I’m a big believer in the relationships between light and color, and how it affects materials and finishes. With Ketra, we were able to adjust the lighting after all materials were in, which is a huge advantage.
Jacu arranges custom paper flowers created by Mio Gallery for Riggs Hotel's in-house eatery Cafe Riggs │Photos courtesy Jacu Strauss
5. How did Ketra lighting contribute to your most recent work on the Riggs Hotel?
I’m a big believer in the relationships between light and color, and how it affects materials and finishes. With Ketra, we were able to adjust the lighting after all materials were in, which is a huge advantage. For me personally, one of the hardest parts of a project is choosing paint colors – I usually don’t know what it’s going to be until the project is almost finished. Then it’s all about how lighting works with that color and the chosen finishes. On the Riggs project, I went through so many different paint colors! No one can truly anticipate how things could come together, and Ketra had complete flexibility to adjust the lighting once everything else was in place. That could have been a complete struggle with more conventional lighting.
6. What do you see as some top trends in the area of hospitality design?
That’s a very good question, and five months ago, I would have given you a slightly different answer. As with most everything, the post-COVID world is going to be a big change. People in the industry are really busy doing damage control and trying to prepare for the future. We’ve also definitely moved on from the generic beige hotel where everything looks the same no matter where you are. There’s been a noticeable shift to a more contextual approach for specific environments or locations. The food and beverage side of many hotels is also much more open to becoming part of the neighborhood and inviting locals in.
There seems to be a friendlier competition between smaller hotel groups as well, perhaps because with boutique properties, there is more freedom to do something unique. In some cities now, there is so much variety for people to pick and choose. Our philosophy has always been to start from scratch in new cities instead of copying across multiple locations — other groups are doing this more and more, too.
We’re looking to design spaces that only make sense in the context of their city— you couldn’t just copy and paste the design anywhere.
7. What’s next for you?
We have two hotel projects in the pipeline, one of which is a second hotel for us in D.C. — but it’s very different in style from the Riggs Hotel. We also just redesigned a restaurant in the Kimpton De Witt hotel in Amsterdam called Celia’s that will hopefully open later this year. And of course, we are always looking for more beautiful properties that need our love and care. At the moment, however, we are also very focused on what the post-COVID-19 world will look like for the hospitality industry. Our current priority is to make all our hotels and restaurants safe and comfortable for both staff and guests.
To see more of Jacu Strauss’s work on the beautifully unique Riggs Hotel, check out their online photo gallery. And if you enjoyed this feature, we invite you to browse previous interviews with architect Erin Nies of Studio Llou, plus integrators Ed Gilmore of Gilmore’s Sound Advice, and Shannon Bush of ServiceTech. You may also enjoy our dialogues with designers Sara McElroy of Silver Shoe Design, and Erin Dreyfous of Tillotson Design Associates.