Artist and designer Susan Hornbeak-Ortiz combs the world — quite literally — in search of inspiration, for her line SHINE by S.H.O. And on Gilt Home, starting Wednesday, June 6th, her latest wares are on display, from new lighting designs to authentic vintage finds from India and Istanbul. What keeps Ortiz so consistently inspired? We got the answers straight from her:
How have your lifetime travels affected your design sense?
Travelling humbles me — the world is such a large place and the beauty of travel is that it reminds me of my smallness. Getting out of my comfort zone is healthy. I have more time to myself to think and sketch; it has deepened my sense of self and place.
What inspired you to travel to India and Istanbul?
I just can’t stay away from Istanbul! This is my second trip there; we stopped on our way to India. Istanbul is so exotic, yet approachable at the same time. It is one of the most gorgeous and breathtaking cities in the world — the people, the architecture, the history and the shopping….simply stunning! And my recent travels to India were mostly for work, as we’re developing our custom rug collection for Gilt [launching in August]. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when travelling there, and I fell madly in love with the country and the people.
How do you describe your style (and that of the merchandise in these Gilt sales)?
Our look is not traditional, but not strictly modern. We’re somewhere in the middle—we have traditional and modern lines, then this exotic thread which I can’t resist. I don’t think in this sale you could make any mistakes; literally everything could go together.
How did the vintage kilim rug collection come about?
We were traveling in Rajasthan, India, visiting the manufacturer for the program we’re launching in August on Gilt Home. We were touring a new factory that we were considering working with, and one of the owners let us into this giant room filled with old textiles: clothing and rugs. He’s a collector, very knowledgeable, with a huge library. The minute he sees a pattern, he can tell you where it’s from, its history. We stumbled upon the find; we had not planned on doing this at all. They were all woven in the early 1900s, up until the 1950s, and are incredible pieces of art and workmanship. I love how each rug tells a story, as well as the amazing color combinations. We’ve had them cleaned and repaired using old techniques. I was drawn to the way the rugs had aged and faded; it was so subtle.
How did you pick and choose from the items you saw on your travels?
When I’m designing a sale, I see it almost as a giant house, a fictitious home and client. I pick colors and palettes where everything goes together; you really can’t make a mistake. There are a lot of coral and orange, and I’m mixing them with whites and neutrals, so it’s not just a giant blast of color. The greens and hot pinks are fun and fresh; they feel summer-y. Then there’s a little bit of blue and grey.
What are some standout pieces you found in Istanbul?
We found this wonderful antiques dealer there. He had some newer pieces that could be reproduced, partnering with local artisans, such as a cast bronze pomegranate with semi-precious inlay or a big, chunky ceramic horse that looks like it’s from the ‘60s or ‘70s. Then there are cast bronze horses, which are perfect desktop accessories. It was really exciting; I love finding people with a keen eye. When you connect with them when you are traveling, it becomes a bridge between your two cultures. These partnerships make the world seem like such a magical place. Another piece, the fuchsia glass vase from the ‘50s that I found in a little antiques store in Istanbul, I carried home in my suitcase. I also hand-carried the silk ikat we found in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. We bought 5 meters and lugged it home and made pillows. It got to be a little ridiculous how much stuff I was carrying around, especially because we were on our way to India. It was almost like a treasure hunt.
You’re an artist and a photographer. Did you create any pieces for this sale from your travels?
We’re doing very limited editions of large, framed prints from photos that I took in India and Turkey. Our other framed art in the sale was curated from our existing imagery. They’re nine images produced in the U.S. with either white or black frames. They’re selling for less than we usually sell unframed prints…you could do a whole wall grid for less than $1,000.
What's the best design advice you ever received?
My mom, who was a very successful interior designer, taught me to start with a few high-end “couture” pieces as your base — timeless modern heirlooms — then mix in high and low to create your own unique look.
And what design advice would you like to pass on?
Don’t be afraid to mix and match, and pop a space with unexpected color. Approach each room as a work of art, and especially a work in progress. Rooms should never be “done,” as they are part of our lives and are constantly evolving.