Chatting with Renowned Interior Designer, Author and Michigan Native Tom Stringer

On August 8, our managing editor, Lissa Edwards, had the honor of sitting down with interior designer and author Tom Stringer at Crooked Tree Arts Center in Petoskey. The Michigan native is currently working on projects as diverse as a fine dining jazz club in Chicago, the restoration of a turn-of-the-century Victorian in Telluride and a beachside getaway in Santa Barbara. Here are a few highlights from the evening.

Interior Designer and Author Tom Stringer

Tom’s design approach is externally inspired and internally driven, largely informed by his great life passion for exotic travel. With a degree from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at Arizona State University, Tom’s love of adventure sends him to a new corner of the earth each year for both personal enrichment and professional inspiration. Filtering his experiences through the prism of design allows him to bridge styles and cultures, expanding his imagination into innovative layers of colors, textures and function.

Bringing this same rigorous planning, enthusiasm and joy of discovery to the comfortably glamorous homes he creates, Tom also found time to renovate his own. The 19th-century greystone Tom shares with his husband, Scott, was recently renovated and captured in his new monograph, An Adventurous Life: Global Interiors by Tom Stringer. His own residence is filled with a worldly mix of modern and antique furnishings and is also always filled with guests.

Tom’s design philosophy is that a home should be the backdrop for a well-lived life with friends and family.

Our favorite quotes from Tom …

 “It’s the ultimate thing we do as designers, isn’t it? We can tell people’s stories.”

“When I introduce clients to art for their homes I sometimes introduce them to the artist first and their work later. I want them to know who begat that. It’s the same as a bottle of wine; backstory is very important.”

“Contrast makes each object more interesting, polished next to rough-hewn. The antique versus contemporary. The juxtaposition is sublime.” 

“Mom taught me to love an adventurous life as a baseline: food and art and music were more important than material things. She took me to Morocco when I was 27 and that started a love affair with travel and I’ve been back there 7 times. She also told me, eat whatever is offered.”

“Great travel is never about the hotel you stay in. It’s always about the people you meet. The best guides or travel partners understand this.”

“Culturally and from the standpoint of cross-cultural understanding—there’s a very big difference between made in china and Made In China.”

“I’ve never wanted to have some signature look, I was afraid that people would come to me with expectations and I’d disappoint them. But I believe great design is storytelling so it’s hard to repeat itself.”

“I actually love doing second or third projects with clients turned friends, because I can’t phone it in for friends. I have to give them my very best, wouldn’t you?”

Moderated by Lissa Edwards, Managing Editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine

Elizabeth (Lissa) Edwards has been with Traverse Magazine and its sister publication, Northern Home & Cottage, for more years than she’d like to say. Despite that, she retains an unbridled passion for everything the MyNorth publications celebrate—Northern Michigan’s incredible outdoors, food scene, history and a special love for residential design and how it relates to our world-class landscape.

Edwards attributes this eye-to-design to her father, an art historian specializing in architectural history. His studies took her family to Paris when she was in grade school, an experience that she says naturally imbued her with that certain “je ne sais quoi,” for discerning what will stand the test of time and what never should have been built. She lives and works from her home in Glen Arbor where she recently opened her own passion project, Glen Arbor Wines. 

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