Marjorie Skouras has been fascinated by Mexico for almost 50 years. Having studied pre-Columbian art at UCLA, she’s long been inspired by the cultures and colors of the country. She moved to Merida in 2017 and began the process of restoring a colonial home, which in turn led to the creation of a dream studio. Today, the space houses her chic line of home products, including her renowned lighting, mirrors, accessories, and more, as well as a showroom for her collection of vintage Mexican fashions.
We spoke with Skouras about the renovation and her fascinating life in Mexico, including how she sources her richly hued natural materials. See what she had to say, and be sure to shop her pieces on Chairish as well as a selection of all her Chairish favorites.
What’s your guiding design philosophy? Has it evolved over time, and if so, how?
My primary design philosophy is understanding, never assumption, and that great design should delight. My philosophy has not changed during the 21 years that I have been in business, but has evolved in that my experiences as a maker have allowed me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the other artisans I work with. I also believe that children and dogs should be allowed on everything!
You moved to Merida in 2017, and spent your first year renovating and restoring a home and creating your showroom. What was the biggest surprise in that process? And the biggest challenge?
The biggest surprise was how fabulous the craftsmen are here in Merida. The resources which I was able to access in the restoration of the house were stupendous, from paint restoration specialists to the masons and ebonists. In fact, the painter who restored all of the original historic stencils was working with us for a year. The creation of a showroom came as a surprise as well… I had no plan to have a showroom, just a studio, but when the beautiful colonial house directly across the street became available, there was so much space that it seemed like a fun venture. It has since evolved into a showroom for my collection of over 200 vintage Mexican dresses from the 1960s and 1970s — that was the real surprise! And the challenges were minimal, but my Spanish certainly improved during the process.
What’s something you’d want someone who’s never been to Merida to know about it? What drew you to living there full time?
How elegant it is… it is like stepping back in time in terms of the pace and enjoyment of life. Also, the incredibly lovely architecture — I can never go back to ceilings under 18 feet!
My primary design philosophy is understanding, never assumption, and that great design should delight… I also believe that children and dogs should be allowed on everything!Marjorie Skouras
I had some very supportive and collaborative clients when I opened my studio, and I was finding holes in the marketplace for pieces that we were looking for, so we started to design pieces and source unusual materials. I had a friend, a Mexican jewelry designer, whose pieces I had collected for years. I had seen some vintage hardware which was filled with semi-precious stones, and I was looking for a source for the stones. My friend generously shared one of her nearby sources with me, and when I went there for the first time, I sat on the floor for hours going through the boxes and trays; it was absolutely thrilling! The first pieces of lighting were a result of that visit: the Red Coral Chandelier and my Turquoise Empire Chandelier. The reaction was so great that I started to develop new pieces very quickly, and the line was picked up by wonderful to-the-trade showrooms across the country.
You’re very specific about the materials you use to create your products, especially when it comes to stones like quartz, malachite, turquoise beads, and agate. How are these sourced, and how do you decide what to use?
I have very established relationships with both stone brokers and artisans in several countries with whom I work, and I have been doing business with my original source for 20 years. I have travelled to China, India, Mexico, and many places in the United States sourcing materials. Quite often, my design process initiates with the discovery of a new material.
Are there any dream products you’d still love to develop?
There always will be… right now, I am enthralled with the new artisans with whom I am working in the Yucatan here in Mexico. We are developing some hew pieces with master carvers, as well as talented blacksmiths, which also incorporate my love for semi-precious stones. There is also my long-term relationship with Currey & Co., with whom I have been working for the past decade. We just presented our new collection, which is based on my enormous inspirations over the past several years in the Yucatan. This affords me another outlet for design possibilities using different materials and techniques, which is great fun.
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping…
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
I find the aesthetic and curation to be very compelling, as well as the terrific customer service.
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
With regard to my products, sustainability plays a large part in my choice of material, as does the choice of the vendors and artisans. And my love of vintage goes back to my high school years in San Francisco. I love shopping for vintage and antique pieces not only for myself, but for my clients as well. There is a richness that comes with items designed and made in the past, and it is a way to keep past design alive and present.
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have? What’s a dream piece for you?
Table Monogold by Yves Klein
What are three of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
My love of vintage goes back to my high school years in San Francisco. I love shopping for vintage and antique pieces not only for myself, but for my clients as well. There is a richness that comes with items designed and made in the past, and it is a way to keep past design alive and present.Marjorie Skouras
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
A spectacular chandelier
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
Vibrant paint colors
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
My 1971 Mercedes Benz 280SL
Favorite paint color:
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
My oyster bar
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Favorite style icon:
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
JF Chen in Los Angeles
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
Everything is possible if you work for it.
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination (the next time travel becomes an option):
Istanbul and sailing the islands off the Turkish Coast
Swan Oyster Depot on Polk Street in San Francisco
Favorite small museum:
Musée de la Chasse in Paris
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
Homemade sour orange marmalade from the trees at our ranch
Passion fruit flower
Favorite way to unwind at home:
Favorite entertaining essential: