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Top Talent: B18, Part Two

December 20, 2021
Top Talent: B18, Part Two

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 One.

Micaela Sheffield
Interior Designer,
LEO A DALY, Dallas

Trend you’re loving? Sculptural furniture, black metal accents, and bold monochromatic palettes.

Trend you’d be happy to see fade away? Plexiglass.

What’s top of mind as we move into 2022? Adaptation. There is a considerable need for flexibility in hotel design in our ever-evolving society. Design solutions need to be thoughtful and sustainable. Partly due to the reallocation of spaces previously intended for more traditional uses, and partly due to the use of modern technologies within a new generation. Especially as our conventional work and travel habits change in a post-COVID world.

Who or what should we be paying attention to right now (inside or outside the industry)? Mental health. Just as designers consider the continued effects of COVID on the evolution of hospitality design, we should also be aware of the effects environments have on our mental health. Hospitality design is heading towards a homey aesthetic that is familiar, comforting, and intimate. The key is to balance this with open, minimal, and clean spaces. Objects should be purposeful and significant to the location to preserve uncluttered surroundings. Company leaders should also consider the effects that our fast-paced industry has on employees’ mental health. Burnout is not uncommon. Regular project team check-ins, communication, and honesty should be at the forefront of a productive and healthy work environment.

Any career advice for up-and-coming designers? Communicate. Know the value that you offer and what you’re worth. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Lindsay Spraul
Senior Interior Designer,
Design Poole, Winter Park, Florida

Career advice for up‐and‐coming designers? Never think any project is beneath you. Look at every job as a learning experience.

Personal style? As with most designers, my daily uniform is black with a little more black.

If I weren’t a designer I’d be: A historian. I have always had a passion for studying history and how the past influences current design trends.

Favorite design tip? Get off Pinterest. Think of memorable spaces you’ve visited or locations that speak to you and draw design inspiration from that. Do not just copy someone else’s boards.

What’s top of mind as we move into 2022? People are ready to get back out there and travel again. We as designers need to focus more than ever on delivering incredible and memorable travel destinations.

Alyssa Stanley
Associate Senior Designer,
Flick Mars, Dallas

Top presentation tip? Present in a way that creates a guest experience. Start at the front door and work your way through to set the scene and really engage your client in the design narrative and understanding of the space.

Trend you’d be happy to see fade away? I’m ready for the rustic industrial look to be a thing of the past.

Highlight of the past year? I discovered a new joy for working out. It probably sounds lame, but it has become such an escape for me in a world of working from home.

What gets you excited about your job? I love the conceptual phase of each project. Getting to learn about the location and bringing in concept imagery (fashion, nature, lifestyle, etc.) that support the narrative.

Dream project? Hotel on the coast in Italy. I probably wouldn’t come back home.

Advice for up-and-coming designers? Always ask questions. Take a minute to think it through and try to figure it out, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Julia Summerville
Design Director,
DesignAgency, Toronto

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: An art curator. I always wanted to own my own studio or be able to purchase art on behalf of clients.

Personal style? Simple and sophisticated. I look to designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein for fashion guidance and color inspiration. I carry these stylistic choices into my design choices for my home as well.

Trend you’re loving? Earth tones and natural materials. It’s more important than ever that we get on board with being conscious about the fabrics and materials we use and support local businesses to ensure we are mindful of sustainability and our ecological footprint.

Career or personal mentors? I’ve always admired Eileen Grey. A pioneer of design, and very ahead of her time, she was an Irish architect and furniture designer who is now considered to be one of the most influential artists of modernism and Art Deco design. From the present, Kara Mann. She’s really been a trailblazer in the industry. Her recent collaborations are so eye-catching, I look to her design aesthetic for inspiration. The three partners at DesignAgency, Matt Davis, Allen Chan, and Anwar Mekhayech, as they’ve provided me with the opportunity to design for incredible clients and supported me throughout my role with the company.

Matt Swope
Gettys Interiors, Chicago

Top presentation tip? Focus on the big picture, take a deep breath, and don’t be afraid to pause.

Most memorable project? The Bellagio hotel tower remodel, which started as a design competition. It was a privilege to work on such an iconic property on such a grand scale.

What should we be paying attention to right now? How we should be adapting to changes in consumer habits and what hospitality investors are doing in the shifting real estate market.

Career or personal mentors? Ben Nicholas, Ali Bacon, and Roger Hill [of the Gettys Group Companies].

Dream project? One without a budget and with a relaxed timeline.

Career advice for up-and-coming designers? Work hard, lean on vendor partners for guidance, don’t be afraid to speak up with ideas you really believe in, but at the same time learn to be flexible if other ideas are implemented.

Fabiola Troncoso
Senior Project Manager, Interiors,
KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group, Chicago

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: I am drawn to true crime documentaries and TV shows. I am analytical and love working out the details, so if I wasn’t a designer, I would be a criminal investigator.

Top presentation tip? Set up the presentation tailored for your audience but also imagine yourself as the audience. Be concise, less is more. Larger images with keywords help people stay focused. If you have a lot to say, say it in multiple slides to keep your audience engaged and at your pace. As the presenter you should be in control.

Personal style? Streamlined, architectural, and black. This is for both my personal fashion style and interior design.

Trend you’re loving? The travertine comeback.

Highlight of the past year? After a tumultuous 2020, getting to see my healthy grandma in the spring of 2021 was amazing. Second was adopting my two sweet kitties in early February 2021; they (after my husband) are the loves of my life.

Career or personal mentors? A whole gang has contributed immensely to my personal and professional development. From my high school art teacher who nominated me for a college scholarship, to my current mentors [firm founders] Gina Deary and Lisa Simeone. They are wonderful humans who embody strength, power, and immense creativity.

Mariana Valero
Founder, Amass & G,
Guadalajara, Mexico

Personal style? Risk taker.

Most memorable project: The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, Cabo San Lucas.

Highlight of the past year? Adopting my third dog, Bruno.

Who or what should we be paying attention to right now? Mexican projects. Mexico is blooming in development, design, and craftmanship.

Career or personal mentors? Lane Holland and Cruz Barrera [Black Palm Development], and Christopher Alvarado [Collective Hospitality].

Dream project? My own furniture line.

Favorite design tip or trick? Layers and natural materials always.

Any career advice for up-and-coming designers? Read brand standards and learn when not to follow them.

Sarah Walsh
Senior Design Manager, Global Design,
Marriott, Bethesda, Maryland

If I weren’t a designer, I’d be: In finance, integrative medicine, or an artist.

What’s on the boards? Upcoming EDITION hotels and residences, and many more.

Trend you’re loving? Not really a trend, but always marble.

Highlight of the past year? Surviving through COVID in the hospitality industry, enduring furloughs, uncertainty, embracing humility, and standing back up again.

What gets you excited about your job? Invoking inspiration when a guest enters into a beautiful space, with the potential to reframe how they see the world.

Favorite design tip or trick? Thoughts are always more fluent through the hand than on a computer.

Career advice for up-and-coming designers? It’s OK to not know where you’re going. You’ll find it along the way. Especially to women: Speak up for what you want. Believe in yourself and know your worth.

Jihee Youn
Studio Director, Virserius Studio,
New York and Paris

Personal style? Simple, sophisticated, and timeless. Not only for design but also for all aspects of life.

I can’t live without: Family, for sure. Personal time. It is crucial for me to recharge myself. And can’t start my day without coffee.

Most memorable project? The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I was involved in every single step for this 3,000-guestroom project. It was interesting to see how each part of the team could organize efficiently in order to complete the project on schedule together.

What should we be paying attention to right now? Environmental changes. This is directly connected to our lives and needs to be considered seriously from all industries. It may be small, but it will make a difference if designers keep it in mind for future projects.

What gets you excited about your job? The opportunity to learn about different cultures and people. I’ve had many chances to work in various sites around the world such as Europe, Africa, Asia, and the U.S. Once I start a project, the first thing I do is research the local culture and people. It’s always exciting to create new design concepts based on my knowledge of the local lifestyle.

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

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