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Client Confidential: Action Heroes

(March 2017) posted on Fri Mar 24, 2017

She’s the director, he’s the producer—together, Jon Bortz and Andrea Dawson Sheehan pull back the curtain on the perfect client/designer relationship.


By Mary Scoviak

click an image below to view slideshow

We’ve been pushed by brands to go with their short list of designers and we just say no. Too often, we get “very nice interiors” (that means we’ll have to redo it later) from other designers. So, we don’t work with that many design firms. We prefer smaller studios so that we’re sure we’ll be working with the principals and veterans. You have a lot of young, hot, fresh minds in your office but you’re the gatekeeper. It all has to go through you before it gets to me. Why change something when it works?

ANDREA: I am the art director, coach and editor for my team. Our internal design process is totally collaborative. We often get brilliant ideas from kids right out of school that I’d never thought of. We pull ideas from both young people and veterans, and we’re adding staff to make sure we stay original. It is about attitude not about age. We depend on diversity to get great ideas.

Revere Hotel
Revere Hotel, Boston. Photo: David Phelps



ANDREA: You’ve always been a big supporter of original art as an essential design element. What’s ahead on that front?

JON: Art has to be the heart of the story; it has to be in the budget from the beginning. And it can’t be cut when you run out of money at the end. A signature piece becomes the hotel’s Kodak moment—okay, Instagram moment. People want to get their picture taken next to the 8-ft. recycled metal guitar in the Union Station Hotel in Nashville or the 10-ft. seagull in the Hotel Zephyr Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. And, the best part for the hotel is that people want to share these photos all over social media. I’m strongly in favor of pieces with environmental undertones: recycled/reused furniture; or a sculpture of a crouching person made out of metal parts, golf club heads and other found objects, the chandelier at Zetta that’s made out of discarded eyeglass frames or the mobile made from 500 antique lanterns you commissioned from steampunk sculptor Bruce Rosenbaum (the head of ModVic LLC who was profiled in the April 2016 issue of Boutique Design) for the renovation of the Revere Hotel in Boston.

ANDREA: What’s your forecast for the hospitality industry?


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