Designer Crush: Susan Skornicka Designs & Construction


Susan Skornicka’s design sensibilities come not just from her love for all things beautiful but from her family’s long lineage of builders. With over twenty years of experience she has focused her approach to construct spaces that immerse the clients in luxury and beauty while remaining connected to nature. Based in Ross, she works with her two daughters Maia and Lily to realize high-functioning, fantastic spaces throughout the Bay Area. Here, we learn more about her work, her life and her love of California.

The designer captured by photographer Sophia Studio.

-How did you get your start in building and design? I started my design business over 20 years ago, after having my children and realizing the true meaning of creating a home for my family. When my daughters left for school, I began working for friends and neighbors which parlayed into formally creating my design business.  A few years later, I became a general contractor which felt natural since I come from a long line of builders.

I’ve always been passionate about setting up a home and the creative process that it involves. My first career as a teacher and administrator set the foundation of my approach to design which is about fully enjoying the process alongside others that hold a unified vision for the projects. I surround myself with a team of artisans and craftspeople who operate with integrity and all infuse their talent, energy and ideas to realize the vision together. As early on as my first project, I came to understand that all parts of the home being connected is integral to creating harmony and peace. With that intention, my projects often include full build and design from the ground up.

-What does creating sacred and sustainable spaces mean to you and why is it important to your firm? Deeply inspired by nature, I design homes that have a seamless connection from both the inside and outside while creating a natural flow throughout. I want the home to be lighted-filled and spacious and inspire living at our highest potential. Sacred means something different to every person, so in addition to connecting to nature, spiritual elements that have meaning to the people who live in the homes are brought in to help them feel calm and fill the home with radiant energy. I believe that every part of the home is woven together to create a sanctuary, and a piece of art that didn’t exist in the world before.

To me, sustainability is founded in honoring the land and surroundings of the home, and allowing it to evolve naturally with those who live in it. I aim to design homes that are as self sustainable as possible. For example, we recently completed a project in Stinson Beach that is 95% off the grid. We choose long-lasting, high-quality, natural and organic materials that complement the beauty around it. We take a timeless approach to design, avoiding trends, so that the home has room to change and grow over time, and the spirit to flourish with it.

Photo by Sophia Studio.

-How does living in Northern California inspire your work? In Northern California, we are surrounded by awe-inspiring sights, sound and scents. I’m in love with the flora and fauna along our coast, with a deep affection for our native plants, flowers and trees. The colors and sound of the ocean also deeply move me and show up in my designs. And we have the majestic Mount Tam here in Marin that anchors us, such a powerful force that I honor in my work. Living amongst this level of beauty inspires me every day.  I come from Michigan where indoor/outdoor living isn’t available to experience regularly. California is a magical wonderland of possibilities to connect with the beauty and spirit of nature year-round.

Photo by Adam Potts.

-Which other designers (or creatives) inspired your career the most? My earliest influence was definitely Frank Lloyd Wright. For Wright, a truly organic building developed from within, and thus was in harmony with its time, place, and inhabitants. “In organic architecture then, it is quite impossible to consider the building as one thing, its furnishings another and its setting and environment still another,” he concluded. “The spirit in which these buildings are conceived sees all these together at work as one thing.”

To that end, he was part of everything from start to finish, from creating the architecture plans, to choosing and placing art for the home because he had a very specific vision for each space. I admire everything about his approach. Currently I’m inspired by Christian Douglas, a charming, British/Californian food forward landscape designer. Christian sees food as the centerpiece to outdoor design and living. We are collaborating together to integrate food into stunning outdoor spaces that nourish in every way.

Finally, I have to mention Athena Calderone who is an advocate for living beautifully in all the ways— home, food, art, family, life!  Her designs are gorgeous, natural and light filled. I pour over her books, Live Beautiful and Cook Beautiful.  I aspire to live a life and create homes that are filled with “perfectly imperfect beauty”, heart and meaning.

Photo by Sophia Studio.


-Favorite design book? House as Mirror of Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home by Claire Cooper Marcus, it is an inspiration for creating homes that are a reflection and expression of ourselves.

Must-have morning or night essential? Rose Oil from Bulgaria.  Roses carry the highest vibration of any flowers and Bulgarian roses are known to be the best, according to my Bulgarian partner.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be? A garden artist working with schools, like Alice Waters does with food!  I’d teach the kids how to create gardens and floral arrangements, as sacred offerings of beauty and joy.

Photos by Adam Potts.

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