create innovative, sustainable and timeless designs that improve people’s health and well-being.
Tanya shares about her early childhood and choosing a company name to designing vacation homes and anticipating your future lifestyle needs. Here’s an in-depth look at why Sesshu Design Associates could be the right choice for you for your next interior design project if you want a WELL DesignedTM Home:
Tanya always wanted to be an interior designer. At the age of eight, she was pushing around furniture in her bedroom and learning about space design. All she wanted for her 12th birthday was to redesign her bedroom, which had been her aunt’s when her grandparents owned the house. Aunt Kath probably liked the groovy, hippy vibe with lime green and bright-colored flowers, but all Tanya wanted was the ruffles and pink flowers of Laura Ashley that were the style of the early 80s.
Tanya started moving furniture in the living room, too, to further understand space and flow through the room. She learned space planning by discovering what makes the room feel bigger and what makes the room feel smaller.
Tanya shares, “The high school offered interior design classes which were a better fit for me than home economics, sewing and baking. I finally had a label for what I liked to do. I went straight to college and studied interior design where I could be creative and earn a living.”
When Tanya started her interior design company, she was looking for inspiration for a name. While going through old design textbooks, she came across the name of a 15th century Japanese artist, Toyo Sesshu. He was well known for his passion, creativity and innovative style. Those are the characteristics Tanya aspires to always embody in her WELL DesignedTM Homes.
As a professional interior designer, Tanya incorporates hanging artwork that her clients love but it isn’t always easy. With lots of glass windows to connect her clients with the amazing views, surrounding environment and beautiful desert lights, the wall space for art is limited.
Tanya explains the challenges, “One of my clients was a serious art collector. They came with their catalog of the art they owned and wanted in the house. We started with that from a color sense. And we collaborated with the architect to make sure we had walls that were large enough to fit the pieces.”
As Tanya weaves art and nature in her interior design projects, her WELL DesignedTM philosophy guides her approach to what she recommends as solutions for each custom project. She designs spaces that enhance your wellness and well-being, spaces that are eco-conscious and sustainable.
Tanya says, “One of the benefits of large windows is feeling energized with natural daylight coming in and being connected to nature. Since the weather in Arizona is amazing eight months of the year, huge sliding glass pocket doors can completely erase the line between indoor and outdoor. We're designing a second living room and second kitchens out on your patio.”
In WELL DesignedTM Homes the spaces should be livable and luxurious. That means the materials that are durable and appropriate for the people who live in the home. For instance, if you’ve little kids, you need things to be kid friendly, easily cleanable and maybe pet friendly too.
There’s the livable aspect of your home, but it could also be luxurious with features that bring your home a level of convenience. It might be lighting control systems that motorized draperies and shades with the touch of a button or are programmed to automatically close to protect your home’s interior from the strong desert light and sun in the late afternoon. These convenience features also address an eco-friendly and environmentally responsible aspect of the design.
Honoring the environment, Sesshu Design uses materials that are sustainable, recycled or reclaimed. As the firm’s principal, Tanya is moving away from many natural stones for countertops into manmade materials that are more eco-friendly. Ice stone, which is made with bits of recycled glass, has an interesting, unique sparkle to it. There are a lot of fun materials to create a design that is aesthetically pleasing while also being more sustainable.
“During our winter spring months, you don't need air conditioning and or heating. In the summer, with these large expanses of glass, we typically have deep overhangs. This way, we keep the direct sun out, and then site the house properly so the southern exposure doesn’t have as much glass. But sometimes, that's where your view is and it gets a little tricky. You don’t want to miss those amazing sunsets to the west,” Tanya shares about Arizona.
Not only can Sesshu’s philosophy bring you a WELL DesignedTM Home, but the process is creating award-winning designs. Tanya repeatedly works closely with quite a few different architects and builders who bring her in while they are in the concept design phase. That way she can give her input into layouts, spaces and functions making tweaks and modifications.
As a professional interior designer, Tanya’s thinking of the rooms from a furniture standpoint, knowing the furniture sizing and functions. Plus, she considers circulation and traffic flow. Ideally, if she comes into the project before the floor plan is done, those changes can be made easily by moving a few lines. It’s not moving a wall once you’ve already started construction.
Tanya explains why an interior designer is integral to the building process, “I'm collaborating with the architect, builder and client early on in the process. That's where I’m looking at window sizes and placements, ceiling details, circulations, art and other collections. I make sure we have enough walls for the artwork. I’m doing space planning versus decorating which I do at a later stage like including throw pillows, furniture, rugs and paint colors. Interior design starts early in the process and deals with space.”
The WELL DesignedTM Home process starts with an in-depth questionnaire and an interview, talking with the clients about how they live, what they like to do. Do they cook big, elaborate fancy meals? Do they order takeout or make reservations?
Recently, Tanya’s been working with the architects to collaborate on those questionnaires so everyone is working from the same information. By having these conversations early on in the process, they can talk through things like what makes sense for the kitchen from the standpoint of how the clients lead their lives. She asks clients to consider: “What kind of a kitchen do you want? Do you want it to be the center of the home or do you actually want it to be more removed? Would you like a butler's pantry where the caterers come and how extensive does it need to be?”
Tanya shares one of her projects as an example, “I even worked on one home where there was no sink in the main kitchen. The cleanup was in the second butler pantry or scullery. The range was in the main kitchen because that's more interesting and not messy. The sink is usually just a bunch of dirty dishes and who wants to look at that?”
For the WELL DesignedTM Home process, having input up front about the furniture in a room is essential in creating a good design. Considering the number of people simultaneously in the room or the maximum and minimum volume helps plan the space. With Tanya, you’d want to discuss how many times the room is at the maximum number, is it just for one wedding or is it a weekly function? What times does the room operate in a certain way? By really thinking about the spaces in your home, how and when they function, you’ll be on your way to creating the desired home for your current and future lifestyle.
Not only do Tanya’s designs create WELL DesignedTM Homes, but she helps clients by creating something that makes sense. The designs inspire what you are looking for, from a function standpoint and from aesthetic standpoint.
Having a great interior design process and creating award-winning WELL DesignedTM Homes is why most of the clients come to Sesshu Design Associates for their residences, but also for their vacation homes. Many people come to Scottsdale for the golf scene. People think that Tanya moved from Jackson Hole, Wyoming to Arizona to get out of the snow, but that’s not true. It is a polar opposite as far as climate goes, but both are resort and vacation towns. And so in that regard, they're very much the same.
Scottsdale has a winter tourist season and Jackson has its summer tourist season. The downtowns have their touristy shops and art galleries. It's just the opposite season. There are interesting parallels as well as the contrasts between the two places.
For most of Tanya’s clients, this is a second home or a vacation home, even a third or fourth home as they come from the Midwest or California to enjoy the winter months in Scottsdale. And a few clients have also done another home in the mountains. They've a place that they can get away to in the summer or for a ski vacation.
Tanya says, “A vacation home has a different approach for design. It can be freer as clients take more risk and do something creative since they're not living in the house all the time. They're going into a second persona when they're on holiday.”
Tanya almost always includes a home office because even if her clients are on vacation, they're still trying to conduct business. The pandemic really put a huge focus on the home office. For many people whose primary homes were elsewhere, they ended up spending more time in Scottsdale. The outdoor living environment made it less scary for people to be in Arizona. To meet this need, Tanya did many tweaks to home offices. One client originally requested his vacation home office be a double-wide opening and no doors. But later renovated when he found he needed the separation and doors for privacy, quiet and to eliminate the distractions.
You too can create the vacation home you desire to encompass your current and future lifestyle.
When creating WELL DesignedTM Homes in Arizona, Tanya explains that most homes are typically a single story. Sometimes the homes are split to follow the line of the mountain with sections of two-story and obviously stairs. Considering most people she works with are or will soon be retirees, they might not want many stairs in the long term as they get older.
One of the distinctions between interior design and decorating is planning for your future. Putting blocking inside the wall for a future need of grab bars inside showers is something an interior designer will work on early in the process. Envisioning future needs involves a far deeper thought process. The circulation spaces and hallways could be larger so it's wheelchair accessible or for somebody using a walker. Larger hallways are also fabulous when you're carrying groceries in both hands so you aren’t rubbing up against the wall.
If you incorporate and design for your future needs now, you can save thousands of dollars later.
Tanya’s favorite place in her home is on her sofa in her living room where she can do her morning meditations and play with her kitties. The living room is on the east side of the house, inviting amazing morning sun and not the oppressive afternoon heat. It's a comfortable, bright space with two large windows in the living room, so there's a lot of natural light which creates a certain calm and comfort.
Tanya shares, “Comfortable is the hallmark of what I strive for with my design too. Of course, I want the rooms to be beautiful and magazine worthy, but not feel like a museum. Your home should feel comfortable. Lots of beautifully decorated rooms are wonderful to look at, but you feel like you can't touch anything, put your feet up or have kids running around. It goes back to that livable aspect of our WELL DesignedTM Home philosophy. What makes you feel comfortable so you can really live in your home.”
Listen to Tanya and Adrian's full conversation on the TALKdesign Show. If you would like to learn more about Tanya, the WELL DesignedTM Home philosophy and process or how you can design the vacation home of your dreams, contact us at 480-275-2968.