Meet The ASPIRE HOUSE McLean 2020 Designers: An Exclusive Interview With Nestor Santa-Cruz

“Great design must have a soul,” says Nestor Santa-Cruz, who is designing A Library for the Soul at the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean 2020 Show House. “It must be physically and visually comfortable, and now more than ever, calming, yet with a sense of elegance, timelessness, and always have surprise moments —the unexpected.” Read more about the inspiration behind Nestor’s Library in an exclusive interview with Sherry Moeller.

Nestor Santa-Cruz’s A Library for the Soul in the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean Show House. Watercolor by Dariush Watercolors

Sherry Moeller: Describe your room at the show house. How did you come up with the concept and what’s the backstory?
Nestor Santa-Cruz: My room at ASPIRE HOUSE McLean is A Library for the Soul. For this library, with its great proportions and generous windows, I set out to enhance the minimalism and simplicity of what I was given. The black-stained wall paneling offset by a light ash floor established a starting point that could be characterized as a “black box,” an architectural volume that I see as an asset. But instead of creating what is expected – a library of books, I envisioned a library for the soul: a collection of art, sculptures, and iconic modern furniture pieces, full of intriguing textures and thought-provoking forms.

My work is always referential, and this room combines some my favorite design inspirations, including the work of Jean-Michel Frank, the organic craftsmanship of Scandinavian design, French Art Deco, Neoclassicism, and modern art. The Library is thus serene and elegant while espousing a sense of whimsy; its essential nature is timeless.

I love designing rooms and believe that memorable rooms have a clear design philosophy that transcends individual styles. As such, designing a room is a very engaging process, both intellectually and emotionally. It requires the designer to carefully manipulate the assets—or lack of assets—to balance physical and visual comfort. It requires the designer to craft a moment unto itself. By this I mean that solving the need for functionality is not enough; the design must have a narrative and its own persona.

Nestor Santa-Cruz designed this living room at a DC residence with a mixture of modern Scandinavian pieces, American crafts, and a certain global eclecticism brought by the owners’ collection of art and artifacts from China, Morocco and India. See more of the home here. Photo by Jaime Harris Photography.

SM: What’s a favorite element you plan to incorporate into your space at the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean?
NSC: For me, it’s never about one element, but more about a holistic solution: the sum of the parts. I enjoy mixing styles and finding a common language among pieces that, at first glance, might not seem to have anything in common. For instance, one example in this room is the floor lamp, which is the first time I incorporated a light fixture by the Finnish designer Paavo Tynell, who designed all the lighting for the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York. This lamp is produced by GUBI in Denmark and it is provided courtesy of Furniture from Scandinavia Gallery in Georgetown. The simple and elegant mix of wicker and polished brass fits my interest in high and low design, rough and sleek, natural and manmade.

SM: What projects have you done in the past that most resemble or relate in some way to what you plan to design at the ASPIRE HOUSE McLean? Or is this a completely different concept?
NSC: There are two projects I completed that are similar to my Library at ASPIRE HOUSE McLean. One is a library for a previous show house and the second is a recent living room I designed at a residence near the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The living room is a mixture of the modernism of Scandinavian pieces, American crafts, and a certain global eclecticism brought by the owners’ collection of art and artifacts from China, Morocco and India. It’s very personal and curated, while at the same time casual and contemporary with a traditional feel. The space has a very engaging and warm result. There is a “less is more” quality to it.

This Nestor Santa-Cruz library in a previous show house is similar in design to his Library for the Soul at ASPIRE HOUSE McLean 2020. Photo by Angie Seckinger.

SM: Have you participated in other show houses and why?
NSC: I have participated in more than 10 show houses in the DC area, always benefiting honorable charity causes that I believe in. The best part is being able to explore a “design moment” that I’m interested in at the time. It’s designing for me, which is rare to do, as I am always creating spaces for others. Show houses present ideas to those interested in design from beginners to other professional designers, plus design students. I love sharing my passion for design; that’s always rewarding!

SM: What’s next for you design wise—are there some projects you’re particularly excited about? Are there any projects you’d love to tackle, sort of a design bucket list?
NSC: I am working on a four-story townhouse that is a couple’s first house together. It’s perhaps more traditional than my usual work, but it will be chic, yet very personal and warm with a very soothing color palette, interesting antiques and new pieces.

I have previously designed commercial interiors in Paris, so I am awaiting the moment when I’m asked to design a home there – any takers welcome!

Proceeds for ASPIRE HOUSE: McLean will benefit the ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME Diversity in Design Scholarship Fund. Click here to learn more, and purchase tickets for the event; opening August 21 through September 7, 2020.

About the Designer | Nestor Santa-Cruz, IIDA, Interior Designer at Nestor Santa-Cruz • Decoration brings a special and sophisticated perspective to all his decoration projects. Nestor was born in Cuba, raised in Central and South America, holds a Master of Architecture degree from Virginia Tech, and is a licensed interior designer in Washington, DC.

The Santa-Cruz style is modern and restrained, yet classic; always visually comfortable and engaging. Nestor has a keen and judicious eye for proportion and color by finding the perfect architectural detail resulting in a complete design solution. He draws inspiration from an array of both classical and contemporary references.

Nestor has received numerous design awards from national and international organizations, including the Washington Design Center’s Hall of Fame, Home & Design magazine’s Hall of Fame, and Washingtonian’s Top DC Designers list. His work is published frequently in ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME, Milieu, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest online, Elle Decor, Veranda, Interiors, Interior Design, Objekt, Southern Home, Home & Design,, and additional national and international publications.

Sherry Moeller is a contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine.

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