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The Fair
July 13, 2021

Designer Profile: Lauren Rottet

Lauren Rottet, founding principal and president of Rottet Studio, has made a name for herself as one of the most celebrated interior architects in the world today. The only female to be inaugurated with Fellow status by both The American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association, Rottet has received dozens of awards and honors, including being inducted into the coveted Hospitality Design magazine’s Platinum Circle, Interior Design Hall of Fame, Contract magazine’s Designer of the Year, and Boutique Design’s Designer of the Year.

July 13, 2021

Lauren Rottet, founding principal and president of Rottet Studio, has made a name for herself as one of the most celebrated interior architects in the world today. The only female to be inaugurated with Fellow status by both The American Institute of Architects and the International Interior Design Association, Rottet has received dozens of awards and honors, including being inducted into the coveted Hospitality Design magazine’s Platinum Circle, Interior Design Hall of Fame, Contract magazine’s Designer of the Year, and Boutique Design’s Designer of the Year.

Could you share a bit about yourself and how you got into the design field? Was this always a career you saw yourself in?

I spent most of my childhood in Waco, Texas building/creating imaginary homes and towns with whatever I could find outside—rocks, gravel, mud, twigs. After moving to Houston, the clay soil was my new building material. I seemed to have forgotten about this when I went off to college as a dual pre-med and art major. Two years in, loving the math classes and discovering my favorite art subject was buildings and the spaces in between them, I switched to architecture. As a young architect with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, I was fortunate to be in Texas during the building boom and thus was senior designer on three high-rise office buildings before the age of 30. When the boom stopped and there were no more buildings going up, I was asked to do the interior design for offices within these buildings. At first, I thought interior design was beneath an architect, but I quickly learned how multi-faceted, challenging, and rewarding it was. I particularly loved the psychology side—how interior environments affect people as well as the fact that with interiors, one is sculpting from the inside out. With buildings, we could build models or do renderings and understand exactly how the building would look, but understanding how a space feels as it surrounds you requires a great deal of experience.

  • One of Lauren's favorite places to be is at her home in Montauk [New York], originally designed in 1959 by renowned furniture designer George Nelson and Frank Lloyd Wright protege, Gordon Chadwick.

Your projects feature jaw-dropping collections of art. What advice would you give a student or emerging designer on incorporating art into a space?

I have been visiting art museums and art shows internationally since I was a child, so thinking about art is second nature to me. As with most subjects, I advise educating yourself before jumping into it. A true knowledge of art takes intense study and I am still educating myself—I go to Art Basel in Miami, the Armory Show in New York, the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennial in New York, and other regional shows. I go to art galleries in every city in which I work as well. It is fascinating, as you see each year internationally subjects and trends that are so similar among significant and emerging artists from all over the world working in different mediums—it is as if they somehow communicated or a secret word was spread to those in the know! It requires looking at a LOT of art to see this kind of movement.

When I am commissioned to buy art for a project or want to incorporate art into one of my projects, I research the artists within the city or region of the project. When selecting the art for the Langham Hotel in Chicago, for example, I discovered several artists whose work I now collect—Theaster Gates for one. So, my advice is:

  1. Go to the local art museums. Ask them what the good galleries are in the city.
  2. Visit these galleries and be inquisitive. Ask: What artists do you carry? Why? Which ones are local? What influences the artist’s work? In which museums does the artist have work or in what shows have they been in and with which other artists? 
  3. Keep mental records of each artist whose work inspires you. Learn to recognize their work and understand why it stands out to you.
  4. Think early in the design phase how art might be incorporated into the project. Is it a feature wall that might be very expensive to build if done so by a contractor and if so, perhaps consider a major art commission instead.
  5. Allow the art to be the spontaneous moment—do not try too hard for it to ‘matc’h what you have designed. Let it be the counterpoint.

Rottet Studio completed the interiors for the renovation of the New York Stock Exchange in New York's Financial District. Photo by Eric Laignel.

What are some recent trends that you have seen in the industry? Any that you particularly like or dislike?

Food and Beverage: This is a big trend and I like it. Whether in an office space, a hotel, or a multi-family residential project, the consideration of a great place to come together over food and drink is now understood. In offices, the break room or pantry used to be down a long corridor tucked inside. Now it is front and center, in the reception area, and has a view. The acknowledgement that humans love food and drink is a good thing. And, the fact that people particularly like F&B when it is well-presented within a well-designed environment is icing on the cake.

Natural Light: In the work environment this is another trend that is good. Europe for a while has required natural light to all new office spaces. It is well-documented that natural light is not only good for the body, it is good for the mind and the mood.

Natural Ventilation: For years engineers have been controlling the indoor air so now many commercial spaces are almost sealed environments. COVID and other recent events have shown that this lack of abundant outdoor fresh air is not healthy. An operable window was and is a good thing.

Sense of Place: Hotels and multi-family residences expressing the local vernacular in their design. Buildings sensitive to the local building materials and climate.

Expressive Architecture: That is artful and a visual contribution to the city in which it resides.

What was your biggest obstacle to overcome in getting where you are today? Any lessons learned that really stand out?

The only real obstacle to overcome is self-doubt, but there was/is little time to consider doubt as there was and still is just too much to be accomplished! Best advice is to look toward what you feel is right, best, good and turn your focus to only that. What you think can become a reality.

Sometimes I care too much. Having done this for so long and having been involved in all aspects of design, development, and construction, I can see when something might have a negative impact on a project. Whether it is something that is too costly and thus will cause more important aspects to be left out of the project, or a bad plan, the wrong materials, or the building is sited wrong—whatever it is, sometimes it is not my area of responsibility, but I cannot help but volunteer my opinion. It is hard for me to tay in my box if I see something that will not benefit the project in the long run. I do not always express my concern in the most tactful manner. I need to remember a bit of advice from [architect] Ricardo Legorreta:‘Just smile, say what you feel, and keep smiling….they will come to understand.’

Rottet Studio was entrusted with designing the loft-like 15,000-square-foot New York office space for Target's marketing and public relations team. Photo courtesy of Rottet Studio.

You’re a very busy person with offices in multiple cities. What’s your favorite escape or way to relax?

I really love the beach. Walking beside it for miles, paddleboarding by it, and just looking at it. The beaches I love—St. Barth’s St. Jean and Flamands; Belmond Cap Juluca Bay; Galveston (childhood memories of the warm waters); Maui and Lanai in Hawaii; Montauk [New York] of course. I like to be in my home in Montauk, which was designed by George Nelson and every room is a hexagon. The energy flows endlessly. It is relaxing and inspiring at the same time.

What is your favorite city in the world? For what reason?

I have not been to every city in the world, but have traveled to most in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. I have lived in Houston, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. There are parts I love about each—the history, architecture, design, memories, smells, tastes; etc. Houston is a wonderful place to live.he art, the people, the food, the green, the activities, the undercurrent is intriguing. I love the gardens in the midst of Tokyo’s visual chaos; I love the reflections and color of light in San Francisco; I love all of the Italian towns and cities like Bologna, Verona, Milan, Rome. Budapest is amazing. I love the quiet intrigue and the seafood of Lisbon. At the end of the day, I have a great deal of respect for New York—the very fact that it works, the food, the architecture, the diversity, the style, the fashion, the access to art. I could go on and on.

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