Home & Design

European Elegance

By Heather Senison - September 20, 2019

Elsa Soyars is bringing a European approach to home décor on the East End. Having grown up in Portugal, “I’m used to seeing castles,” the interior designer says with a slight accent from her native tongue. “I go through a creative process,” she continues. “I get inspired by many different things.” 

Her continued travels across the pond, to places like France and Italy, and around the United States to California, provide inspiration on colors, textures and cultures. “I would interpret my style as chic, elegant, timeless, sexy at times – not boring,” she explains. “I like to push the envelope.”

That being said, like many in her trade, her clients’ visions for their spaces take priority, with Soyars there to encourage and help, and sometimes veto unwise decisions. Her opinions are welcomed, she says, since in the end, customers are paying to hear them. “I love when people have some things that we can work with, something that has sentimental value,” Soyars notes. “I want my client’s imprint in a home, but sometimes it’s not good and I’m going to be honest.” 

In addition to residential clients, Soyars is also deeply involved in the new-build scene. She works with developers on spec homes, by collaborating with architects at the start of projects and staying on board all the way to staging houses for showings to potential buyers. Staging, she says, is a science in itself, and can help even the most unsightly property look attractive on the market. She even keeps a storage unit of art, furniture and other décor in a secret location to draw from if builders want to rent pieces from her or if she needs furnishings to work with. “You can do wonders with staging,” she says. “It’s an illusion – it creates a story.” 

A key element to her aesthetic is keeping rooms neat and orderly. Trinket-hoarding is something she’s noticed more in American households, but messiness can cause stress and confusion, and can be bad for your overall health, Soyars says. In fact, straightening up her childhood farmhouse was her hobby as a child, she recalls, and was her first foray into interior design. Rather than playing with dolls and games, she remembers rearranging furniture and cleaning off surfaces. “Housekeeping is a huge thing in design,” she says. “It’s all about well-being and not living in clutter. It’s about living your best life.” 

Because artists do need an outlet for their full creative expression, Soyars participated in this summer’s Holiday Showhouse in Water Mill, which ran from June 23 to August 4. The event is held nearly every year to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It features roughly 20 designers, each of whom presents in a different section of a home. This year’s was located in a 12,527-square-foot spec house in Water Mill, currently listed with Dawn and Frank Bodenchak of Sotheby’s International Realty for $10,995,000. 

Together with Manhattan-based luxury furniture company Cliff Young, Soyars took on its master suite. “It’s really the most incredible room because it’s all my favorite things and this was all about me,” she says. And though showhouse events do help designers find new clients, Soyars’ main attraction to them is the opportunity to help bring awareness to a cause. “It’s important that in life that we give back without expectation,” she says. 

Soyars chose a nomadic and tribal theme for her space in the showhouse, furnishing it with her personal artwork collection, including a massive photo of a woman in Africa, and a wallpaper made of burlap and formica. On a recent trip to North Carolina, the designer came across a line of lamp sconces made out of linen that resembles horsehair, so she brought in a few of those too. “We wanted to create a room that was sophisticated but still approachable,” she explains. “A few of the pieces are from Italy, so we wanted to make sure it’s not super modern. We wanted it to be beachy.”

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