Jeff King Talks With

Interior Designer Susan Schippmann




As we present our 6th Q&A in the architecture / interior design series, we’re amazed how every Bay Area professional responds to the same seven questions with a completely unique point of view. Today we dig in to the interior design philosophy of Susan Schippmann, a rising star in the San Francisco community who brings a fresh dose of creativity to every home.

Native to the Bay Area, Susan Schippmann graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design from San Jose State University in 1987. Since then, Susan has learned all the complexities of the interior design world- the good, the bad, the ugly, and the breathtaking. She considers herself fortunate to have profound learning experiences from John Wheatman of John Wheatman & Associates and as senior designer with Barbara Scavullo Design (BSD) in San Francisco. At BSD, Susan designed and managed projects from Hawaii to Carmel Valley to Connecticut ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 square feet in size.




Where do you look for design inspiration?

I find Inspiration everywhere! I look at magazines like everyone else, but I usually get my inspiration from just keeping my eyes (and mind) open. There is never one place where all the ideas live (that would be too easy and boring). There is shape and texture all around us: in the buildings, shadows, clothing, plants, water, and it can all apply in some way or another to interior design if you let your imagination run wild. It’s fun and you need to break the rules.





Improvement is the motivation behind all remodels. How does your design improve a client’s experience in their home? How do you know you’ve provided a good design?

That’s a great question because the ultimate goal IS improvement on many levels. Just being new isn’t always an improvement: that is where good design comes in. Good design is a series of problem solving. I know I have been successful when my client is using a space they never used before, for longer periods of time and with ease. A space, no matter how small, should be comfortable and pleasing to occupy. A client’s experience in their home is very personal and no two are alike. I pride myself on asking the right questions, listening to the answers, and getting to the heart of what a client needs. Most clients don’t know what they need and it takes a while to dig deep to find the answers. The next step is execution (the design).




In an urban environment such as San Francisco, you’re often dealing with pre-existing structures. What are the greatest challenges creating a new design in an existing home?

Making the “new” integrate with the old is my goal. So often I see beautiful old homes with a new kitchen that looks like it landed there from another planet. It’s like plastic surgery: you don’t want your house to look like it’s been “overly done.”





As we live in them today, kitchens are often times the most important room in the house. They can also be the most complex and expensive rooms to remodel. How do you design a kitchen for the 21st century homeowner?

The same way I designed in the 20th century, I get to know the client and what they need. People can always tell me what they want, but I like to also find out what they NEED. I love designing kitchens for the very reason that they ARE the most important room in the house. The simplest details make all the difference, for example the height of the counter. If you are short, lowering the counter will make life easier on you. Making things easy to find and put away. I learn how all the people in the family use the kitchen.





Bathrooms can be simple and functional for one person or a place of retreat and spa for another. How do you approach bathroom design for each type of client? What are a few of your favorite elements to include in a bathroom?

Bathrooms have become very large over the years. It seems to be the only place one can really be alone and feel they have the right to lock the door to keep others out. I think for that reason the size and function of today’s bathrooms have grown. We now have huge tubs, spas, furniture, phone lines, and TVs in these spacious bathrooms.

I like to have a good tub in a bathroom. I may be old fashioned but I like the heavy cast iron types of tubs that really hold in the heat. Also, if you have the space, a tub that is long enough for the tallest member of the family to enjoy. I am not a fan of HUGE plastic tubs with jets and colored lights – nobody really utilizes them and they use way too much water. Also, slippery marble seems like an accident waiting to happen. People LOVE marble bathrooms but then cover those expensive floors with little rugs to prevent slipping.






Outside of kitchens & baths, what is your favorite living space to design? How do you make this space stand out?

I love to design living rooms. People often end up spending the least amount of time in these rooms and they become a space that is only used on “special” occasions. I like to design a room that is enjoyed everyday. I like a sofa that is long enough and comfortable enough to take a nap on. Nothing should be so precious that guests are afraid to use it. Sometimes correct lighting is the most important thing to make people want to use a room. I spend a lot of time figuring out what types of lighting are needed to make a living room (and all rooms) comfortable. Lighting IS everything.






In the San Francisco design community, are there any trends you hope to see disappear in the near future?

I would not miss the reclaimed/industrial/vintage/scrap metal look. It’s overdone and old news even for Restoration Hardware.


Thanks for chatting with us, Susan!

To see more interiors by Susan Schippmann Design, browse


 Read more interior design interviews here:

Q&A with Interior Designer, Marnie Wright

Q&A with Interior Designer, Barbara Scavullo