In this special tribute, we celebrate the life of Tony Sutton, president and owner of Est Est Inc. for the past 38 years. Through the eyes of his son Blake, we take a look at the impact the beloved interior designer had and how Blake plans to continue carrying on the legacy.
“I learned many things from my father, mostly from working alongside him,” says Blake Sutton, who joined the team at Est Est Inc. (estestinc.com) as the director of operations in 2010. “He taught everyone to treat the delivery driver walking in the back door with the same respect you treat a client walking in the front door. He taught us to do the right thing, even if it’s not in our personal best interest. He taught us to treat everyone fairly, that life is a marathon, not a sprint—business should never be a get-rich-quick scheme—and to live each day intentionally. At the end of the day, what matters most are the people you surround yourself with.”
Tony Sutton. PHOTO BY: JOE CARTER/COURTESY OF EST EST INC.
“This custom home in Silverleaf was one of the largest homes we’ve done,” says Blake Sutton of the design project he worked on with his father. “When sold, it was the most expensive sale in the state at the time,” he adds. PHOTO BY HIGH RES MEDIA
With a B.S. degree in interior design from the University of Illinois, Tony Sutton began his design career in Springfield, Ill., before coming to Est Est Inc. in 1979 to work for its founders, William Benner and Pat Maas. Five years later, he became Est Est’s new owner and president. His comprehensive background in design work covers the full spectrum of commercial and residential design, ranging in style from traditional to contemporary. “Tony worked on countless custom homes in all different design styles with the help of amazing designers over the years,” notes Blake. “Under his leadership, Est Est has won over 100 awards through ASID since 2010.” Last year, he was honored with an American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Lifetime Achievement Award.
When asked what it was like to work alongside his father, Blake shares, “I loved watching my dad open up a set of floor plans for the first time. We would talk through the layout of the home, analyze the strengths and weaknesses, and discuss how to maximize the potential of a space. He would sit for hours with a glass of scotch and produce multiple iterations of potential changes until he found the perfect solution. I learned more through this process than through anything else we did together.”
“In the major renovation at Sonoran Club at Desert Mountain, he got to see the community from its infancy and help bring it into a new era,” says Blake Sutton of his father Tony’s design project. PHOTO BY INCKX PHOTOGRAPHY
While Tony is known for his creativity, his larger-than-life personality and the many relationships he developed in the industry, he also believed strongly in giving back to the community. “Tony developed lifelong friendships in his time getting the Scottsdale Culinary Festival started. He gave to various cancer societies and civic-related nonprofits. He was a regular donor to the National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association, which does research into the illness his first son, Alex, died from,” says Blake. “But, most importantly, he mentored young designers who were early in their careers, helping them to sharpen their skills, develop their aesthetics and ethics, and showed them how to run a successful business by doing things the right way.”
As the new leader of Est Est, Blake’s vision is clear. “I want to foster a culture of creativity and celebration, to create an environment for the design team that allows them to explore their passions while providing structure to ensure a great experience for our clients,” says Blake. “I have grown up my entire life around this industry and cherish the opportunities to help homeowners create homes that are customized perfectly for their lifestyle and aesthetics. But, more importantly, following the Est Est tradition, I have spent the last nine years volunteering with a nonprofit called Teach One to Lead One.” This community-based mentorship program works with public schools during the school day to mentor kids who are at risk, with the goal of leading them into a life of purpose and potential. “I am honored to carry on the legacy of innovative design in the valley,” says Blake, “but truly proud to be a part of the building of our community here in Phoenix.”