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For The Home

Interior Designer’s Home

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: September, 2012, Page 98
Photos by Michael Woodall

As she did elsewhere in the house, interior designer/homeowner Susan Komlos chose a neutral palette accented with pops of color for her family room. The painting over the settee is by Fritz Scholder. The kitchen and breakfast nook lie beyond. French doors open to an outdoor living room.



Art and Heirlooms Personalize a Designer’s Gracious Home

Growing up in Hungary, interior designer Susan Komlos loved to read tantalizing stories about cowboys and the American West. Coincidentally, during her childhood in Poland, architectural designer Agnieszka Jastrzebska was mesmerized by the very same books.

Meeting here as Arizona transplants, the creative women put their talents to work in a noteworthy Santa Barbara-style home that Komlos and her husband built in Paradise Valley. Constructed by Greg Hunt, the hillside residence exudes the romance of Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean elements, some French influences, and—as one might expect—hints of the love of the West the two women shared. 

There is much about this home to delight, both as one comes upon it and when inside. With a pale-yellow stucco exterior, clay-tile hip roof and cozy courtyards, the exterior has the same allure that homes of this type have had for decades in this country—notably in Santa Barbara—and for centuries in lands with warm Mediterranean climates, such as Spain, notes Jastrzebska. Interiors, with richly detailed high ceilings, contribute to the residence’s airy, sophisticated look.

“After Agnieszka was done, I took over,” the homeowner/designer relates with a smile. Giving true meaning to “the collected look,” the decor is personalized room to room with antiques, Hungarian family heirlooms, Talavera pottery, other collectibles and fine art.

With its thick walls and gracious entry courtyard, this tile-roofed Santa Barbara-style home has similar cultural and climatic roots as historic homes in the Mediterranean area, notes architectural designer Agnieszka Jastrzebska. “Arizona’s hot and arid climate is a perfect setting for it.”
The eclectic assemblage spans centuries: A 17th-century Flemish tapestry is the focal point of the dining room. Paintings with a Contemporary Native American theme by the late Fritz Scholder—a personal friend of the homeowners—are showcased in rooms throughout the home.

Her longtime love of the West is seen in a hallway display of antique Edward S. Curtis photographs of Native Americans. Of her design scheme, the homeowner comments, “I think that things should be mixed. It would be boring if everything is from one period.” However, she adds, “I like that it is not cluttered-looking. I don’t like too many accessories, and I do like to see empty walls. I like space.”

While there is a feeling of understated elegance, the overall ambience of the home is one of approachable comfort. Family room sofas are covered in an inviting  linen-chenille textile, and, across the way, chairs at the kitchen island wear washable slipcovers. The kitchen sees plenty of action, as her grandchildren are frequent visitors, Komlos explains.

In fact, the house was built for grandchildren. The homeowners previously had lived in a nearby house on the same street. Worried that the multilevel dwelling, with lots of stairs, posed a danger to their first grandchild, they decided to build anew. Within this new single-story house, the four grandchildren have a mega-size playroom. It has a big leather sofa, a dedicated wall of shelves for toys, a wee table and chairs set for coloring and such, and, true to this designer’s passion for art—a huge Fritz Scholder painting.

The sophisticated formal living room has mostly Traditional furnishings. The glass coffee table, however, is the homeowner/designer’s nod to the elegant simplicity of Midcentury Modern design.

“The main requirements the home-
owners had was that the house be
flooded with daylight and capture views,” says architectural designer Agnieszka
Jastrzebska. Double rows of lofty windows
in the breakfast nook (left) and a large arched and recessed window—plus a skylight—in the adjacent kitchen (below) fulfill both requests.
Homeowner Susan Komlos designed the kitchen cabinetry, opting for open shelves instead of upper cabinets. Countertops are Carrara marble. Under a trio of pendant lamps, the island seating area is a favorite spot for her grandchildren. Behind the range, a full wall is clad in Subway tiles. The window arch, too, bears these tiles.


Atop a limestone fireplace mantel, an old Indonesian cart wheel is flanked by blue-and-white Mexican pottery.
A floral painting by artist Ed Mell is framed by a deep open arch in a hallway wall.


Spanning centuries, the dining room’s antique tapestry hangs just yards from a Contemporary painting by Fritz Scholder located in an adjacent hallway.

Clockwise from top left: Set between glass hurricanes, a cowboy-and-horse sculpture by Ed Mell is displayed on the family room’s antique French monastery table. • Images of long-ago Native Americans by famed photographer Edward S. Curtis hang over a hallway bench. At the end of the hallway is a painting by Fritz Scholder. • A cushioned sitting area is nestled within a master bedroom niche. Sconces here shed light on a small work by artist Fritz Scholder. While the nearby fireplace resembles a Southwestern beehive type, its design has antecedents in many countries with warm climates, notes Agnieszka Jastrzebska. • An old Transylvanian wood trunk sits at the foot of the master bedroom’s iron four-poster.

Trade Secrets
The following are ideas interior designer Susan Komlos has incorporated into her own home.
• “You should always reflect your hobbies or interests in your home—my interest is in art.” One might showcase family mementos, she says, “anything that reminds you of your family and your past.”
• Incorporating antiques is wonderful, but having a home in which everything is an antique is impractical, she says. “Who would want to sit on an 18th-century sofa? They are tiny and uncomfortable.”
• To please the eye and lend importance to collections, “It always helps to group similar things together.” For example, photographs by Edward S. Curtis are displayed in a row. “They are not scattered.”
• “It is nothing new, but it is so true” that you will achieve good design results by choosing neutral colors for walls, flooring and upholstery and using color in accessories and artworks. Art provides bursts of color throughout the home.
• You can mix Contemporary and more traditionally themed paintings in a room, but for best effect do not place pieces right next to each other. “I try to have art pieces make a statement. I give them enough wall space.”
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