Destination design

A Venetian palazzo commands the coast of Sarasota, Fla., a commission by circus mogul John Ringling for Dwight James Baum of New York’s famed Fieldston mansions. The Cà d’Zan (House of John), brimming with Gothic aesthetic and ogival arches, recalled beloved memories of Ringling and wife Mable’s favorite canalled city.

It’s human nature that one’s home reflects elements of self, whether memories, achievements, possessions, predilections, or, in the case of interior designer Brittany Zachos, origin.

The recently local designer hails not far from Cà d’Zan herself and is armed with a bachelor of fine arts from Sarasota’s Ringling College of Art and Design. Graduates of the interior design program consistently take home the esteemed Angelo Donghia Foundation prize. And as the Ringlings transplanted a taste of Venice to Florida’s Gulf Coast, so this designer instills influences of her hometown’s beachfront chic in the Northeast.

The vibrant hues and contemporary lines of Brittany’s Zachos Design Group caught the eye of young Manhattan professionals while she was living in New York City before she, like many a client, took to the suburbs. She’s fresh-faced at 25 and, like her interiors, the picture of polish. Though young, she’s by no means green, dedicating herself to interior design for nearly 10 years and practicing for more than half a dozen. At 19, a European couple moving from Norway to Sarasota wired her $180,000 to furnish every detail of their 3,000-square-foot stateside abode from furniture to flatware.

Since hanging her designer hat just shy of two years ago in our snowy state – several clients snowbird to her hometown and yearn, like the Ringlings, for their own versions of waterfront paradise – Zachos has finished commercial and residential spaces in Armonk, Eastchester, Montrose, Mount Kisco, Pleasantville, Scarsdale and Stamford. She designed the interior of an Upper East Side children’s boutique and is currently working with Lighthouse Enterprises’ David Mann on the Apouvia condos in White Plains, set to debut in the spring. Her design of a Rye cottage particularly highlights her sunshiny Sarasota style – which happens to translate beautifully to lush Hampton-esque – incorporating ocean hues and bright pops of color in classic-chic comfort pieces.

“People think interior design is a luxury. I think it’s a necessity,” she says. “If people took the time to finish their homes and their workspaces, I think they would be happier.”

So WAG sat down with Brittany to gain her top tips on tasteful, functional, expressive and, of course, beautiful interiors.

Bright dollops

“Don’t be afraid to use bright colors or a lot of whites,” she says, especially in tighter, enclosed spaces. “At the cottage in Rye, there were only two little 3-foot windows and no French doors, so I wanted to brighten it up. I left the walls white and added little pops of yellow and blue to really highlight that.” Brittany says she gravitates toward blues and teals on the color wheel and reminds clients that adding hues to a room doesn’t mean it should look like a Dr. Seuss illustration. Instead, aim for balance. “Don’t go overboard thinking that if you want green, it has to be everywhere,” she says. “Try it on a lamp, in a rug or on a bookshelf.”

Mix it up

“I personally like to mix modern with traditional elements,” she says, which is also a favorite of clients. “I incorporate mid-century modern pieces once in a while to each room. Those are just timeless and they’re not going anywhere in the design world.” To refresh the classic cottage in Rye, she added geometric textiles instead of damask or paisley for a modern finish. “You can even put a geometric print on a fauteuils chair,” she says.

Don’t knock vanilla

Even neutrals can make a statement, Brittany advises all the ivory and tan lovers out there. “I think brown is also a big statement maker,” she says. “I did a living room with an espresso wall and floors, but the rest was neutral.” Plus, she adds, the nice thing about neutrals is they don’t have to match: “An all-white room really stands out, too, even different shades of white.”

Be yourself

“One woman I worked with was from South Africa, so she loves the vibrant oranges and mustards and deep, deep espressos,” she says. “That’s her culture and what she’s used to.” For another client’s office space, Brittany found inspiration in his fashion choices – particularly a crisp plaid shirt. “He wants it relaxed, but polished because it’s his business,” she says. “So I came up with a mid-century modern design for him. The plaid shirt inspired a plaid-type strip flooring and he loves it.”

Smooth and coarse

“Mix in linens like burlaps – those natural fibers that are unexpected,” she says. “It’s so much colder here, I think naturally you go toward rich fabrics like chenille and velvets.” And fear not the union of woods and mixed metals, especially today’s trendy antique brass. “You could use a brass table and pair that with a deep espresso end table, or even a bronze lamp,” she suggests.

Get functional

“The biggest mistake with homeowners is that they don’t understand the functionality of their home,” Brittany says. In home and work spaces, this most important element of interiors – decisions like selecting the right storage pieces for small spaces or facing desks against a window versus a wall – dictates everything from mood to efficiency. For corporate clients, consider employees’ needs first to maximize productivity. For retail clients, consider brand first. (Who ever passed an Anthropologie and for a moment wondered where they were?)

Stick to a floor plan

Of anyone, Brittany gets the thrill of furniture selection. So if people opt to choose furnishings on their own, at the very least call in an interior designer to work out the floor plan. “A lot of times, homeowners will fall in love with a piece and bring it home, but it doesn’t work,” she says. “They’ve invested all that money and they’re stuck with it. Then I get called to fix it.” To avoid a shot in the dark – plus a potential waste of time and money – determine with a pro the piece’s relationship with the rest of the room.


“It’s like Coco Chanel said, ‘When accessorizing, always take off the last thing you put on,’” Brittany reminds. And, yes, interior design is not too far from fashion. “You need that one pop of color and maybe even a statement piece,” she adds, suggesting options from Jonathan Adler and Restoration Hardware for its rustic modern spin. “You may not need a new sofa, maybe just refresh with new lamps. Or keep the lamp base neutral and change out the shades.”

Limit modern

“I don’t go super modern,” she says. “It’s not cozy.” Though sophistication is key, so is livability. “It’s about having your family there and enjoying the space – not just looking at it,” Brittany adds. Count on design experts to nail down the fabrics and finishes that are right for your friends and family – even kiddos straight from the outdoors. Because nothing says a waste of space like a sumptuous sofa nary sat upon.

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