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Space and Places:
A Q&A With Interior Designer Tracy Stern

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Francisco Aguila Photography
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A typical day for Tracy Stern includes driving around Palm Beach in her orange Vespa, headphones on, listening to the tunes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. The interior designer—known for her use of bold colors and prints—recently transformed six hotel condos just three blocks north of the Royal Poinciana Plaza. She owns the property with Jerry Turco, her fiancé and business partner of their company, T&T Design & Development. The space is designed to resemble a tropical paradise in which Stern describes as “a soundtrack from a certain summer that you love. Every time I walk into a room, I think of it as a different cassette or genre of music.”

AVENUE caught up with Stern to talk about growing up in Florida, finding love in New York and what’s next, design-wise.

How did you meet Jerry and what is it like working together?

We were introduced by a mutual friend. I wasn’t interested in dating anyone at the time, especially in New York, but she said he’s very original. It was raining on the night of our first date and I didn’t feel like going but in the end, I did. From the moment I met him when we sat down for dinner, we felt at home with each other.

We founded T&T Design & Development in December. Jerry works on the majority of the real estate and we invested in several projects together. We own four homes between New York, New Jersey, Florida and Idaho. It’s really unique to find someone you can actually live and work with day-to-day. Jerry and I are completely hysterical together—he’s always taking me to Lowe’s or Home Depot and I’m wearing these vintage gowns. It’s like Green Acres meets Lucy and Ricky. We have our tea for two every morning where we go over all the things we have to tackle but it’s always done with a sense of humor.

Tell us about the design aesthetic for your Palm Beach condos.

It’s a 1920s hotel that was created for Palm Beach society in the heyday. There’s a ballroom and we just love the old charm of it. After buying six of its condos, we transformed the space in which we rent out on Airbnb. Our house is a block away so if we have someone staying there who, say, wished they had an extra beach chair, we can just walk one over. There’s always fun and playful elements in each room, from a pink typewriter, a vinyl record player to a guitar. I love pops of color and pairing black and white as a contrast. You want to live in a happy atmosphere when you’re in Florida. Palm Beach infuses a certain vibe when you’re there—it makes you feel alive.

Yellow living room

You also launched two tea companies, SalonTea and T&Co. Does this have any influence on your interior design concepts?

When I’m designing the kitchen, I’m always thinking about putting out tea kettles. I’m a longtime collector of tea tins and sourced them from all over the world. To me, tea not only looks good on the counter, but it tastes good. Jerry and I bike everywhere in Palm Beach so I named my tea collection after the streets in the neighborhood. All of them are custom blended—there’s one with hibiscus called Royal Poinciana.

In what ways do your Palm Beach condos differ from your New York home?

One is a tropical paradise and the other is an urban landscape but both have a common thread of color, art and unique items. The New York house is in Hell’s Kitchen so it’s completely industrial and gritty. Jerry built it and I decorated it with disco and LED lights going up the main staircase. It’s an homage to Studio 54 as the VIP entrance is on the same block.

How would you describe your design style?

For every client or home, there’s a need to have a different look, so I try to appeal to that as if I am a set designer. For me personally, I’m fond of mid-century and Palm Beach Regency style. I always love mixing nostalgic elements that bring back old traditions with what’s modern.

What would you say every room needs?

A focal point of interest: something that captures your eye and makes you want to walk over and see what it is. For example, in our New York house, I put pink Everlast boxing gloves on a shelf in a guest bedroom. We had a party and I found everyone in that room trying on the gloves and taking pictures! Really good art and lighting also bring an important pedigree to design.


Where are some of your favorite places to shop?

For little vintage knickknacks, I like Etsy since they deliver within the week. Home Goods is also great for instant gratification. As a designer, I have access to showrooms and try to buy sample pieces so it’s a grab-and-go as opposed to ordering something and waiting months for it to arrive.

What’s your most treasured possession?

Memories of childhood, travel and spending time with our kids. [Stern has a son, Hunter, 20 and a daughter, Chloe, 18, and Turco has a daughter, Sophia, 16.]

What was it like growing up in Florida?

I grew up on Miami Beach—it’s a special place spanning three generations in my family. My mom, grandmother and I would go out to Palm Beach and have lunch at Ta-boo on Worth Avenue. The breeze, lifestyle and the culture in the area just transports you, especially from being in the city.

Colorful Bedroom

Tell us about your dream project.

We’re in the process of building Black Barn, a 600-acre mercantile general store in Andover, New Jersey. There, you can buy everything for the tabletop, all types of novelties, home goods and foods. Across the street, Jerry has an old apple cider mill—he moved it from Upstate New York so we can make organic fresh pressed apple cider. We’re also going to make our private label popcorn and hope to have an outdoor cinema where everyone can watch old-fashioned movies out on the haystacks. It’s not too far from our property in Lake Mohawk so visitors can have a full weekend experience with home-cooked meals. Black Barn’s the biggest dream and we’re about a year away from its opening.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


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