Studio Carter consists of a team of internationally based creatives that provide a personal and articulated perspective on hospitality, creativity and wellbeing. The studio commits itself to having a positive influence through holistic and timeless design. Years of experience, a highly talented team and a strong vision create a position of trust and dependability with its clients.
Could you tell us about your career to date?
I started my career as a sculptor, casting and welding large art pieces. As starving artists often do, I held down a second job at the same time – working in restaurants. It was in the restaurant environment where I realised my affinity for the hospitality industry and dreamed of a career in hospitality design where, unlike an object, I could create an immersive experience.
Once I graduated from art school, I immediately started working for hospitality designers in Los Angeles who I admired and respected. I wanted to gain a more worldly view of hospitality design as well as new cultural perspectives, so I decided to work and live in Europe for six years following. There, I fell in love with the European way of life and working on highly creative projects with highly creative designers. I then made the move to Singapore, where I had the opportunity to tap into South-east Asia’s expansive, growing hospitality industry, and lay the groundwork for the launch of Studio Carter.
After 12 years abroad, I decided to return to my home state of California and open Studio Carter’s headquarters in Los Angeles, which is our third office.
What three words would you use to describe Studio Carter?
The three words I would use to describe Studio Carter are artistic, bespoke and curated. Artistic, because we view our designers as artists. Every project begins from an artistic viewpoint with craft, quality and creative expression placed at the forefront.
We’re bespoke in that every piece designed within a specific project is custom made for that project, resulting in a design narrative and guest experience that is truly, distinctly individual. You won’t find a piece from one project designed by Studio Carter repeated in another.
In our design process, we assess all the different aspects we have to work with for a particular project, from location to brand, to our artists and designers themselves. Much like an art curator for a gallery exhibition, we weave art, products and spaces into a beautiful composition. Our work is curated, in this sense.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Studio Carter stand out?
Studio Carter consists of a team of internationally based creatives who provide a personal and articulated perspective on hospitality, creativity, and wellbeing. Our designers individually bring their own point of view, informed by personal experiences. Collectively, we are one in mind, with a shared philosophy of making a positive influence through holistic and timeless design.
“Though hard hit by the pandemic, the hospitality industry remains resilient, and the future is optimistic”
It’s a difficult time for the hospitality industry. What do you think will be the hospitality sector’s biggest challenge, post-Covid?
Fear, and being afraid. When we are so worried about the future unknowns, it can be more challenging to be innovative and free. It is important to be conscious of what’s happened in the past, find solutions and heal, and move into a creative tomorrow where our bold minds can explore the possibilities with confidence. I believe a confident mindset results in a more beautiful outcome.
Though hard hit by the pandemic, the hospitality industry remains resilient, and the future is optimistic. The industry’s ability to adapt to ever-changing needs is inspiring, and we are honoured to be a part of it.
How did your partnership with Australia’s first five-star Mondrian Hotel and Private Residences begin, and what can we expect from the design?
This project is a result of our relationship with the operator. The design of Mondrian Gold Coast Hotel and Private Residences will take cues from the pristine beachfront, sculpted sands and beautiful landscapes of Burleigh Heads, combined with the signature brand touchpoints, high-quality service and authenticity for which Mondrian is known. We are excited to partner with sbe and Accor as the Mondrian lifestyle brand propels ahead further.
Turning to the topic of authenticity of experience, how do you approach each project?
We approach each project from a collaborative standpoint, taking into consideration all perspectives including owner, brand, location and culture. Before we even engage in the design language of a project, we first ask, “what would be an authentic experience for that particular project? What are we longing to experience in hospitality ourselves? How can we create a memorable, new experience for the guest?” We then embark on the journey of what the guest experience can be. We think about experience first, then we translate that into the design.
How important are public spaces in hotels? Are there ways in which you’ve used innovative design in these areas to facilitate innovative usage?
Much consideration is put into the design of hotel public spaces, and we feel public spaces are what make hotels unique, as compared to more simply an accommodation. It’s the energy felt in the space – the social experience, whether one is alone in the space or surrounded by people – that makes hotels more than just a place to lay one’s head.
We aim to redefine the guest arrival experience by introducing a new first impression for a hotel. In one of our current projects, the lift doors open to a restaurant, with the reception area off to a side, rather than a traditional lobby with the typical reception desk.
“More than just what is appealing to the eye, an authentically beautiful experience will leave a memorable impression and help in forming an emotional connection with the guest”
Do designers think about loyalty when they design a hotel, or is it just an operator’s concern?
I believe if we focus on designing an incredible guest experience, it will in turn contribute to creating guest loyalty. More than just what is appealing to the eye, an authentically beautiful experience will leave a memorable impression and help in forming an emotional connection with the guest, with the hope guests will return time and again.
With social media (especially Instagram) becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for hotels, do you take it into account when designing spaces?
We do take this into consideration, and try to design touchpoint moments that can be shared on social media. People like to share their experiences, and when we give them a beautiful canvas to do so it helps create beautiful memories.
Do you believe simple design has become luxurious?
Luxury has different meanings from person to person and depending on one’s mood and what they want to experience. I believe simple design can be luxurious, but also that luxury comes in many forms, from maximalism to minimalism.
With that said, I do appreciate a simple design that has been well executed in detailing and materiality.
Do you think there is a difference in tone and texture between ideas of hospitality in the US and Europe?
Of course. Europe is Europe, and America is America! Within hospitality, each has its own characteristics based on culture and locality. Europe has historic buildings reflecting layers of history that predate some of the oldest structures in America. Art and design are very much integrated into the culture, which is therefore reflected in many artistic expressions and spaces. It’s visually texturised.
In the US, I have found very innovative ideas and free-thinking concepts that embody the American “anything is possible” mentality. Looking at California alone, the state is home to industry innovators like Airbnb. US hospitality, in my opinion, is more texturally experimental.
Are there any architects or designers you admire?
I’m loving Vincenzo De Cotiis from Milan. His layered approach speaks to me – how the imperfect and unexpected use of materials are formed into perfect sculptural objects. He inspires me.
“Look out for a product line we’re developing for the hospitality and residential market in collaboration with a modern furniture-manufacturing company based in London and Dubai”
Is there anything exciting you’re working on that you can tell us about?
In addition to Mondrian Gold Coast Hotel and Private Residences, we are currently working on the design of Mondrian Singapore, Kimpton Shanghai and Kimpton Nanjing.
What achievement are you most proud of in your career?
Without a doubt, the proudest achievement of my career is my team. The designers I have curated are by far my most beautiful creation.
What’s next for you and Studio Carter?
Look out for a product line we’re developing for the hospitality and residential market in collaboration with a modern furniture-manufacturing company based in London and Dubai …
What would be your dream hotel project?
My dream project is a full holistic creation. One where we conceive, build and deliver all aspects of the project, from architecture and interiors to products, accessories and art.
Rumour has it Studio Carter might be opening a studio in the UK?
Yes! By 2022, London, here we come!