15 Minutes with: Sue Fan, Do/Inhabit Writer
First things first. Tell us about yourself!
I’m a photographer, artist, stylist, consultant, and wanderer. I was born in Hong Kong and have been living in the States for most of my life - on both coasts. I love all things wild. I like exploring, walking, climbing, tasting, trying, sharing, and growing.
What did you enjoy most about writing Do/Inhabit?
The process. Shooting and sourcing the photos, writing down what we think is important to making a house a home, and sharing memories. Honestly, it was hard, and we never knew how it would unfold completely. It was lovely to watch it come to life.
In the book you talk about your passion for baskets, copper and books, how would you describe your interior style?
Just that, I think. I love all things old, handmade. I love textures and textiles. I think every home should feel warm and cosy and welcoming. I look at every corner and in every drawer and on top of every ledge - and I care about them. I think giving old things and artisanal things new life is a beautiful, unique, and quite sustainable way to live and share. If there’s a story behind it, I’m probably going to love it.
We absolutely adore your styling suggestions in the book; they all have such a “homely” feeling about them. Where do you get your inspiration?
From the earth, really. There’s so much beauty and inspiration in the outdoors. Look at how wildflowers grow, the shapes of leaves and trees, the colors of sunsets and sunrises. It’s all there for the taking - for as long as we take care of this planet.
The book has a whole chapter dedicated to nature, what do you enjoy most about “bringing the outside in”?
When a space is styled with plants, and sticks, and rocks, and natural materials, it brings with it an organic feel. It makes us calmer, it makes us pay attention to details, it feels balanced, it makes the air fresher, and we find how much beauty exists in simple things. Foraging is a relatively cheap way to shop, and is priceless in what it adds.
We love the story behind the hand-forged feather that sits on your desk, could you tell us about another piece in your home that has a similar level of sentimentality?
There is a gorgeous antler that comes with me to each place I move. A friend’s mother found it in the woods of Colorado and mailed it to me. She said she thought it would be something I would like. It’s a simple gesture, but really, I think it’s quite grand. She went for a walk, and thought of me. That alone is beautiful. The antler would have looked just as stunning in her home, but she was willing to share it with me. Kindness comes in many forms. This is one of my favorites.
What are some of your favourite home accessories to buy?
I have a weakness for old kitchen bits - glass bottles and jars, pottery, baskets, cutting boards and wooden spoons, enamelware. I think most of my shopping is done for my tiny kitchens (they’re almost always tiny). But I cook and host and preserve a lot, and so while I’m more of a minimalist in other rooms, definitely not in the kitchen.
If you could only shop at one interiors store where would it be and why?
A thrift store. You never know what you’ll find and when you do stumble upon something amazing, it feels like you won a treasure hunt. The price is right, and it’s sustainable.
Every year you transform a Welsh barn into a space to host the Do Lectures, what is your favourite part about this process?
Creating an experience. In the end, we are experience designers. We work to make this amazing place and event one that makes every sense come to life. The speakers, the food, the space, the ambience all feed each other and everyone who attends. It’s magic.
What are you most looking forward to this autumn/winter?
I just moved back to the east coast, so I can’t wait to watch the leaves change in the autumn and for the air to crisp. Winter is my favorite season. I love when the snow begins to fall and will make time for mountains and evergreens and wood stoves and cold adventures. My dogs whimper when they see snow. I’m sure it’s partly them picking up on my energy, but it brings me great joy, nonetheless. I love living in tiny places in vast spaces best. And if there’s snow: heaven.
If I could live anywhere it would be... Anywhere else (I love an adventure and a challenge)!
My idol/person I look up to the most is... This one is hard. There are some brilliant human beings out there I strive to learn and grow from daily. Anyone who lives a beautiful life of giving, humanity, love, equality, anyone who lives and loves the land, inspires, works, and tries; Melinda Gates, Michelle Obama, Maggie Doyne, Gloria Steinem, Yves Chouinard, David and Clare Hieatt, Giles Duley, Ai WeiWei... The list is long.
My ideal day would be spent... in the wild.
The best purchase I’ve ever made... a plane ticket to Wales to work at The Do Lectures. As far as interiors goes, I have a beautiful vintage medieval folding chair. It’s such good design and is ridiculously comfortable with a sheepskin (gifted by my aunt) draped over it.
I am happiest when... walking in the wild with my animals.
My pet peeve is... waste (plastics, styrofoam, spoiled food, etc.).
My favourite book is... also impossible, but I do love The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher and The Selby is in Your Place by Todd Selby
Favourite movie... Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amélie
I couldn’t live without... greenery.
If I could only eat one meal for the next year it would be... a noodle stir fry with whatever is growing in the garden.