Five Favorite Finds: A Visit with Susan Robinson

I spent Saturday morning exploring my friend Susan Robinson’s very stylish home, and after a fun visit and a photo shoot of well over 100 pictures, I stepped away from the experience knowing—with perfect certainty—that I had just spent time in the most beautiful bedroom I will ever see.   As I type this, I’m in my own bedroom, which wilts pitifully in the shade of Susan’s by comparison.  My master bedroom suite is not yet decorated (that’s on my list for 2018), and I can’t imagine a better source of inspiration as I sort through my own ideas of what my bedroom should be.  This post is supposed to feature Susan’s favorite antiques, and I will get to them.  But memories of that bedroom have hijacked my attention.  She described it as “peach,” and it is.  But it’s salmon, too, which is a color that I didn’t know I liked, with accents of lime green, rose, brown, and white.   The colors leave an indelible imprint on my memory, but so do the pieces she has selected for placement just so throughout the room.  A chalky screen in the corner, dramatic prints on the walls, the surprise of a scrolled garden bench beneath the window, the long and fluid salmon panels at the windows…sigh.

A mannequin on display in Susan’s bedroom. I love, love, LOVE the colors.
Susan’s bedroom.   I’ve been straining to find the right word to describe it.  I think it’s finally come to me:  ethereal.

I’ve known Susan for years—decades, actually.  She was one of the first people I met when I moved to Kansas City, and, probably without even knowing it, she helped to shape the career in training and development I would build over the many years that followed.  Most of what I know about my field I learned from Susan; I can’t imagine what my professional life would have been had our paths not crossed!  But these days our conversations reflect our shared interests in things like antiques, books, good food, and travel.  Travel happens to be Susan’s passion, and you sense that her decorating choices have been formed by a desire to recreate treasured memories of the many spectacular places she has visited around the world.  European influences are obvious; you can see subtle—and not so subtle—allusions to France, England, Scotland, and Italy throughout her home.

Her decorating aesthetic has evolved over the last few years, as she has worked on redesigning her home one room at a time.  A major life change triggered this transformation.  A few years ago her husband passed away after a long illness.  “I decided at that point that I was going to be living a different kind of life from then on, so I wanted my house to reflect the things that I loved,” she explained.

So…as we reluctantly tear ourselves away from Susan’s bedroom, let’s take it from the top and step through her front door.

Susan’s dramatic front door. These windows were custom made.
Detail of the window and a coat rack.

Susan has a penchant for glass: windows, crystal, and mirrors.  When you approach her front stoop you’re met with a stunning prismatic entry.  The windows along the sides and the top of her door were custom made.  She has a similar window in her kitchen, which had been custom made  for her previous home.  For the kitchen she had two panels welded together to create a single window.

A detail of the window in Susan’s kitchen. The two narrow panels were once placed at the sides of the door to her previous home. They were welded together to form one window in her present home.
The living room. This picture doesn’t do the room justice. I had some trouble with the lighting in here, so I couldn’t get a good shot of the entire room. So beautiful! I especially love the glass pendant light above the fireplace. Notice the painted scrollwork near the ceiling.
Cherished family photos arranged in a vintage-inspired vignette.
The dining room. I love the light in this room. The things dangling from the ceiling are from her chandelier. Susan’s home is decorated both vertically and horizontally. You have to look up to appreciate the full effect!
Susan Robinson in her dining room.

Susan’s Five Favorite Finds

Susan has been collecting antiques for years.  Some of the items in her collection are family heirlooms, others are finds discovered at antique shops both here and abroad.  I asked her if she would pick out her five favorite finds and tell me the stories behind them.  What follows are her selections.

Favorite Find #1: Reclaimed leaded glass barn door. I had heard about this door; I saw it for the first time today, and I literally stopped breathing. Susan picked up this broken wreck of a glass panel (left) for $18 at an estate sale. She wanted a barn door to divide her bathroom from her bedroom, and had been looking for something “unique.” When she saw this glass, she knew she had found it. She had the glass restored, and the blue glass was replaced by light peach panes. This was a delicate project, but the finished product is a stunner.
Another view of the glass barn door.
Favorite Find #2: 1920s Brooch. Handmade in Germany by Marena, this 18k gold piece contains mother-of-pearl triangles, seed pearls, and Austrian crystals. Purchased at a neighborhood garage sale, Susan paid $25 for this. No, that is not a typing error. $25. She did some research on it and found that it’s worth about $250. Hello, Antiques Roadshow!  By the way, the pillow we pinned this to is MY favorite find at Susan’s house; it’s made from her wedding dress and veil.  
Detail of the brooch. Gasp. I want to wear this!
Favorite Find #3: Child’s dinner plate. Susan had a plate exactly like this when she was a little girl. When she saw this at a local antiques shop, she recognized it immediately and had to have it. “I hadn’t seen this plate since I was five years old,” she said. This plate is in mint condition. So cute!
Favorite Find #4: Crystal decanter collection. Did I mention that Susan loves glass and sparkle? Well, here’s another example. She’s been collecting decanters for about 10 years. “I had some crystal that had been passed down to me from my family, ” she said, “and I was always attracted to it. I just gradually started adding pieces.”
Favorite Find #5: English platter. Susan just returned from England, but, surprisingly, this piece, which was made in England, was actually purchased at a local antiques shop. “The design was so unique. It really appealed to me,” she said.

When you traipse through a person’s home, camera in hand, looking at their world close up, you learn a lot about them.  Sometimes you learn things about yourself, too.  Here’s what I learned from Susan’s house:

  • I like peach!
  • I tend to decorate too low, at eye-level or below.  Susan’s house is so striking because her placement of vignettes guide your eye up to the ceiling and back down again.
  • Sometimes more is more, especially when it comes to glass. 

A very special thanks to Susan Robinson for letting me invade her home and also for her very kind invitation to “feel free to move things around, if you need to.”

Until next time…

Jennifer Passariello


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