Seeing Through His Lens: A Q&A with Interior Designer Sergio Mercado

Sergio Mercado shares how his signature style has made his clients' visions come to life.

Sergio Mercado. Joshua McHugh

Sergio Mercado may draw inspiration from the sleek, contemporary style of California, but his timeless and luxurious designs have become an iconic part of the New York City area, whether that be a classic townhouse or a plush restaurant. 

Mercado started his interior design journey in San Francisco, where he developed a signature style that became highly sought after in residential, hospitality and commercial spaces. He spent years building up brands like BAMO, Inc. and Clodagh Design, helping them see through his unique modern lens.  

For the past nine years, Mercado has devoted his efforts to building Sergio Mercado Design Studio, where he focuses on the personal aesthetics of each individual client, while still infusing his own artful style and passion.

Observer recently had a chance to speak with Sergio Mercado and learn more about how his studio remains a standout in the interior design world. 

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A space in Water Mill, NY designed by Mercado. Joshua McHugh

Observer: What inspired you to become an interior designer?

Sergio Mercado: I feel as though I’ve always had the inclination towards design. As a child, I was constantly rearranging the furniture in my parents’ home. My father built me a clubhouse, which I was quick to furnish, and my parents also let me design my bedroom when I was 16. 

What are you known for?

Creating spaces that are sleek and rich in design and texture, while also feeling calm and serene.

How has your design ethos changed since you first started out?

My design ethos has definitely evolved. Throughout each design process, I’m always considering whether the core of what we are designing is life-enriching. A home can be both beautiful and easy to maintain and live within. 

 How do you help clients move past their comfort zone?

By presenting a concept passionately. If you share how passionate you feel about a concept with your client, they will sense those feelings and will want to see that vision conceptualized.

Where do you recommend saving vs. splurging on interior decor? What investments in decor have the most significant return on investment?

This is a hard question to answer, because I feel that well-designed and limited-edition furnishings are a good investment. As an example, a piece by Finn Juhl, Wendell Castle or Sergio Rodrigues will not only have an impact in a room, but will also retain its value. There is always going to be a market for this type of furniture.

 What are your favorite brands to work with? Are there any design rules you live by?

Too many brands to name them all, but top of our list would be Avenue Road for furnishings, The Future Perfect for lighting, Rosemary Hallgarten for rugs and textiles and Salvatori and Boffi for plumbing fixtures and bathroom vanities. They produce pieces that are well-made and designed. I don’t think there should be rules on design.

How do you help your clients avoid decision fatigue, and keep the process fun instead of overwhelming?

We try to avoid revisiting design decisions. Our best ideas are generated in the beginning of the design process. If we explore other concepts, we find that nine times out of 10, we revert back to our original ideas. We’ve found the surefire way to avoid this is by presenting our clients with multiple concepts from the onset.

Is there any item or type of decor that you find clients need the most help selecting? Or come to you with buyer’s remorse after trying to find that piece themselves?

The decor that most clients have difficulty in selecting are sofas and dining chairs. Scale in seating can be tricky. We always insist on clients sitting in sofas, club chairs and dining chairs [to test them out].

A townhouse designed by Mercado. Joshua McHugh

Do you find yourself doing a lot of gut renovation work?

Most of our work consists of gut renovation projects.

Do you educate your clients to invest in certain pieces?

When we present limited edition furnishings, we will provide context by presenting our clients with the designers’ bio. It is also helpful when furniture designers exhibit at furniture fairs, such as Salon of Art & Design or Design Miami. Our clients love attending furniture fairs.

Have you worked with clients on second and third projects over the years? Do you find your client going outside of their comfort zone more after you have worked on the initial project with them?  

We have a couple of clients who we’ve worked with on multiple homes. And yes, after having experience working together on an initial project, a level of trust and comfort is achieved. Shared visions and concepts are much easier to discuss and implement.  

Seeing Through His Lens: A Q&A with Interior Designer Sergio Mercado