Tastemaker Tuesday – Willem Stear

We’re absolutely thrilled to have an opportunity to share the latest Tastemaker in our Tastemaker Tuesday blog series with you! Willem Stear, of Tonic Design Studio, has so graciously agreed to let us pick his brain and ask him those questions we’re so anxious to learn his responses to… With a distinctive eye for international style, Willem Stear’s designs have been something of a vacation for our senses and we’re excited for you all to be able to experience this as well through this installment of our Tastemaker Tuesday series on the blog for steve mckenzie’s:

Willem Stear
Willem Stear

Born in South Africa, Willem Stear, owner of Tonic Design Studio, studied at the Calder School of Interior Design in Johannesburg after which he worked with several well-established South African designers. Prior to relocating to the US in 2008, Willem worked on projects in London, Paris, Switzerland, Israel, Dubai, Boston MA, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Since working in the US, he has successfully completed projects in Atlanta, San Francisco and Healdsburg (Sonoma, CA).

Blending classic and contemporary styles, Tonic Design Studio features European and African design influences to create an eclectic mix. A unique atmosphere that compliments the client is created by juxtaposing the rough and the smooth, the grand and the humble, the high-tech and the handmade.Tonic Design Studio brings a fresh, energetic approach to a traditional sense of luxury. Color, texture and form blend to create a comfortable sense of elegance, seamlessly balancing function and style.

1. What are three words that describe your aesthetic?

Eclectic, Comfortable, Timeless

photo 1 (8)

2. Would you please share a little about your favorite space/project to date?

I’m currently in the process of renovating/restoring my home, which is a 1970’s modern in Buckhead. Designed and built by Joseph Amisano, who was a well known Atlanta architect (Toombs Amisano Wells), who designed the original Fernbank building, Peachtree MARTA station and the original Lenox Square (now Lenox Mall). The home was built for him and his family and is a fantastic example of modern architecture. Designing for myself is both exciting and a challenge, but I know that eventually the outcome will be spectacular.

3. What’s the source of your inspiration?

Really anything inspires me. Food, art, music – something as simple as a photograph or piece of fabric. Inspiration is everywhere!

4. Name three people (alive or dead) you’d invite to your dream dinner party…

Wow, that’s a tough one. Frank Lloyd Wright because he was a genius way ahead of his time, and would make for great dinner conversation. Meryl Streep just because she seems like a fun person to have a cocktail with and I adore her. Martha Stewart can make us dinner!

Chloe Bear & Leo Lover
Chloe Bear & Leo Lover

5. What’s a piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?

My dogs, Chole Bear and Leo Lover. Technically they’re not furniture, but Leo weighs as much as a sofa!


6. Do you follow a particular set of rules when mixing textures, finishes, etc. – how do they work for you?

I never try to match anything. I try to create tension and something a little unexpected. Mixing old with new, sophisticated with organic. It’s all about how it feels.
7. Trending… What is something you are currently “into” and something you are “over?”

I’m into beautiful, organic furniture like live edge tables, or tree root table bases and hand carved wooden stools. These pieces mixed with very sleek, streamlined items gives a very sophisticated look.

I’m over cookie cutter interiors with no soul or depth.

8. How does artwork fit into your designs?

Artwork is the most important part of a design. It elevates a space. That said, art is very subjective and is a real representation of the owner’s personality. 

9. What would be the one thing you would have if you were stranded on a deserted island?

Just one? I would have to have my iPod and maybe a case of good champagne. If I’m going to be stranded, I’d at least want to have a party!


10. Please share a piece of advice you’d offer to someone looking to break into the interior design industry…

Be passionate – love what you do! Get involved in the design community. Networking and personal relationships are just as, if not more, important than a good education.

Ahhhh… Now you see what we mean when we talk about an international flare through interior design?!? A vacation for the senses indeed. Many thanks to Willem for his candid responses – we’ve loved learning more about you and your work!

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