Brass tops list of designer’s favorites

Willem Stear, owner of Tonic Design Studio, is known for an international style that blends the classic and the contemporary. The Atlanta designer’s unique style will be on display in a vignette March 11-13 at the annual American Craft Council show in Atlanta.

Background: Born and raised in South Africa. As a child, Stear loved visiting building sites with his grandfather, a homebuilder. He studied fine art at Pretoria Tech and then moved on to the Calder School of Interior Design in Johannesburg. After college, he worked with several South African designers on projects in London and Dubai before relocating to the United States. In 2009, Stear opened Tonic Design Studio in Atlanta.

Claim to fame: Nominated in 2011 for “Ones to Watch” by the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center (ADAC) and for Southeast Designers of the Year in 2013. The following year, Stear was honored in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles “15 under 40” tastemakers feature.

Known for: Mixing styles, such as sleek with rustic, modern with classical and cutting edge with handmade.

First design job: In the United States … overseeing the construction of a new home outside Healdsburg (Sonoma) Calif. Set on a hill, the home overlooks the Russian River Valley and various vineyards.

Design pet peeves: Spaces that are too trendy.

Current design obsession(s): Anything brass, from light fixtures and kitchen sinks to faucets and furniture. Also shipping container homes.

New (or re-emerging) looks I like: Using bold colors. Everything has been so grey and cool. I love that clients want more color.

Best way to quickly transform a room: Change the layout of the furniture.

Every room needs: Something red.

Most unusual request: Create a “nursery” for a dog, a French poodle. The room had an antique Chinese canopy bed with silk drapes, grass cloth wallpaper and tons of handmade dog toys.


- Atlanta-area home stores/showrooms: Verde Home, Kolo Collection and Bjork Studio. At ADAC: Paul+, Donghia, Travis & Company. At Americas Mart: J Douglas, and Phillips Collection

- Places for unexpected (and great) finds: Scott Antique Markets

- Blogs/Websites:

- Magazines: Architectural Digest, Dwell, Elle Décor, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. Also several South African design magazines, including VISI, Conde Nast House & Garden and SA Garden & Home

- Instagram: Bjork Studio, Tom Dixon, Dezeen and Architizer

Favorite space at home: The patio. My home is built next to a creek with a natural waterfall. The patio is great for entertaining.

Favorite possession: My Eames recliner. You can’t beat good design.

Can’t stop buying: Dinnerware and flatware. I can never have enough.

Most recent project: Restoring my 1970s modern home in Buckhead. Joseph Amisano, a well-known Atlanta architect, built the house for him and his family. Amisano owned the house until he died in 2008. Stear and his partner purchased the house in 2012.

What’s new: A townhome renovation in San Francisco

Find Willem Stear and Tonic Design Studio at:

- Website:

- Facebook: TonicDesignStudio

- Instagram: tonicdesignstudio

- Twitter: @TonicDesignATL

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