We had the good fortune of connecting with Susan Taylor and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Susan, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I grew up in Westfield, NJ about 20 miles south of Manhattan. My father was the Director of Design and Construction at Rutgers University and my mother was a draftsman and extremely creative. My dad was always working on our house, fixing and upgrading. He would let me ‘help’ him and taught me how to use tools at a young age. He would take me to work sometimes and I would listen to his conversations and watch him interact with the construction crews. He was professional and respectful to everyone from the top down. It was a high stress job with massive budgets and he had tremendous patience, it took a lot to ruffle his feathers. I try to soak up his style and manage my jobs in the same way – always asking myself, ‘How would my dad handle this?’.
My mom was incredibly resourceful and a creative force, she spent countless hours crafting with me. She taught me how to needlepoint, knit, paint, sew. Every year in early November we would sit down and pick a Christmas ornament to make that year and sell door to door. She taught me how to set-up a profit and loss book to track my sales and encouraged me to be financially independent at an early age. Those entrepreneurial seeds are what gave me the strength to strike out on my own and start my own business. Between the two of them they taught me the skills I needed for success as an Interior Designer. I’ve always been obsessed with design and architecture so it was a perfect set-up.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I wasn’t always an Interior Designer. I started my career in New York City working at Internet start-ups. For the most part, I worked in business development and went through two IPO’s – the first with iVillage and the second with The Knot. I had a successful track record in the industry and it was an incredibly exciting time to be in NYC and that field.
In 2004 my husband and I decided to move to LA so he could pursue a career as a writer. This allowed me the space for a second act. I knew I loved start-ups and I loved interior design so I decided to set a goal of learning as much as I could with the goal of ultimately starting my own firm. I began by filing fabric samples for Kelly Wearstler and then worked for various designers along the way, picking up skills and contacts until I started getting my own small projects. That’s when my dear friend, Rachel Walton and I started a firm called Sladen and Taylor. We built a great, business that allowed us the flexibility to be mothers and professionals (we both had very young children and tag teamed child-care and work) and grew it for 5 years. It was incredibly supportive and collaborative, but ultimately, I wanted to go out on my own.
Three years ago I parted ways with my partner to pursue my lifelong dream of having my design firm, It was a very hard decision and process, but one I am very proud of.
Davis Taylor Design is the culmination of all this experience. It started with the seeds my parents planted, showing me how to be an entrepreneur, teaching me about construction and design, encouraging my creativity and supporting all my endeavors. It grew from the amazing women I met along the way who gave me opportunities, took chances me, taught me and showed me how to make it work.
Davis Taylor Design is a full-service design firm. We work with architects on design, project manage construction and landscape design, handle all aspects of design and decor. Can create custom furniture, wallpaper, fabrics, source art and provide follow-up maintenance services.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hmmm. LA for me is about exercising, eating and design.
The first thing I would do is take them hiking, the fact that we live in a massive city that has quick access to nature is something that makes LA unique and desirable. There are so many good ones you could start each day of the trip with a different one. I love the one on the top of Tigertail in Brentwood. It’s hard but not too hard and the views are amazing. After that hike I would head to Brentwood Country Mart and eat and shop. I love the toasted bugler wheat salad at The Farm and they have delicious Arnold Palmers.
Runyon is another good hike – albeit very crowded so go early. Afterwards, you can walk to Sightglass – I always get their chicken salad, its not made with mayonnaise and they use fresh tarragon which makes it especially delicious.
Of course, I would take them to all my favorite design stores…LA is a Mecca for good mid-century and innovative design. Walk up and down La Cienega and you’ll find treasure after treasure. I especially love Pat McCann and Hollywood at Home. On Beverly, Garde has gorgeous things and Nikki Kehoe is a must. Alfred is a great place to grab a coffee if you need an energy boost to keep going.
On Melrose stop in Galerie Half and Lawson and Fenning and head to Mozza for lunch.
Atwater Village is a great destination – lunch at Proof Bakery and shopping at Avion Clothier. My dear friend Kathy Tsina owns Avion and she is an incredibly talented designer. A few doors down, deKor is a good spot for rugs, pillows and accessories. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have a few shoutouts:
Kelly Wearstler for giving me my first experience at a design firm. Ondine Karady with whom I partner on select projects – her confidence and ability to push the envelope on design always inspires me to dig deeper and take risks in my own work. Rachael Walton, my old friend and fellow designer who took the leap with me to start our own firm which we had for 5 successful years. My children for inspiring me to be the best version of myself and to lead by example and my husband for his endless support and partnership.
Elizabeth Bensinger Trevor Tondro