I walk in a room, and I immediately know where all the furniture should go,” says designer Susan Zises Green. That instinct can emerge spontaneously. It did years ago in Vero Beach, Florida, when her friends took her to see a potential vacation abode in Windsor, the oceanfront planned community created to encourage connectivity among its structures and residents. “It was divinely beautiful, but it was too big for a single person,” the designer recalls. Besides, she already owned a home she adored in the neighborhood.
While the large house sat empty for years, Zises Green’s smaller residence was increasingly becoming less suited for visits from family members, even with a guesthouse on the grounds. “Then my son said to me, ‘Mom, we’re a family; we should be under one roof,’ ” she recalls. Heeding his advice, she bought the other property, which turned out to be a serendipitous fit from the start. “When I moved all my furniture in, it didn’t seem big—it seemed cozy, homey, inviting and wonderful,” the designer says. The layout is partly to thank: One staircase leads to the master suite, and another goes to the guest quarters, creating a sense of privacy for the owner.
Though the structure was completed in recent years, the interior is full of history because Zises Green holds onto every furnishing she’s ever bought. “I think I’ve sold only two things in my life: a portrait and an ottoman,” she notes. “I buy only pieces I love.” To keep things interesting, the designer rotates furniture from house to house—she also has one in Nantucket and one in New York—or puts items in storage along with inventory from her client shopping trips. “I learned early on that if I see something fabulous, I should buy it and put it away so I can always give clients something magical,” says Zises Green, who keeps on top of it all with a copious database.
Standouts from the designer’s collection make encore appearances in Vero Beach. From her first house, in Woodstock, New York, a pair of cabinets with carved-wood frame mirrors that sat in storage for 20 years now reside in the living room—exactly where she envisioned them several years before. From the same house is an enormous antique English cabinet that had been locked away for two decades. “I had the perfect spot for it in the kitchen sitting area,” Zises Green says. It takes up much of one wall, doing double duty as an elegant hideaway space for books, games and extra crockery as well as a memento of another time. Memories are layered elsewhere, too: In the foyer is a wooden bench with brown upholstery purchased from the legendary late New York antiques dealer J. Garvin Mecking. “He had the most incredible furniture,” the designer recalls.
To bring a fresh attitude, as well as unify all the furnishings in their new conversations with each other, Zises Green reupholsters everything. In the light-filled living room, she skillfully blends vibrant color and intricate motifs, harmonizing multiple seating areas through bright yellow and cream ticking upholstery as well as boldly patterned yellow- and rose-colored pillows. It’s ideal for entertaining, yet even when she’s alone, “I sit in this room all the time,” the designer says. “It’s spirited and happy.”
A guest room likewise shows off a masterful mélange. A metal canopy bed goes without draperies, highlighting the sculptural quality of the curved frame. Only a pro can put together a coral carpet and apple green curtains, contrast them with black and white bed linens, and triumph. Zises Green did just that, adding a historic oil portrait of the Duke of Wellington for good measure. The pieces themselves are traditional, but the overall effect is vivaciously modern. In another guest room, beyond the expansive loggia, the off-white walls were not quite right, but the designer couldn’t put her finger on a new hue. Here, her sixth sense prevailed, this time in the form of a dream. “It had to be green, a mossy swampy green, and it looks wonderful,” she says.
With its plentiful guest rooms and gathering spaces, the designer’s new home easily accommodates visiting family. “It’s a house filled with love and joy,” Zises Green says. The feeling remains even when she has the abode to herself thanks to the savvy strategy she regularly conveys to clients: “I never ask them to buy something they don’t love. I tell them, ‘Whatever you buy with me, you’ll have forever.’ ”