Photo by Rick Chaffiotte Photography.
Interior Designer Marissa Stokes aims for designs that are classic and timeless. And says don’t overlook the ceiling.
For designer Marissa Stokes, home has been a variety of places. Home was growing up in New Jersey, where creative parents and a need for change led to an intense love for interior design at a young age. Home was also New York, where she earned a degree from Parsons School of Design and worked her first jobs at elite design firms, including David Kleinberg Design Associates, Victoria Hagan Interiors and Jayne Design Studio. And now as an accomplished designer, home is more than just a place — it’s every threshold she passes, every piece of furniture she chooses, every decision she makes in order to help craft the perfect space for her clients. We spoke with Stokes about her experiences in the industry and how her love of interior design has transformed her career so far.
How do you think living in New York affected your design style and preferences?
You’re just exposed to so many amazing things, being in and around New York City. The architecture alone, having incredible museums at your fingertips. I also went to school in NYC; I think that was an incredible experience, but also had a huge influence on my design aesthetic, just having everything at your fingertips, between different cultures, food, architecture. I feel fortunate to have lived there and so close to there still now. I love New York City.
When was the first time that you ever thought about working in design?
I really have always wanted to be an interior designer from a very young age.… I think it’s because my parents are both very creative people, always doing things to improve our home.… My dad made furniture, we even had a woodshop in our basement. I just had this love for transforming spaces and the process, and I just fell into it very naturally.
Did you learn wood craftsmanship yourself?
Yes! I had all the tools at my fingertips in the shop, and I am still able to use them now, a bandsaw, a tablesaw, et cetera. We also had a sewing machine, so I grew up sewing at a young age — we’d be making window treatments and pillows. I was always transforming my personal space, shifting things around, changing them or painting them. Making them look different. It was just something I always loved to do, and still love it.
A bright living room situated in an Upper East Side apartment.
The corner of a library in a Montana lodge.
A Mediterranean Revival home on the Intracoastal in Palm Beach.
Why do you do what you do, what about art and design draws you into doing it every day?
I love making people’s dreams come true. There’s something so rewarding about helping a client transform their space so it’s not only functional, but beautiful. In terms of art and design, there’s so many artists and creatives out there who are doing incredible work, and I’m being exposed to them, just learning and growing. It’s another reason why I love what I do. Every day is different and I just love that.
Are there any activities outside of work that help inspire you or your work?
Outside of work, I’m always trying to get out in nature, go for a walk or hike — nature is always inspiring. I feel like I can always pull things from that. I love to travel as well, even though it’s been a bit difficult to do so.
Where’s somewhere you love or would love to go?
My dream place I’d love to go is Greece. It really offers everything. It has ancient and historical sights, of course, but also beautiful landscapes and amazing food.
What has been your favorite project to do?
I worked on a project for Jayne Design Studio in Palm Beach. It was my first project as a senior designer for the firm. It’s a Venetian-inspired home on the Intracoastal. The clients were art collectors who wanted to enjoy the views and display their art. We designed and decorated a home that was quiet, clean and sophisticated to balance their collection and the architecture. I loved the home, its location and the clients. I will always have a soft spot for it.
When it comes to designing, what is the most important element you have to remember?
Well one thing that tends to be overlooked, I think, is the ceiling. It’s very important to design from top to bottom, to think about ceiling work, a lighting plan, and overall how it’s treated and how it affects the space.
Is there a piece of art in your own home that you would never consider selling?
Everything is here for a reason, so not one specific piece.
It’s always important to surround yourself with things you love, even if it’s a bit eclectic, surround yourself with furniture and art that you love. When you do that, things just kind of work together. There’s no standard.
What do you want people to take away when they look at your work?
I want people to find it classic and timeless, something that could last forever. I don’t want someone to walk into a space and instantly date it. I want the clients to be comfortable in their home for a long time. Keep things sophisticated.
What advice would you give to someone going into design?
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves, you have to wear a lot of hats in this industry. Maybe start with an internship, but, all in all, do whatever you need to do to learn.
At left: A cozy breakfast room nook with a custom-designed banquette. Photo by Aaron Thompson.
Above: An outdoor terrace overlooks Dutchess County. Photo by Aaron Thompson.