Every professional artist, at one point or another, has to find a balance between their individual vision and the needs of the client. That fine line is perhaps the sole distinction between a working successful designer and, well, a not-so-successful one. It’s Coben’s variety of vision, flexibility, and pragmatism that has made him a leading figure in the industry, but it’s his sense of immediacy and practicality that sets his work apart from the rest.
I am a storyteller. I love to listen to a client’s vision and deliver on [their wishes]. [At my firm] we have to be able to make a dream become a reality. I guess you can call us cultural anthropologists creating places for activities to occur. We need to assess the mission of each project. Taking a client’s goals and aspirations, and turning it into a place that doesn’t go out of style or become dated.
What kinds of trends are you seeing in hotel design for the future?
We are pushing to bring a residential feel to hotels. While we want guests to feel transported, we also want their experience to feel more intimate.
Lighting adds intimacy because we can control and change the light level at different times of the day/night. Different scaled furniture helps create intimacy, as does creating smaller seating areas. I love when we create a hotel lobby where different seating “sets” allow for different experiences within one room. I love how people can cuddle in a corner, but still get to see the action of others within the space. We create spaces for people to fall in love, to eat, meet, argue and read a book (or tablet). What a thrill, right?
How can the readers get the ’boutique hotel’ feel at home?
Lighting is probably one area where luxury can permeate a space. Not only the fixture itself, but choosing the correct lamps (bulbs) and making sure the color temperature of the lights is correct will add a level of luxury and sensuality to a space.
What specific materials are you drawn to in your designs? A certain type of wood? Marble? Brass or copper?
I’m currently obsessed with American walnut, because of its distinct grain and soft, sensual feel. It reminds me of a soft-focus lens in a movie camera where actresses would look almost blurry!
The metal of the moment is rose gold, but we are using more burnished and oil rubbed bronze. We are also loving using Corten steel as a textural contrast to more modern materials.
If you could pick one city to design in, besides New York, what would it be?
New York, all day long! But I am secretly pining for a project in Paris. I’d love to open a small office there and spend a few months a year in Paris.
What are the main differences between designing for hotels and residences?
Hotels have an opening date. Residential projects can drag on for a long time. I love what we do and the sandbox we play in, because we get to tell such different stories and the personalities are all so unique and different. That being said, I would love to do a residential project where the client and I share a design sensitivity. It would be fantastic to work on that scale of a project.
I am definitely a lowercase “a” architect. I don’t preach that I am Howard Roarke. I believe architects provide a distinct and important service, but many don’t listen enough. Architecture provides shelter, but it [also] provides a canvas for us to live our lives.
How can our readers recreate your distinctive looks in their home?
My biggest recommendation is to buy one or two distinct, important pieces and work around them. Everything does not need to match. [Have an] eclectic spirit. Trust your gut and go for it!