CULINTRO A Community for Restaurant Professionals

Hospitality Design (HD) ) magazine and Culintro, a culinary trade organization in New York that brings together restaurant professionals, have teamed up to bring a monthly online Q&A with some of the nation's top restaurant designers. Each month, we will feature a Q&A with an industry leader, talking about his/her newest project, the industry, what works, and what's next.


Andrew Alford - Dirty Lines Design


Andrew Alford
Dirty Lines Design



Designer Andrew Alford is all about the details. From wallcoverings and furniture down to the art, Alford obsesses about every aspect, almost down to the microscopic level. The result: colorful, textural, layered designs with a soul. "The core of my belief is that it isn't enough for a project to be pretty, it also has to have meaning, and that meaning is brought through the tiny details." Here, he opens up about embracing the unexpected, his best eBay purchase to date, and his previous life as a carny.


HD: Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?

AA: I didn't necessarily know that I wanted to be a designer, but I did know that I wanted to do something creative. Up until my senior year of high school I intended to pursue a career as a professional classical musician.

HD: : What are some of your first memories of design?

AA: I remember my mom taking me to look at furniture at the Ethan Allen showroom in Akron, Ohio. I also remember seeing the movie Three Men and a Baby and wishing my bedroom looked like their house. Apparently I wanted a lot of glass block and vintage movie posters. I'm happy to say that my taste has evolved.


Oenotri, Napa, California

HD: How did you end up where you are today—school, first jobs?

AA: This is a long story that would require a big budget Hollywood movie to explain. My initial career was not in design. I worked in operations management in the theme park industry. I interned with Disney and then secured a position as an operations supervisor during the opening phase of Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure theme park. During my time with Universal, I got to work side by side with the creative team that was building the park. That working relationship lit a fire under me and made me decide to pursue my dream. I moved to New York and got a job answering phones at a residential design firm. I then landed a junior designer position at another firm and was there until I moved to San Francisco in 2001. I worked for a couple of different residential firms in San Francisco before getting an in-house position at Kimpton Hotels in 2004. I was with Kimpton until 2007 when I launched my own firm. There is quite a bit more to the story, but it's better told over cocktails.

HD: Do you have a greatest lesson learned?

AA: I have learned that new projects come along from unexpected sources when you are least expecting them. That realization has given me a lot of peace of mind through the challenges of the last several years. It has allowed me to enjoy each project for what it is without constantly worrying about what is next.

HD: Why hospitality? Why restaurants?

AA: I got my start in high-end residential design and what I didn't like is that it was so exclusionary. The family who lived in the home could enjoy the beautiful environment, but very few others could. I love that a beautiful restaurant gives everyday people the opportunity to live a beautiful life, even if it is just for the duration of a dinner. My other answer is that my brain creates ideas that are too out there for most people to live with in their homes. Hospitality spaces allow me to explore my creativity a lot more.

HD: What are some of the challenges of the industry today?

AA: Over the last several years there has obviously been a lot less work to go around. As a result, fees have gotten lower and lower because every job will have five firms bidding for the same project and each firm seems to be willing to go cheaper than the other just to get the job. I feel like many of us are now working for free because of these bidding wars.


Malibu Inn, Malibu, California

HD: What's a recent project that was most challenging and why?

AA: All of my projects are amazing and fun! I would never refer to one of them as challenging. This can also be read as, 'I don't kiss and tell.'

HD: OK, then what's one project that you are most proud of and why?

AA: I'm most proud of the work we are currently doing on the Hotel Lincoln in Chicago for Joie de Vivre Hospitality. There are two food and beverage spaces in the hotel and we are giving each of them their own unique personality. The lobby bar is designed to be a colorful and eccentric vintage space. The rooftop is a minimalist preppy space that is all in beige and gray tones. I'm excited because the lobby bar shows off the blend of color and pattern that I'm known for, and the roof bar will show everyone a side of me they have never seen before.

HD: What's the most creative solution for a cool design feature that you have recently come up with?

AA: At the Malibu Inn, my client really wanted to incorporate a photo booth. There wasn't a great location to put one inside, so we came up with the idea of turning a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle into a photo booth. We bought the car off of eBay, used a local auto shop to do the restoration, and then found a technology consultant to create the actual photo system. We topped it off with graphics done by a local graffiti artist and of course some Malibu bumper stickers.

HD: What's next for you?

AA: We have several projects coming up in Chicago. Besides the hotel, lobby bar, and rooftop bar in Lincoln Park for Joie de Vivre Hospitality, the other two are still in top-secret mode. We are also doing a restaurant Oceanside, California, with Sage Hospitality.


Malibu Inn, Malibu, California

HD: What would be your dream project?

AA: A project with a large budget. Is that too simple of an answer?

HD: What's the key to a successful collaboration between designer and client?

AA:A great sense of friendship and strong open communication. It really takes both.


Malibu Inn, Malibu, California

HD: What's the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant?

AA: Good lighting makes everyone look younger and healthier.


Eden Restaurant, South Beach

HD: Restaurant you love for design (but didn't design) and why?

AA: Gitane in San Francisco. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Important's work. They always have amazing details, lighting, and a great sense of humor.

HD: Favorite hotel for design (but didn't design) and why?

AA: Hotel du Petit Moulin in Paris, designed by Christian Lacroix. It is the interior design version of a couture runway show. I am a strong believer in bringing fashion detailing into my work.

HD: When you are not in the office we can find you...

AA: Playing with my four-month-old Boston Terrier puppy.


Rockography, New York

HD: Motto to live by?

AA: Be brave, no matter what.

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