Designing with Passion – Q&A with Sue II



Roger Smith is owned by 3 sisters, Suzanne Knowles, (also known as Sue II) is the interior designer of the rooms. Her passion for beautifying spaces has driven her to create a welcoming home for travelers and their families. For the past thirty years, she has devoted her time into perfecting a true New York experience.

With 134 unique rooms, you manage to create each room to take on its own personality – how do you approach the style, feel and design continuity of the rooms?

I start with making a room comfortable with all of the things our guests would enjoy. Good lighting, great furniture, and choosing individual pieces of furniture, sourced  from a series of consignment shops in Connecticut.

How did you get involved in the interior design of the rooms?

I saw the need  for color and the opportunity to create a place where guests’ comfort was not compromised by the design and furniture selections. One important element is choosing pieces that were not fragile. It’s fun to create each room different from one another.

What do you consider your designing style to be?

My design style is more about the consideration of both feeling and impact of furniture in a room. Furniture should be hearty and beautiful, as well as exude warmth and comfort.

Have you taken any professional interior designing training?

I’ve had an interest in spaces with no actual formal designing training. I believe design is the ability to understand the balance between planning a space around its purpose and  functionality, while also addressing the needs of whomever will be occupying the space – in our case, I enjoy anticipating what our guests would enjoy while in New York. A room should feel welcoming and not necessarily lived-in; I like to keep the rooms as if they’re being walked in for the very first time.

Most hotels would choose to have an identical rooms’ design – how did the concept of individually decorated rooms come about at the Roger Smith?

We wanted to be authentic and offer our guests a different room; each feeling like an individual home with their own unique collection of books and pieces that make it more personal.

Where do you find inspiration when working on a decorating project?

I usually work around a single piece of furniture or soft fabric, like drapes and build from there— adding complementary colors and elements, keeping in mind my guests’ comforts.

Is there a particular room that you feel closest to because of a furniture piece or particular design?

I put my personal touch when designing our rooms and its somewhat difficult for me to choose one room I prefer over another as particularly my favorite –  a part of me lives in all of these spaces – there’s something I love in every room. Having a big family, space is definitely something we don’t take for granted. I love the eleven series suites! They are open, airy, and have spacious living spaces.

What do you envision when a guest walks in to one of your rooms?

Upon entering our rooms, I envision each guest walking in and feeling a sense of relief –  pleasured with the first impression and an overwhelming  feeling of a welcoming home.

Tell us about the art collections in the rooms.

All of the rooms have prints of my favorite painters. A few rooms display a series of photographs taken in Nepal, by a cousin of James Knowles. There’s also a set of paintings of families playing at the beach, and beautiful landscapes in other rooms by the Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on modernizing our two bedroom suites; adding wooden floors with area rugs from ABC Carpets and Homes, looking over spacing layouts, redressing windows with custom roman shades and reconsidering lighting features. There is always something to be done.


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