Rottet Studio is an international architecture and interior design firm with an extensive portfolio of corporate, hospitality, residential and maritime projects for some of the world’s leading companies and brands. Talking to Hospitality Interiors’ Can Faik, studio founder Lauren Rottet expresses her passion for design ...

Following an already successful career in architecture and interior design, Lauren Rottet founded her own studio in 2008, and has since gathered an impressive portfolio of hospitality projects. Her sense of style, diversity, and project leadership has propelled the business forward, resulting in award wins and ranking in a deluge of top design lists. Rottet Studio has offices in Los Angeles, Houston, Austin and New York.

Could you tell us about your career to date?

I graduated from the University of Texas with highest honors, with a Bachelor’s in Architecture. I began my career in San Francisco working with Fisher Friedman, designing and planning contemporary apartments, condos and residences.

I moved to Chicago to work with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) then also in Houston designing high-rise buildings – three in Dallas before I turned 30! The building boom stopped, and they asked that I work on interiors. I started and ran the interiors practice for SOM Los Angeles. In 1990, I started a firm with several of the SOM partners, and sold it to AECOM in 1994. I headed interiors for AECOM until 2008, when I began Rottet Studio. In 2009 we began to design hotels, with our first being The Surrey in New York. It was the number one hotel in NYC for almost 10 years with both Conde Nast and Travel & Leisure. From there – St. Regis, Beverly Hills Presidential Bungalows, Belmond Cap Juluca, Waldorf Astoria Vegas, and then fun boutique hotels which led to more boutique-style hotels for most of the larger brands – Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott. As you know, we have just finished the Marriott headquarters hotel in Bethesda. Designing hotels has been a highlight getting to help create and experience all these wonderful places and now we turn this expertise to luxury residential.

With so many designers in the industry, how does Rottet Studio stand out?
Rottet Studio is a certified WBE [Women’s Business Enterprise] led by a team of design-forward architects who have worked together for many years. We have design and architectural methodologies/explorations thattranscend all projects, but the resultant look of each project is uniquely its own. More so than almost any other firm, our design impetus is the exact venue (weather, geography, local culture, history, surroundings), the clientele for who the project is being designed, and the building itself. We research heavily all of the above and then develop a story, or ‘design parti’ as we call it, that informs all design decisions. We create a script and then, like a set designer, we design a scene perfect for the script. Probably most unique about Rottet Studio is that we design extremely high-end and also low budget, but high design. For example, the extreme of Central Park Tower (the tallest and most exclusive residential towers in the world), to these wonderful
small motels that are three-storey stick construction, designed around courtyards.

They bring some ‘design’ to small Texas towns that do not have nice hotels. We often engage the community in the design by using local craftspeople for some of the furniture and finishes. The hotels become like town centres and venues for families to gather.
The townspeople are proud of them and appreciate the elevated design. We love to make projects that otherwise would have no soul turn into designs that celebrate the localcommunity and design. I supposed in this regard our practise is modelled after that of Charles and Ray Eames – design for everyone.

How do you bring authenticity to the guest experience for each project?
We approach each project as if we were creating a movie. We start with a visioning session with the owner and stakeholders to hear their goals, then we research deeply the venue, its history, natural resources, culture, social attitudes, music, entertainment factor and why people come to the area now – what is it that they want to see and/or discover? Then we start to build a story and assign to it characters. We see the design through their eyes as a director does when creating a movie. Then, we plan the set for the ‘movie’ and this becomes the design parti around which all decisions are made.

How important are public spaces in hotels?

The public areas are very important as they set the tone and ambience. They are even more important in hotels with small rooms and/or little view. The public areas are like the great room and kitchen in a home – they are for entertaining, socialising, fun, and of course food and drink. There should be areas large enough for groups to gather with friends, and nooks where a single guest can feel comfortable sitting alone and observing.

Do designers think about loyalty when they design a hotel, or is it just an operator’s concern?
We think about everything that will make a hotel successful. I often think about how to make the guest think of the hotel when they are no longer there and wish they were! Candles, a room spray of the hotel scent, cocktail napkins with the bar logo or other memorable items that are easy to take home, fun to use and a reminder of the amazing time at the hotel.

Do you believe simple design has become luxurious?
I believe design that reflects the particular environment and lets that shine through has become luxurious. If you are talking about minimalism, yes, it can be incredibly luxurious
if done correctly, where there is little visual distraction and everything in the room is of very high quality. It makes one appreciate the subtleties. Simple luxury is never simple.

Do you think there is a difference in tone and texture between ideas of hospitality in the US and Europe?
I think Europe has been doing it and doing it well for far longer than the US, and thus the intriguing layers of history are there. European towels and bedlinens have traditionally been far superior to the US. The methods of room service with nice linen and on fine bone china, even in lesser hotels, has also been traditionally superior in Europe. Some of the high-end US boutiques have learned from Europe and other countries and offer a very competitive service and ambience. I think the real issue, in addition to the initial design, is the ownership and the operations of the hotel – all (concept, design, operations and the fine touches) must go hand in hand to create that ‘fine European hotel’ feel. One of my favourite memories is from Palacio Belmonte in Lisbon Portugal, where Maria (owner and operator) would go around each morning and evening opening or closing the curtains, adjusting the shades, setting the tables, lighting the candles and sliding the bar cabinets open to reveal candlelit shelves of glorious wines and liquor. Her breakfast is never to be forgotten – I learned more about hotels from that 2-day stay than from anywhere else.

Is there anything exciting you’re working on that you can tell us about?
We are lucky and blessed to be working on a lot of exciting hotel projects! The Langham Hotel in Seattle Washington is particularly exciting, as we initially helped Langham conceive their different brands. We are working on an incredible spa on the sea in the Caribbean. A wonderful new Conrad hotel and residence in Austin, Texas, and a new hotel for Crescent in Fort Worth across from the Kimball Museum. We are also working on a new Signia hotel in Indianapolis, and the renovation of the incredible Pfister hotel in Milwaukee, just to name a few.

What’s next for you and Rottet Studio?

I, like most of the principals in our firm, started my career designing high-rise buildings and then focused on interiors for many years. We are now advising and design-directing the entire concept for our projects, from land planning to architecture, interiors ... and on some, even landscape design, graphics, and art. Next for us is to be the design architect for more of our hotel and residential projects. We are also focusing much attention on our product line, Rottet Collection, which was born out of the many inventive furniture designs we do for our hotel and residential projects. Rottet Collection launched to the commercial market with great success, and now in 2022 launches to the residential markets with a series of tables that conceal power and soft seating.