Tanya Shively –– The Holistic ‘Eco-Luxe Design Experience’

  • story by David M. Brown
  • photos by Jerry Portelli and Taube Photography
  • posted on 01/2022
  • posted in: Highline Living

Tanya Shively creates luxury home interiors that cultivate wellness. To do this, she and her Scottsdale team extend the traditional interior design scope beyond furnishings, artwork and lighting to include multi-sensuous elements, natural components, technology and ancient insights.

“My general philosophy is to do everything with balance, and that means technology can provide great benefits and comfort and convenience features, but the old ways also were developed with many years of practice and have much to offer as well,” says Shively, who pioneered “green,” health-focused interior design in the Valley 16 years ago.

Her Sesshu Design Associates, 3666 North Miller Road, Suite 100, in downtown Scottsdale, does full remodels and new construction and coordinates furnishings for homes in Arizona and the western U.S. The name honors the 15th-century Japanese artist, Sesshū Tōyō.


The firm’s “Eco-Luxe Design Experience” helps homeowners prioritize their health and sustainability goals and then guides them through the design and construction process to achieve the home they desire with the minimum of stress.

“I design each home with the sensitivities and priorities of the individual homeowner in mind,” she explains. “Some people are more cautious about the things they want in their home, and we respect that. Others want all the cool features that tech can create, such as green walls, AI-connected exercise equipment and smart home components, and we respect that, too.”

Doug Edwards, principal of Scottsdale-based Edwards Design Group, a custom green home builder/architect, frequently collaborates with her. “Tanya is definitely the quintessential green interior designer in the Phoenix area,” he says. “I would recommend Tanya without hesitation to anyone looking to live a healthier sustainable lifestyle surrounded in high design.”


Let the Energy & Colors Flow

In her interiors, Shively incorporates what she terms “common sense” Feng Shui (Chinese, “wind-water”); its goal is to maximize the positive flow of energy or “Qi.” She says: “You can intuitively feel when the energy is off, and frequently it is something as simple as where the furniture has been placed.”

For example, Feng Shui principles suggest placing a desk so your back is supported by a wall rather than with an open door or large window behind you; this eliminates a sense of vulnerability while you work. And, locate a bed in the room so that the door does not align with the foot of the bed: “A bedroom should feel secure and intimate, but not confining,” she says. And, place a mirror so that you can see around a corner in a situation to help alleviate an unsettled, uneasy feeling.”


Colors are significant in Feng Shui; they invoke different energies and help produce specific emotional results. Pantone’s color of the year, for instance, is Very Peri, combining violet-red and blue undertones. The company says it represents the “merging of the physical and digital worlds over recent years. It is a joyful and imaginative color, inviting creativity.”

The more traditional palette provides this energy, Shively explains. Red, for example, is powerful for love, relationships and good fortune. Warm neutral colors are calming and uplifting. And blue and green are soothing and evoke the element of water.

The elements in Feng Shui are also important. “Water is fluid and flexible, earth is solid and stable and wood is growing and expansive. Metal is often used to represent money (coins) and can serve to increase wealth,” she says. “Fire is dynamic, and it may be real fire such as a fireplace or it might be represented by the orange and red.”


Our Homes & Offices Should Connect with the Outdoors

Nature must be part of a healthy centered home. “Nature is part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery man ceases to be man,” wrote naturalist Henry Beston.

For example, to maximize views, Shively incorporates the beauty and harmony of the outdoors, such as with natural lighting from large windows. “But we may utilize automation to control the window coverings to reduce the heat gain those large windows can produce,” she adds. “We can use natural materials such as woven grass for those window shades, which again provides a connection to nature, interesting texture, and at the same time anti-microbial benefits.”

One of her go-to resources is Plant Solutions, Joe Zazzera’s 41-year-old Scottsdale-based company, which specializes in providing natural connections to home interiors.

“When you ask people what they will be doing on the weekend, they tell you they are camping or fishing; they are connecting with nature in some way,” he says. “But all of us have created these buildings –– our homes, our offices our public spaces –– that insulate us and isolate us from nature.”

He continues: “But now, after all of these years, we’ve begun to ask, ‘Why have we done this? Why have we not incorporated nature in all aspects of our lives? Why shouldn’t I have nature indoors? Why shouldn’t we be connecting with nature?’”

The natural connection is innate; it’s in our DNA, he explains. “We talk with our clients about bringing this connection indoors to help their wellness and fitness.”

Zazzera notes that studies show that our levels of cortisol, the steroid hormone that increases stress, decrease when we are in nature. Moreover, at work or even in a home office, if we have indoor plants, absenteeism rates reduce and productivity grows.

More complex, expensive gestures include green walls, with living plants, and moss walls, created with organic moss that has been harvested and constructed in the company’s Scottsdale warehouse and then installed by the company. “They are both beautiful installations but require maintenance,” he says. “You have to commit to do it.”

Triumphant Technology

Technology can enhance our experiences in our homes and offices; it expands our opportunities. Lighting, for example, can create a calm environment or a lively dynamic one and can even change the way we perceive color, making the same room feel cool or warm. “LED lighting systems can be programmed to change according to the activity we are doing or the mood we want to evoke,” she says.

Shively frequently uses Ketra, whose products include LED luminaires and lamps, controls, software and driver chip technology. Its Natural Light product gradually shifts in color, temperature and intensity to mimic the sun, making spaces light filled. Ketra also offers a high-definition palette, with 16.7 million colors, including pastels, saturated colors and whites. Founded in 2009, Ketra was acquired ten years later by industry leader Lutron Electronics of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania.

She acquires the product through a number of Valley sources: Cyber Technology Group and Acoustic Design, both Scottsdale, and Desert Sound and Security in Phoenix.

Maximizing natural light is very popular, largely because of its biophilic design, says Kathryn Bertmaring, Southwest account supervisor for Lutron. “As more and more consumers seek dynamic lighting that can shift throughout the day and mimic the patterns of the sun, they’ll need tunable systems that can move along the black body curve, which represents the total range of white light found in nature, like the range offered in Ketra light sources.”

When Lutron’s HomeWorks includes Ketra, homeowners can control a range of moods and activities, she explains. “They can use Ketra to create lighting to set a warm and inviting tone to unwind before bed or gradually brighten light to boost alertness in the morning.” She adds that Ketra was the first LED lighting that emits deep, warm colors at low dimming levels. “This rivals the warmth of a candle’s flame –– perfect for a movie night in bed or for use in a nursery.”

And, because Ketra’s Natural Light mimics the exact color temperature and intensity of sunlight, which dynamically shifts throughout the day, homeowners can amplify light from windows and feel more connected to nature.”

Also in Scottsdale, the Acoustic Design Group offers Delos, which Shively has been promoting to her clients. Delos is a custom multi-component health and wellness product composed of water purification, air purification and Ketra (Circadian rhythm lighting from Lutron) as well as a Live wall bringing the nature element inside the home(delos.com).

“The purification gets down to the microbial level, so Delos is not just an air or water filter; it is a process,” says Christopher Matthews, the company principal. “The Lutron Ketra product can get to most any color temperature, which allows for warm/dim outside mid-day color temps and then evening warm/dim temps to calm the body down.”

Another component, home gym products, have become increasingly popular during the last 20 years and especially since the pandemic began in 2020 and sent many from the membership gyms. “People are looking for the most innovative fitness products they can use in the comfort of their homes, with the latest technology, on-demand classes and digital streaming services,” says Marco Zambianchi, president of Technogym North America, which manufactures products and digital technologies for fitness, sport and health for wellness.

Company products Shively’s clients have used include Run Personal, which incorporates a library of one-on-one sessions and guided routines; Bike Personal, a high-end exercise bike with a compact footprint; and Cross Personal for a total body workout. Technogym also offers the Mywellness app with training experiences by streaming live and on-demand classes. “Thirty minutes of medium-intensity cardiovascular activity each day are enough to prevent and reduce risks associated with chronic diseases and unhealthy lifestyles,” Zambianchi says.

But, she notes, technology can assist in a balanced interior design, but it can also create unintended issues. She advises common sense.

“A holistic or balanced approach to designing something as important as our homes is needed to ensure that we feel comfortable, safe, and healthy while in our private spaces,” Shively says. “Working with a professional who can guide you through decisions about which aspects of technology to include and which to avoid is very helpful.”

Sometimes, simple fixes are the best. To reduce exposure to EMFs, for example, switch off Wi-Fi at night or move electronic devices such as your cell phones or tablets from the bedroom. And, she says, “Whole-home air filtration systems are great, but simply opening a window can also work really well to replace dirty air with fresh air.”

To discuss your design needs call Tayna at 480.275.2968 and visit sesshudesign.com

Brown is an Arizona-based writer (azwriter.com).