Interior Designer Alan Tanksley Reinvisions Luxury, Project by Project

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New York-based interior designer Alan Tanksley, a leading practitioner in residential design, has drawn acclaim for his versatility and attention to detail. Tanksley’s architectural approach to interior space planning combined with an organic approach to the comforts of every day living, is renowned. Below, Tanksley shares some of his design inspiration, project loves, and what he considers luxury.

Design by Alan Tanksley. Interior designer, new york based.
Design by Alan Tanksley.

Downtown: How would you describe your design style? 

Alan Tanksley: My interiors reenvision luxury; luxury not as a remote idea, but as a quality and forethought imbued into a space. I believe in creating environments that enhance one’s life experience with an organic approach to how people really live every day. I’m not interested in creating a stage set, but rather places for people to live with comfort, function, and beauty all having equal consideration. I often draw from a transitional design aesthetic.

Downtown: Can you pinpoint the moment or period of time when your first knew you were a designer? What inspired it, brought it on, etc.?

Design by Alan Tanksley. Interior designer, new york based.
Design by Alan Tanksley.

AT: Throughout my youth I thought that architecture was my future. After two years studying the field, I felt disillusioned and adrift. Only when I looked into the interior architecture and design courses did I find my true love and unearth a natural talent. It was a field I had not even considered prior to this.

Downtown: What has been one of your favorite projects to date and why?

AT: A favorite project is a summer house we’ve just completed in Little Compton, Rhode Island. This is our fourth project for the same family. The project is especially wonderful as we’ve become close over the years, enough so that we can collaborate in shorthand the way that partners in any good relationship do.

Downtown: I am obsessed with the foyer in your Urban Manhattan project. Tell us about the mix of materials, accessories, cold and warm designs that made this room so striking!

Design by interior designer Alan Tanksley.
Design by Alan Tanksley.

AT: Given my background in traditional design, it would have been an easy task to follow the given cues of a black-and-white marble floor and the corresponding traditional details by producing a complementary classic room. Instead, the client’s casual lifestyle called for a more eclectic approach where a mixture of furniture styles and periods were both accommodating to the busy family’s comings and goings, and reflective of their desire to express something fresh and modern.

Downtown: What do you most love about commercial work? About residential? If you had to pick one, which would you choose and why!

AT: I have been fortunate to work primarily on the high-end side of residential work for the majority of my career. In fact, my commercial work thus far has mostly been with developers of residential condominiums where I have advised on floorplans, chosen materials, fixtures, etc. and designed all public areas such as lobbies and amenity spaces. My experience in designing for how people live at home informs my work as I design for people in intimate public spaces.

 Design by Alan Tanksley.
Design by Alan Tanksley.

Downtown: Tell us about your approach to the River house Condominium. It is the epitome of chic!

AT: River House was a unique opportunity due to its open skyline views, abundant southern light, and the peaceful movement of the Hudson River. The room that we positioned the work space in sits like the prow of a ship making its way to the distant city with the open living space giving the feeling of a grand state room on a luxury liner.

Downtown: What is a good rule of thumb (it can be your own) that you would offer to fellow designers trying to make their mark in the commercial world. How do you keep the design elegant yet uniquely chic? 

AT: Listen, take notes, research similar projects, ask questions without hesitation (even if you feel you’re expected to already have the answers), and speak with assurance, but not arrogance. As far as elegant and chic, look to other designers past and present. Study how they’ve achieved exceptional results. The goal isn’t to copy, but to find inspiration for the project at hand.

 Design by Alan Tanksley.
Design by Alan Tanksley.

Downtown: Tell us about your furniture designs. When did this come about and why? Where can our readers purchase your pieces? 

AT: Most of the furniture I’ve designed has been specific to projects and has not been offered publicly. However, the development of my “Genesis” line of acrylic tables for Plexi-Craft has been very well received, as have my tables designed for Desiron. Both showrooms are located at 200 Lexington Avenue.

Downtown: What have some of your favorite project designs been and why? 

AT: My favorite projects are those for clients who understand that they play a very important role in the success of their project through open and timely communication, collaborate with and share ideas fluidly, and understand the complex and imperfect processes involved in both design and construction. With those things in place we’re set to create something uniquely suited to their needs and aspirations.

 Design by Alan Tanksley.
Design by Alan Tanksley.

Downtown: If you could design your own dream home, where would it be and what would it look like?

AT: I am a New Yorker for life so my dream home would be located here, preferably (moderately) high up in a south facing central location set back with terraces on three sides. The interior look and feel would be similar to what I’ve designed for many of my clients and the exterior would finally afford the opportunity to have the dog I’ve yet to own in the city.

Downtown: What are some of your go-to furniture sources?

AT: The industry has evolved greatly due to worldwide internet access. We rely on all the various platforms when resourcing projects. That said, there’s nothing like going out and seeing finding things first hand, up close and personally so to speak. Shopping the trade resources at the Design and Decoration Building and 200 Lexington are common resources, as are the wonderful antique shops located around New York City. The hunt for just the right piece, or pieces, remains the great thrill when designing something remarkable

 Design by Alan Tanksley.
Design by Alan Tanksley.


Downtown: What are you working on now?

AT: I have a project in the Woolworth Tower Residences, where I was originally commissioned by the developers, Alchemy Properties and Sotheby’s International Real Estate, to create the premiere model apartment. It’s a sensational apartment with city views that can’t be beat. We’re completing a summer house in Little Compton, Rhode Island, a glamorous classic apartment overlooking the Hudson River, and several others in the region.