From the looks of things, Susie Frazier has it all together, from her stylish and youthful appearance to an Emmy award and an impressive client list that includes Lululemon, OrangeTheory Fitness, Organic Spa Magazine, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Hilton, Kimpton Hotel, and the Cleveland Clinic.
What makes these accomplishments even more meaningful is that her work enabled her to successfully manage her ADHD and anxiety (including 20 of those years prior to her diagnosis) while bringing healing elements of the outdoors into public and private living environments.
Although Frazier is based in Cleveland, Ohio, her pieces, installations, and rooms have an earthy flair that echo the sensibilities of the Southwest and Western U.S. This is no accident. The Los Angeles-born “eco-artist” lived in Southern California until age seven, when her parents separated. She spent the next four years in Scottsdale, when it was defined by wide open spaces, saguaro, yucca and boulders rather than luxury housing and posh retail. The surroundings had a strong influence on how she related to the world, years before she had to choose a career and a path of education.
“There was nothing like (living so) close to the base of Camelback Mountain and waking up every day to see those beautiful colors of the sky at sunrise and later see the silhouettes and shadows of the plants and rocks with their hard edges,” she recalls. “I became obsessed with the motifs and patterns of the natural landscape. I even built up a rock collection. We had regular contact with horses and wild landscapes, and were not afraid to get our hands dirty. These aspects ultimately informed the philosophy behind my furniture and art pieces.”
Frazier observes that in many parts of the world, planners behind residential and commercial developments are not just concerned about “green building” but also about “wellness building.” Using natural materials in construction and décor are not just better for the environment when procured correctly, but can also calm the mind through nature’s own patterning and design. These shapes and forms are not symmetrical, and will not have so much repetition that the overall look is unvaried.
“I look at things that are slightly imperfect when developing a piece or room,” she says. “The desert speaks to that idea. It’s slow and ancient in many ways, and yet it represents new growth and new life in unexpected ways. One of the big goals of my work is to translate this as a metaphor into something tangible and serene. The colors of the desert have always made up my palette no matter where I have lived. The thing is, when ‘earth tones’ is mentioned, that could mean thousands of different things. When you mention textures, meanwhile, it’s not just the textures of a specific piece of wood but other things native to a given area, plant materials, stone, and other things relating to that landscape.”
“The desert speaks to that idea. It's slow and ancient in many ways, and yet it represents new growth and new life in unexpected ways.
With every commission, Frazier is intent on steering clients away from the overly sleek interior design trends and white-on-white looks that dominated homes for the past couple of decades in favor of furnishings and backdrops that could theoretically occur in nature. She believes that a simple room with a lot of texture is far more elegant, while other approaches to modern design can end creating a cold and soulless effect.
“I am trying to bring things back to a more indigenous way of living, one that connects people to the Earth with textures like stone and adobe that are ribbed, bumpy, and may have three or four different tones of color within the texture,” she explains.
“When I suggest to a client that we add saturated colors to a palette, I am not suggesting those deep terra cotta reds and pastels associated with older Southwest trends. Instead, we’re talking rich clay tones that add warmth–deep grays, rich chocolate hues, latte browns and complimentary accents that spark life into the finished room, such as aloe green. I sometimes ask clients to bring in actual rocks so we can find ways to pull in the hues of the outside into their homes, and even building furniture and walls around giant boulders.”
Frazier’s latest accomplishment is Designing for Wellness, a lean but dense book encapsulating her art installations, custom furniture and retail products. While her higher-end furnishings and full-room installations for private homes are showcased in its pages, it was important to her to relay a message to readers (including the estimated 41 million Americans affected by ADHD and anxiety) that the process of bringing one’s home literally back to Earth can be achieved within any budget. That also informed her decision to avoid the traditional coffee table book route.
“Most people have a shorter attention span than they did 20 or 30 years ago, and I felt that the book had to be an easier read,” she says. “Absorbing the most important ideas and information about creating healthier surroundings would be next to impossible if people had to go through pages of anecdotal details. Therefore, I narrowed it down to a very specific number tips on how to create a calmer living space that worked for me. Visual close-ups of compositions of furniture and decorative objects as well as full-blown room installations are intended to empowers people. It’s reassuring for readers know is that they can create more nurturing surroundings without having to hire an architect or feng shui practitioner to take their well being into their own hands.”
As Frazier sees it, her aesthetic and installations are all about reclamation: Reclaiming a sense of well being through the use of worthwhile objects from the nature as well as remnants of things like slate roofing tile, or reclaimed wood, glass fragments, or fabrics. The final result is a space that puts people at ease, from a private living room to a break room at a corporate building.
“In expressing personal style, people want to surround themselves with things that make them feel good, and it’s not limited to what they put on their walls,” she says, pointing to the store on her web site offering objects at every price point.
“In expressing personal style, people want to surround themselves with things that make them feel good, and it’s not limited to what they put on their walls.”
photo by Elizabeth King
“Others want to give friends and family members wearables or decorative items which come with a good back story or that have meaning to them…a totem that speaks to the recipient’s personal values, goals, or life experiences. (We sell) items in our online store that are for that purpose, enabling everybody to feed their soul or help somebody they care about do the same.”