VoyageLA Article

Meet Suzanne Bank of Suzanne Bank Designs

Today we’d like to introduce you to Suzanne Bank.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.

I was a divorced mother of two young children when being divorced was not looked upon favorably – and to add to that, women couldn’t even get credit cards! I didn’t have a career or a way to make a living, and my ex-husband gave me the least possible amount of money he could. I was put in a position where I had to support my children and myself.

I had always had a love and passion for interior design. While visiting a friend, a neighbor stopped in, saw the changes I was making to my friend’s home and the next thing I knew, I was designing a townhouse for her sister. That led to another job, followed by many more jobs. Since that first job, all of my clients have come to me by referral.

At the time I started designing, the only interior design classes in the city were taught at UCLA. I had my children to take care of, a household run, my work, and somewhat of a personal life. There was no time for school or studying. So, as I have done with most things in my life, I learned by doing: on-the-job training, using my taste, my design sense and a lot of intuition. I have worked with many celebrities as well as young couples just starting out in life. I have participated in two showcase houses, done model homes and real estate development, and my work has been featured in magazines. A few of my interesting jobs include a TV star’s dressing room, a police captain’s office, a newspaper office, the L.A. office of a presidential candidate, the office of the founder and first president of the Television Academy, recording studios, a kindergarten classroom, a reading room for a religious organization, a juvenile furniture showroom at the L.A. Mart, a showroom for a California sportswear line, a home for a woman who had lost her sight at a young age and the interiors for the main character in three mystery novels.

In 1988, I read an article on Feng Shui in the real estate section of the L.A. Times. I was fascinated, and set out to find out more. It was an interesting two-year journey which became my looking for the needle in a haystack. I discovered that few English-speaking people were into the Chinese Art of Placement so I had to find an interpreter for the Feng Shui Master that I would meet with, Master Lin.

Like an onion, there are many layers to my design work. In 1983 I started including Carlton Wagner’s subconscious effect of color, and in 1995 I added energy clearing to the list of things I do for my clients. After all these years, I am blessed to still be doing what I love.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?

Doing something “new” and different is always a challenge. It was mostly men in the interior design field and only a handful of women when I started designing. I well remember that I felt disrespected and talked down to in the showrooms. I learned quickly to get over it.

I was actually told not to take classes, as my approach was fresh and I would lose that freshness if I went to school for interior design. When I began including Feng Shui in my work, I was asked by a number of real estate offices to come and speak to their agents and brokers. I believe I was the first to speak about Feng Shui to the real estate community. I asked each office where I spoke to give me a property to work on that was not selling, so I could show the benefits of using Feng Shui. They all did. I worked on a home owned by a broker in Pacific Palisades that had been on the market for some time, with no offers. Soon after I worked on the house, there were three offers in five days and the house sold.

In good markets and bad, I have had many homes sell within ten days after working on them, and all had back-up offers. In addition to speaking to brokers, I have spoken to Rotary Clubs, Women in Business, the Ebell of Los Angeles, to a group of women who went from being homeless to living at Daybreak, and a shelter for women transitioning into having their own living environments. Years ago, there was great interest in Feng Shui. Today many have forgotten about the benefits. Tomorrow it may be the thing to do again. For me, it has been, and is, a wonderful tool to use.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Suzanne Bank Designs story. Tell us more about the business.

My specialty is understanding my clients’ needs when they can, and especially when they can’t. I believe home interiors should be timeless, not trendy; this isn’t the clothing industry. More than ever, everyone should have a retreat to come home to at the end of the day, a place to renew, refresh and regroup. A place that’s harmonious, balanced, comforting, a grounding influence and a reflection of the people living there, not the neighbors or the home we saw get a makeover on TV.

Whatever the style – traditional, transitional, contemporary or modern – the space should be a tasteful, restful environment that will evolve as the clients do. When a client hires me, they get me, not an assistant. I spend time getting to know them and their lifestyle, so I can design their home the way they envision it.

To start, I do an energy clearing of my client’s environment; I have yet to find a space that is not in need of one. I’m most proud when they say, “That’s exactly what I would have done if I could have done it myself.” When my clients tell me of the results they’ve received from my work, I’m elated. My friends have become my clients and many of my clients have become friends. All my clients know they are welcome to call me at any time with any questions, even long after the job has been installed.

I’ve worked on a home in the Bahamas, one in San Diego, and was involved from breaking ground to completion on a home near Mt. Shasta, and all from my office. I’m not like other designers I know. I use my knowledge and years of experience as a designer, add Feng Shui, energy clearings, subconscious response to color and a great deal of intuition. My work is more than aesthetic – it’s spiritual. I’m proud to say that over the many years I’ve been designing, I have shared my knowledge, taught my clients and been able to give them guidance.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?

I’ve had good luck in attracting wonderful clients that have appreciated my design sense and the results they received.

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Image Credit:
Wilshire Community Police Council “A Night At The Sports Museum” fundraisers photos by Bill Devlin.
Photo with Rose Parade float designer client Raul Rodriquez and Sebastian.
Client Sheila Lowe’s book signing.
Holding the world’s tallest rose at the Rose Parade float judging.
At the nursery selecting plants for a Culver City model

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