Designer Profile: Alan Tanksley

Alan Tanksley is among America’s leading practitioners of residential design and of detailed interior space planning and custom furniture and fixture design. Renowned as an expert colorist, Alan Tanksley creates subtle palettes that ultimately manage to make every interior space both sophisticated and relaxing simultaneously.



What inspired this career path for you?
Once I became aware of the impact that a well-designed environment can have on people, both physically and emotionally, I was hooked.


What is your go-to source for inspiration?
I wish I had one. It’d make my process much less time consuming, more efficient if I did. However, I pick things up as I move through life, edit what I’ve experienced, and stitch together something that I find organically feels right for the project at hand.


Tell us about your creative process.
All my work begins with listening closely to my clients’ stated and implied desires and, to the best of my knowledge, discerning where they see value. Next comes the project itself, whether it’s a house, apartment, entertainment facility, or airplane, they all come with parameters, limitations, opportunities, and challenges. The combination of the foregoing, along with my previous experiences and/or focused research, begins the process of creating environments that satisfy and far exceed clients’ and my own expectations.


Describe your style in 6 words or less.
Modern approach to classic style focusing on my clients’ needs.


What’s a staple in your tool kit?
Comfort in all its forms.


Who do you look up to in the design world?
Alexa Hampton. I worked for her father, whose vast intelligence and ambitious talent is legendary. Alexa and her work embody those same qualities, yet with an even more accessible character.


If you could design a space for anyone, what kind of space and for whom would it be?
I dream of designing a residence for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I would happily work on anything they chose, wherever it was located, and with whatever budget, high or low, they gave me. To fashion an environment to embody their post-White House desires would be the greatest honor. Furthermore, I bet they’d be a ball to work with.


Tell us your favorite design-related word, phrase, or quote.
“Consider this…”


Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
Elle Décor, New York Cottages and Gardens, World of Interiors, and old movies.


Share a little bit about the pieces you’re consigning on Viyet, e.g., do any have unique back stories, in what kind of space do you hope they end up, etc.?
Aesthetic Movement Lantern in the Moroccan style, English or French c. 1920 – The complex, layered details on this brass lantern are remarkable with their references to Moorish architecture throughout and use of colored glass inserts. It always gets attention and when illuminated, it’s stunning. The fixture brings a good deal of personality to any space, whether an exotic-themed setting or a contemporary space that would benefit from its unexpected architectural detailing.


Set of eight Italian dining chairs  I purchased these chairs in London several years ago, intending them for a client’s house that sadly burned to the ground before installation. The new house did not complement these, so off to storage they went. The set of eight, attributed to Guglielmo Ulrich, Italy c. 1955, is light and sculptural in design. Their sinuous shape looks beautiful and delicate when gathered around a vintage or contemporary table. I’d prefer a round or elliptical table in order to see the movement of the chair backs encircling the table’s surface.
The extensive collection of ceramics by New York artist Guy Veryzer has always delighted me, especially when the artist revealed that the characters and references he’s created and painted come from an exotic, long-lost world that he’s imagined and developed over the many decades of his career. Each piece can be identified and put within the context of the artist’s vivid imaginings.


What do you love about Viyet?
The constant flow of products through Viyet is a source of inspiration itself. Even when I’m searching for something specific, I end up looking through other categories and imagining whether they fit my aesthetic and, if so, where I might use them.

Plus a few holiday gifting questions


What is your favorite part of gift shopping?
One for you, two for me. Just kidding. The real joy is anticipating the reaction of the person when I present something especially meaningful for them.


As a designer, would you say it’s easier or harder to find good gifts for other people?
Easier if I’m shopping for people outside the business of design. Very challenging for friends and colleagues from within.


What is your advice for people decorating their homes for the holiday season?
For me, a little bit of decoration goes a long way. That said, if time and resources allow, do something you haven’t done before. Even if the results turn out to be a bit wonky, there’s always next year…


new york

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