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Top Talent: B18, Part One

From a diverse selection of firms, roles, and brands, we celebrate this year’s Boutique 18 honorees

December 20, 2021
Top Talent: B18, Part One

By Katie Kervin

The 2021 class of Boutique Design’s Boutique 18 is a forward-looking, present-celebrating showcase of hospitality design and industry talent. Having weathered a tumultuous 18-plus months, their view of the future is refreshing and their stellar work speaks for itself. Read on to find out more about their most memorable projects, favorite design tips and tricks, trends they’re tracking, and words of advice.

Click here to view Part Two.

Mino Bautista
Associate, BraytonHughes 
Design Studios, San Francisco

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: I would like to think I would have been a professional athlete. But realistically, I probably would have been a banker like my parents.

Highlight of the past year? My wife and I bought a house!

Who or what should we be paying attention to right now? Sustainability. I don’t see anything more important right now—across all industries, not just ours.

Career or personal mentors? I’m fortunate to work in a firm with a diverse group of designers at the leadership level. Depending on the task at hand, there is always someone I can turn to for advice and guidance. I make it a point to take in at least a little bit from everyone. 

Favorite design tip or trick? I’ve always been a stickler for how things connect. It’s important to me to meticulously detail how materials are terminated and how the next element begins. It’s often overlooked but extremely important.

Career advice for up-and-coming designers? Be thorough rather than fast.

Victoria Denny
Interior Designer,
Studio 11 Design, Dallas

Personal style? It is ever evolving, but I’m always drawn to high visual impact, whether it’s saturated colors, high contrast, sculptural forms, or pattern play.

Trend you’d be happy to see fade away? Social media has made quality visuals and aesthetics so accessible and it’s shaping the expectations that younger generations have for their travels. I see us moving past seeking specific social media “moments” in hotels and instead designing spaces that feel more organic as a backdrop for a cute candid.

I can’t live without: My two Boston Terriers. I’m obsessed with them.

Most memorable project? Generator DC because I was involved in every step of the process, from the pitch presentation to final install. It pushed me creatively because of the nature of the brand, but also because this was a renovation of what was most recently a Courtyard by Marriott.

Highlight of the past year? In June, I got engaged to my boyfriend of six years!

What gets you excited about your job? Creating spaces that impact how people travel and their excitement to reach a destination. One of the most rewarding moments I’ve had was overhearing two guests who walked into a hotel I worked on and say, “This hotel just has the best vibe.” That’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear!

Teri Dolan
Design Manager, Full Service Brands, Global Design Services, USA/Canada,
Hilton Worldwide, McLean, Virginia

Top presentation tip? Remember to breathe.

Trend you’re loving? Global influence—a trend that is curing my wanderlust blues in 2021.

Trend you’d be happy to see fade away? Midcentury modern everything. This design style has been so overused that it is unfortunately becoming too commonplace. 

I can’t live without: My son. He is my little ray of sunshine. And nachos.

Favorite design tip or trick? Throw all your ideas out on the drawing board and then edit. 

Any career advice for up-and-coming designers? From someone who has definitely been one: don’t become a work martyr/workaholic. Stay dedicated and remain passionate about your job but always remember to take care of yourself and ask your manager for help if you feel like you are on the road to burnout. 

Isaac Jimenez
Intermediate Designer,
Wimberly Interiors, Los Angeles

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: A trial lawyer defending high-profile cases.

Trend you’re loving? Deep jewel tone color palettes.

I can’t live without: Iced coffee and overnight chia seeds.

Most memorable project: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa, a stunning luxury resort in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Highlight of the past year? Getting this award! Also, my vacation to a remote beach in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Who or what should we be paying attention to right now? Lil Nas X, Montero.

Dream project? Aman Resorts. Anywhere in the world.

Kenya Jones-Lowell
Interior Designer,
Rice Fergus Miller, Bremerton, Washington

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: A fibers artist. I come from a long line of quilters. These are women who were insanely creative, very resourceful, and highly skilled. They stitched this artistry into my DNA. During the pandemic I’ve been quietly stitching and weaving these massive modern tapestries.

Trend you’re loving? Community engagement workshops. The whole idea that nothing is for us without us, and translating that to building our cities and communities, that’s golden for me. As designers we should be using our skills to craft environments that make communities feel seen and celebrated.

Most memorable project? 7 Cedars Hotel and Casino [in Sequim, Washington]. We partnered with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to build a boutique hotel that embodied the tribe’s history and embraced contemporary Native America.

Career advice for up-and-coming designers? Be authentic. At times it can feel scary, especially when the places and people you want to design for are not the places and people traditionally served by the industry. Don’t let this faze you. Your rise might look completely different from another designer’s—celebrate your experience, let it fill you and fuel you.

Sylvan Juarez
Founder and Creative Director,
Cedar Street

Most memorable project? Spyce is a fast-casual concept we worked on last year developed by robotic engineers. Integrating new technology into the space planning and striking a balance between robotics and a human touch was an amazing design problem. The outcome was a space that highlighted technology as a tool but not the whole story.

Highlight of the past year? Personally, it has to be buying a home and welcoming a new family member! Professionally, I am so proud of the work our team did to design and manage the construction of Oscar Health’s new office [in New York]. Construction management at that scale was a new challenge for us and it was executed with a high degree of quality control, attention to detail, and safety amongst a lot of uncertain conditions.

What’s top of mind as we move into 2022? Like most of us in this group we’re thinking about new applications of hospitality, food & beverage. In the name of public health and optimization, operators have been forced to rethink conventional wisdom. There is a lot of real-time experimentation taking place, which represents tremendous opportunity.

Career advice for up-and-coming designers? Be a generalist. Ask questions and study up on all aspects of the project or industry you’re designing for. The more context you have, the more holistic your approach can be.

Dane Bunton and Nastaran Mousavi
Partners and Principal Architects,
Studio BANAA, San Francisco

Dane Bunton
Nastaran Mousavi

What’s on your boards? Three new coffee shop interiors, a boba tea shop interior, the Irish Cultural Center’s six-story new building [in San Francisco], a new multifamily building, a plant shop interior, and a few new and exciting opportunities that we are waiting to get started on.

Trend you’d be happy to see fade away? Wood slats on everything (although we’ve used them a few times in the past).

We can’t live without: Our cattle dog, Bella.

What’s top of mind as we move into 2022? Self-generating and developing our own projects.

Career or personal mentors? Both of our fathers, who are practicing architects, have always been an inspiration and mentors for us.

Dream project? It’s a secret project, but it has to do with water, plants, and partying.

Favorite design tip or trick? Scratch and start over.

Edith Ponciano
Interior Design Director,
Gensler Sports, Los Angeles

If I weren’t an interior designer, I’d be: An event planner—the combination of developing, planning, and executing events would be just as satisfying as completing a design project.

Trend you’re loving? Terrazzo. I love how you can play with the scale and color to create a fun graphic element.

I can’t live without: Milan Design Week is a breathtaking dose of design inspiration that I just can’t live without. Strolling through the city, you encounter Fuorisalone’s latest contemporary design displayed throughout Milan’s central neighborhoods. [At the] annual Salone del Mobile I get to see the latest and greatest in the world of product design; also, Brera’s beautiful, cobbled streets filled with showrooms, galleries, and exhibitions spaces.

What gets you excited about your job? Knowing that the projects, such as the stadiums, arenas, or training facilities we’re working on, will transform cities and communities, as well as people’s experiences and how they interact with a space in a profound, impactful way. I believe that design has the power to inspire and motivate with great stories and grand ideas.

Jacob Royster
HBA Design, San Francisco

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: A park ranger—no joke. What could be better than spending time outdoors, protecting the natural wonders of our world?

Top presentation tip? Be prepared to read the room. Some presentations work as a more formal page-turn and in-depth review. Others may involve wandering the spaces, materials and presentation in-hand, in order to excite the client about your vision for their spaces. Be flexible, engaged, and ready for anything.

What’s on the boards? The Lodge at Pebble Beach, the Inn at Spanish Bay, the Waldorf Astoria Cancun, and the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge [in Canada].

Personal style? Timeless meets California cool.

Most memorable project? Elusa Winery [in Calistoga, California]. This project was designed and executed completely during the pandemic, which provided unique challenges, but the final product is one of my all-time favorites.

What’s top of mind as we move into 2022? Being mindful about not simply getting back to normal but evaluating ways we can continue to improve, whether personal growth, work-life balance, or evolving design processes to better suit the present and future.

Read more about this year’s B18 in Boutique Design’s fall 2021 issue.

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