For the first installment of our Collector Profile series, we sat down with editor, fashion expert, design lover, art collector, and Connecticut aficionado, Samantha Yanks. After relocating to Westport, CT two years ago, Samantha fully immersed herself in coastal Connecticut living - buying a home with her family, adding her quintessential touch to its interior, and even setting up @theconnecticutedit Instagram blog with daughter Sadie to showcase all the best that Connecticut has to offer - making her the go-to on where, how, and why to shop local. Read on for a peek inside Samantha's stunning Westport home, and learn about her background, style inspiration, the Sorelle artists she has her eye on, and yes, even her very honest thoughts on candy corn.
Plus, now you can shop Samantha's favorites in our newest Guest Curation! Visit the collection to see the pieces of original artwork personally hand-picked by Samantha.
Our Chat with Samantha
How would you describe your style overall?
I would say my everyday personal style is pared-back, effortless, and timeless. My passion for art, travel and fashion influences what I wear and my clothing, beauty products and home décor aesthetic are all of the same sensibility.
Have you always liked interiors, fine art and design? When and how was that interest sparked?
My fashion background has informed my love of art, home décor and interior design. I have taken my years of experience as an editor and applied it to our home. I draw from every aspect of our lives when I design, but carefully edit what we incorporate using pieces that work well together. My husband David, our daughter Sadie and I are all from the East Coast and having personally grown up in New York City myself and worked in media I was surrounded by tastemakers and talent who had well-trained eyes. I learned quite a great deal from that. As a family we spent many years at our home in the Hamptons, so that casual approach to design permeates throughout our house which works, now living in the coastal town of Westport. Our love of family heirlooms, appreciation of nature, and textiles from our travels are all woven into the mix.
The family room and formal living room in the Westport home of Samantha Yanks.
When did you make the move to Connecticut? How was it making that shift, and have you learned anything new about yourself since setting up your home here?
We moved to Westport in 2020 after many years visiting Fairfield County, and my family has a home in Kent, Connecticut that I grew up spending weekends at. I never knew how much I would enjoy living in a home full-time until we moved here, having always lived in apartments aside from weekends in the Hamptons. My style is classic, clean and crisp and living in tranquil spaces suits me. The home we have created for ourselves here is absolutely wonderful. I do think one thing I have learned about myself is that being an Editor-in-Chief is truly in my DNA. My daughter and I launched The Connecticut Edit (@theconnecticutedit) shortly after we moved here which is “a lens into our life in Connecticut, keeping you current on all things chic in CT.” We cover tastemakers, creators, founders, designers, local happenings, restaurants, boutiques and provide an exclusive look at what is new and intriguing to us. We love how the community has responded to it.
When you’re styling or piecing together a new home, or any space, where do you start?
The most important aspect is determining how you are going to use a space. Answer these questions: How will you and your family flow through the space? What will the space be used for from a functional perspective? What type of mood do you want your space to conjure up? It is so important to find your own individual style. All of the spaces need to become a whole. Infusing your home with classic and timeless pieces, a dash of color, texture and pattern and lighting is key.
Left to right: A Kelly Rossetti original painting | Samantha Yanks photographed by Ashley Armstrong Skatoff | A Teodora Guererra original painting
Tell us what kind of artwork you tend to gravitate toward – is there any particular style, aesthetic, or palette that speaks to you most often?
I gravitate toward abstract painters who use subtle shades, soft hues and a depth in texture. I believe emotions should be aroused when it comes to artwork. Putting aside monetary value, I focus on texture, color, form, lines and shapes. I truly embrace texture and the technique of Impasto.
Why do you think artwork is important in a space?
Art can completely change the mood of a space. Art choices should create an emotional connection to your surroundings and can have a huge impact on a room.
How do you identify the artwork that will fit in a space well? Do you tend to have an “aha” moment when you’ve found “the one” that fits best?
Oh yes, I know it when I see it! Blue and white is very much a part of my decorating DNA and is usually the canvas off of which most everything is built. I punctuate this with soft pinks, sage greens, maize yellows and neutrals ranging from oatmeal hues to chocolate browns in our home. I love bold prints in my fabrics. Sister Parish, Allegra Hicks, Lulu DK, Schumacher, Lee Joffa and Nicky Haslam are amongst my favorites for window treatments, throw pillows and upholstered furniture. This balances out the fluid softer pieces of art we collect.
Is there any person, thing, movement, trend, etc. that has inspired you as a collector?
I have long loved following the overall aesthetics of Oscar de la Renta, India Hicks, Lulu de Kwiatkowski, Aerin Lauder, Lauren Santo Domingo, Daniel Romualdez, Jacques Grange, Jaime Creel, Allegra Hicks, Carolyn Bessett Kennedy, and Tory Burch. They have all influenced me in terms of my personal style and what I gravitate toward art-wise.
This year’s Pantone Color of the Year was Very Peri – blue with a warm, violet-red undertone. What do you think of the pick? Any thoughts?
Oh it is a joyous and dynamic color and belongs to the blue family, which I am partial to. The color is revolutionizing a familiar hue with something new and noteworthy. And the color pairs so beautifully with dove grays, warm neutrals and pale blues which are truly the canvas of our home.
What about other design trends? Are there any you like, dislike, or are keeping an eye on?
For me, trends come and go, that is the essence of a trend. Some I find inspirational, others I wish would pass, and pass quickly. Either way, I only let trends influence me if they resonate with my style. I am a very visual person so if I see a trend that sparks my interest I’m game to integrate it but I never like to create spaces that look like everyone else’s.
Wonton Yanks | Artist Kelly Rossetti at an art install in the Yanks Westport home
You seem to place a lot of emphasis on shopping small and local, particularly when it comes to your home. What makes you tend toward that decision?
From finding fresh cut flowers, place mats and flatware to discovering the ever-chic, under-the-radar shops and artists like Kelly Rossetti (above), I love the hunt. I am all about discovering and supporting the Connecticut community and my goal is to always find global influences locally. I simply adore the myriad of compelling local stores and stories that exist here, and part of why we created The Connecticut Edit is to share those finds with our readers.
Who are some of your favorite artists of all time (contemporary or throughout history)?
Gustav Klimt, James Turrell, Mark Rothko, Miguel Barceló, Lucien Freud, Claude Monet, Clifford Ross, Richard Dupont, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt and Slim Aarons.
What about fashion designers – any design heroes?
For me, fashion will always be my first love when it comes to the arts. It is where my professional background lies and it has informed my love of interior design and home décor. I adore what Giambatista Valli and the legendary Valentino create and I love watching the next generation take over iconic houses. Wes Gordon at Carolina Herrera and Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim as Co-Creative Directors at Oscar de la Renta are brilliant and inspiring moves for those fashion houses.
The family room and formal living room in the Yanks Westport home.
If you could give any advice to your younger self, as a professional, an individual, a collector, a design-lover, or all of the above, what would it be?
Tastes change, our own included. I have parted with some photography and works of art that I regret. Unlike fashion there isn’t a trend du jour with art, and if there is, I highly recommend not paying attention to it. I tossed what were then unwanted pieces and I could kick myself now for it!
What about advice for someone who is just starting out – looking to start buying art or moving into a new home, for example?
Simply buy what you love, and start with a variety of smaller pieces. All art is not meant to be hung classically. I love leaning pieces on a console, balancing them on a bookshelf, using traditional frames for art photography and marrying multiple textures and mediums. When I first started collecting, I was far from attached to a certain art form and there was very little consistency in what resonated with me. One day I would love an artist free form sketching, another day I would be framing contemporary work from a photoshoot while I was working at Vogue, then I would see a painting at Art Basel that spoke to me. Somehow though, it all came together when I realized a mixed media gallery wall was a wonderful way to gather a varied collection of works. It was almost like creating a mood board, a scrapbook, and some common ground would emerge amongst the pieces. The haphazard nature of collecting them made it feel disparate but when it was all hung together, what I loved made so much sense. That really informed the way I collect now.
The Wonderful Wonton Yanks.
You are a Guest Curator for a new Collection at Sorelle. What inspired your collection, and how did it come together?
When I began to pull together this curation I started with two of my favorite female artists in Connecticut, Kelly Rossetti and Teodora Guererra, who are both represented by Sorelle. We have two of their pieces very prominently hung in our home (see earlier images above) and both anchor spaces that are key to my mood every day. Kelly’s piece is right at the bottom of our main stairway and it is the first impactful visual I have daily. Watching the way the light hits it at different times of the year is quite beautiful and it smiles back at me, just like Kelly if you are lucky enough to know her! Do yourself a favor and visit her studio at the American Fine Arts Building. Teodora’s piece is in our family room and our dog Wonton has made himself at home right under it, nestled by the sideboard. Suffice it to say these two artists impact my state of mind daily and, to me, that is what art does. My curation started with pieces from these two artists and then I built my dream collection around it. If I could have a piece by Julia Contacessi, Alina B, S. Cora Aldo, John Harris, Peter Mendelson, Daniel Pollera, Elwood Howell, Stanley Bate, Sofie Swann, Mary Gaspar, Ned Martin and Tony Iadicicco I would be a very lucky woman.
Ok – a few fun “this or that” questions. First: Coffee or tea?
Coffee, always hot. Tea, mainly iced, preferably iced green from Granola Bar or GG & Joe in Westport.
Skiing in Aspen or beach in Miami?
I have to say both on this one. I am an avid skier and love a winter filled with some solid slope time, but nothing makes me happier than our yearly family vacations to the Miami Beach Edition, it’s our home away from home.
Paint or wallpaper?
Paint, 100%. Farrow + Ball, Gris and Coat are my go-to brands.
Morning person or night owl?
I love to rise early and accomplish as much as I can in the A.M. My bedtime is usually 11PM.
Pineapple pizza or candy corn?
No contest, neither. Just N.O. to both!
Test the waters or dive in the deep end?
Dive in, for sure. Life is the most exciting when taking risks.
Comedy or drama?
Drama when it comes to films and television series, although I do truly love nothing more than a good laugh.
What do you do in your free time?
I wish I had more of it, but I love walking and hiking in Fairfield and Litchfield Counties, taking our dog Wonton to the beach in the Fall, flipping through and finding inspiration in my very extensive coffee table book collection, reading blogs, listening to podcasts and cooking. I feel happier and more fulfilled when I take time to catch up and relax.
Primary Image: Samantha Yanks in the library of their Westport home. Photo by Jen Berniker.