Alan Tanksley Q&A


Alan Tanksley by Richard Shultz
When Alan Tanksley’s own Manhattan apartment, with its view of the Empire State Building from the  living  room  and  shower,  appeared  both  on  the  cover of  Metropolitan  Home  and  in the pages  of  Elle  Decor  Magazine,  the  designer’s  extraordinary  skill  at  blending  furniture, furnishings   and   art   from   virtually   every   era   drew   international  acclaim.  

This   same extraordinary  vision  and  highly  personalized  style  characterize  every  one  of  Mr. Tanksley’s timeless designs for a most appreciative clientele both in the United States and abroad.

Mr.  Tanksley  and  his  staff  of  ten  are  among  America’s  leading  practitioners  of  residential design  and  of  detailed  interior  space  planning  and  custom  furniture  and  fixture  design.

Renowned  as  an  expert  colorist,  Mr.  Tanksley  creates  shimmering  palettes  that  ultimately manage to make every  interior space  both exciting and relaxing simultaneously – a  must  for his demanding,  highly  exclusive  clients.    His  day-to-day  working  relationships  with  such leading architects  as  Maya  Lin  and  Robert  Orr  give  the  firm  the  unusual  ability  to  draw  on expert talents  to  implement  a  wide  range  of  architectural  renovations  for  each  project  that  it undertakes. Prior to founding his own firm in 1993, Alan Tanksley was a partner in another firm and was previously  an  associate  with  the  distinguished  designer  Mark  Hampton.  

He  worked  closely with  Mr.  Hampton  on  the  design  and  supervision  of  many  of  the company’s  most  notable residential  projects.    Mr.  Tanksley  is  a  graduate  of  Arizona  State University’s  School  of Architecture specializing in interior architecture. Among  Alan  Tanksley, Inc.’s  elite  clientele  are  Paul  Simon,  John  Bartlett,  Ambassador Edward Elson, Lionel Pincus, Jane Pauley & Garry Trudeau, Gilles Mendel, Goldman Sachs Company and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

Check out my exclusive Q&A with Alan Tanksley below.

What first attracted you to to design? 

I can't say that I can pinpoint one thing that first attracted me to design. Like may others it seems that something was inside me from the very start, perhaps the same way others are drawn to sports or science or any other passion before they knew enough to consciously pursue it., Fortunately, both my parents were very curious people by nature and due to my father being a commercial pilot we travelled fairly extensively.  An appreciation for history, architecture, nature and art were organically imbued in use as we accompanied them from place to place and they shared their love for such things with.

What inspires you in your creative process? 

The environment I'm given to work with, along with my clients' stated desires kick off the search for creative solutions. Most often my initial goal is to organize an environment to a place that is innately compelling and approachable. Whether it be a house, a room or a table top vignette my goal is always the same, to make the user feel

What have been the highlights and challenges throughout your design career?

To begin, I had the good fortune to start my career in the office of Mark Hampton, one of the masters of 20th century design. With Mr. Hampton I was introduced to a world of design and a lifestyle that opened my eyes to the limitless adventures that can be experienced through the business of design and decoration. One of the big downers has been the times when working with clients who approach the process from an adversarial, small minded point of view. That's a guarantee for a joyless, soul crushing experience. There's simply not enough time available to squander it on any such relationship.

What have been the best projects you’ve worked on?

The projects that truly stand out have been the result of working relationships with people who've participated and communicated with me in an enthusiastic and collaborative manner and who have a respectful understanding of the complex, often challenging processes required to accomplish something truly great.  Some of the stand outs include residences in Snowmass, Vail and Telluride, Colorado as well as a modern ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

What projects are you currently working on?

We are extremely busy right now with three exceptional residences in the Boston area, combining two apartments in NYC to create a single, full floor apartment and an extraordinary project in one of New York's most recognizable buildings.

You’ve designed for many ‘celebrity’ clients and famous faces. Which of these projects have been the most fun? 

I've worked with a handful of well known people, the most visible being the singer and songwriter Paul Simon for whom I worked on his Manhattan and Montauk residences. However, as far as fun goes I have a long and very friendly working relationship with Garry Trudeau and Jane Pauley on their NYC residence.

Which is your favorite design style/period? 

Now, because I have the luxury of working in any period should I have the opportunity to or, more likely, enjoy the challenge of artfully moving among several periods within the same environment.

Who would be your dream client?

As long as we're daydreaming, Mame Dennis, the fictional character who lived at One Beekman Place. Not only was she smart and funny and glamorous she completely changed the decoration of her massive apartment on a regular basis.

Other than her I'd be very pleased to have more of the of people I'm currently working for. I'm very fortunate, they're an ideal assortment of clients.
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