Designer of the Month - February - Tocar Design

1 February 2008

Tocar Design

Tocar is a Spanish verb meaning "to touch” or "to influence”. Tocar touches each client by creating interiors that reflect a client’s individual style. Founded in 1998 by partners Susan Bednar Long and Christina Sullivan, their designs incorporate a fresh approach to understated elegance.

Susan Bednar Long graduated from Occidental College, studied at UCLA’s Interior and Environmental Design Program, and began her career at a boutique design-build firm in Beverly Hills where she worked with some of the world’s most recognized entertainment celebrities. Recruited to Polo Ralph Lauren, Susan oversaw the decoration of their flagship stores across North America. At Polo, Susan established her working relationship with Christina Sullivan.

Christina Sullivan graduated from Framingham State College, studied at Parsons School of Design in NYC and began her career at Polo Ralph Lauren in the store design department where she launched shops across the U.S. In 1996 Christina started Sullivan Design, an interior design firm with prominent clients such as Donna Karan and Takashimaya.

Named one of "America’s Top Young Designers” by House Beautiful magazine, Tocar is recognized for signature modern traditional interiors. Susan & Christina listen carefully to the needs and desires of each client. This attitude and approach, combined with a high aesthetic, enables them to create functional and beautiful interiors worldwide.

FRETTE Q&A – Tocar Design

1. How would you best describe your style and design approach?

Our signature style is modern traditional and this is what we are recognized for. We create high-end interiors that reflect each client’s individual taste. This approach enables us to give our clients clean, sophisticated interiors that are timeless, functional and beautiful.

2. How did you two meet and how do you work together? Are there strict divisions of responsibilities or is your relationship more collaborative?

We met while we were both working at Ralph Lauren, Creative Services. We not only listen carefully to the design needs of each client, we listen to each others creative imput. Each partner brings significant design ideas to every project, and we talk through and decide what fabric, texture, wall covering, art work etc would work best. We constantly pull our ideas from individual and combined inspirations. It's a collaboration that works for us and for our clients, as we are both here to achieve the maximum design results for each project. We take pride in knowing that our interiors are welcoming, just waiting for the client to arrive home.

3. You have clients with extensive art collections. How often does a piece of furniture or art dictate the decor of the room?

A piece of art or furniture has never dictated the style of the room designed. However if the piece is extraordinary, which typically has been the case, it will certainly enhance the room's decor. Most of the time it adds a different dimension through color and texture to the overall design. When a client has specific paintings or works of art that they would like to incorporate in a design, we study each piece carefully and then place them appropriately in the specific rooms. It is very important to us that the beauty of the art enhances the interior and vice versa.

4. Bedrooms are such private sanctuaries, how does your approach differ in designing bedrooms vs. living rooms?

Generally, our color palate is more neutral, pale and calming in bedrooms. We love incorporating luxurious, soft materials like cashmere and mohair in our bedrooms and pay special attention to tactile materials - soft sheets, extra comfortable furniture. For example, a wonderfully soft "curl-up" chair is a must. Bedrooms also need to fulfill specific functional requirements for each owner - for example, a great desk, smart storage for clothing and jewelry, and streamlined audio visual. There is nothing better than a room that is designed exactly for who you are and how you live. All bedrooms should be this way!

5. Do you have rules or advice in decorating a bedroom for people who do not have access to your services?

Yes, this should be the room that you breathe easy in and that makes you happy and relaxed. We always think softer colors are best in bedrooms. Save the red damask wallpaper for the Powder Room. Try to think about storage and function so that you can organize your clothes and accessories easily so your bedroom is always neat and in turn calming. Big chests of drawers or armoires are great for hiding things away. Choose a really soft rug that feels great on your feet when your shoes come off after a long day. Think about adding a collection of family photographs to one wall, framing all the images in the same style frame. We love silverleaf frames with a crisp white mat. Also, splurge on something you absolutely love - like a great oil painting of your favorite beach or a wonderful antique slipper chair. Each time you look at it - it will make you happy.

6. You have been a recurring customer of Frette's. What keeps you coming back to Frette for yourselves and also your clients?

We love the quality of Frette's linens and the crisp tailored designs. Frette's sheets work wonderfully in our modern interiors as well as our traditional spaces. They always feel so great to jump into!

7. Are there interesting projects coming up which you'd like to share with us?

We are working on a majestic mountain retreat outside Park City, Utah that combines English woolen plaids and furniture with the best of the American west; a super sleek Greenwich Village loft overlooking the Hudson River; and a lovely, elegant French inspired home in Greenwich, Connecticut.