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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.

Currently:

Tara Oxley - B.R. Guest Hospitality


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Tara Oxley
Design Director
B.R. Guest Hospitality

   

 

Stephen Hanson and B.R. Guest Hospitality have always been synonymous with great restaurants in New York. But in the last few years, B.R. Guest has expanded its reach, with more outposts of its signature eateries as well as new concepts, totaling in some 25 restaurants and bars in New York, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and Florida, as well as a hotel in St Pete Beach. Besides great food and service, the company's success lies in the spaces' unique designs. Led by design director Tara Oxley, her thoughtful, detailed approach produces eclectic, soulful atmospheres. Here she talks oversaturation, thinking like the guest, and giving 100 percent.

 
   

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

TO: I always knew that I wanted to be creative. There were moments when I had other ideas of grandeur, but I always migrated back to the world where I could make the sky any color I wanted to.

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

TO: When I was very little, even to this day, I always watched my mother paint. The beauty of her hand on the clean white canvas and then very slowly with the use of color, blending and shadows these most amazing pieces of art began to come to life. It was in these moments that I felt like I want to do that! I just selected a different canvas/medium.

Bill's Bar & Burger

HD: How did you end up where you are today?

TO: : I worked for Gensler for years when an opportunity to work with one of the most respected and knowledgeable hospitality titans knocked on my door. I figured I would be foolish to pass up on an opportunity to learn from the best!

HD: Do you have a greatest lesson learned?

TO: Never give half! You must always be committed fully to each and every detail…sometimes even certifiably!

HD: Why hospitality?

TO: Hospitality allows me to jump into design in a completely different manner. You are able to enter into a bit of fantasy in creating a concept. If you think of it like a book it can be fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc…you allow the guest to enter a different sphere while they are with you. I love the idea of being involved in shaping this experience/adventure.

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

TO: Oversaturation of concepts and seeing the same design over and over and over.

Bunker

HD: You recently transformed New York's Japanois into Kibo. What are some of the highlights of the design?

TO: Unlike most of the spaces that we take over this space was in fantastic shape having been originally designed by Jeffery Beers. I really must thank Jeffery for this. My approach to this room was really just to add accents to a space that already had great bones with bold accents in art, lighting, robata grill, and a large traditional Japanese communal table called a teppan table. Having a creative chef like Joel Robuchon on board as a partner allowed me to 'feed' off his creativity in terms of colors and flow of the space.

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

TO: We recently did an overhaul on one of our existing restaurants, Blue Water Grill here in New York. Of key importance to this project was to remain operational while proceeding with all renovations. Being able to balance all coordination of FF&E, on site installations, and construction work with guest and management expectations proved to be most challenging.

HD: What's one project that you are most proud of and why?

TO: Project after project the one that still proves itself the winner would be the Postcard Inn in St. Pete Beach, Florida. This project broke me as a person and built me up even better. I feel as if I have gained so much from that experience. I am able to use those lessons everyday and this to me speaks volumes.

HD: What have you been using lately as a creative solution?

TO: In the last few projects I have tried to incorporate art in unexpected ways. By allowing the space to become a palette for the artists to create their work, which in turn allows the guest to live within the art and feel the space differently.

Bunker

HD: What's next for you?

TO: Trying to create a new narrative to design more about a sense of being within the space and the use of spaces. More to come on this front when I work out all the details in my head.

HD: What would be your dream project?

TO:I would love to work on a dreamy little hotel/motel, no more than 12 rooms/bungalows, in some remote area were I own it, design it, build it, run it, live at it, raise a family within it, and create a space where the ones I love come to visit as often as they like… hopefully other people too so I can sustain it.

Kibo

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

TO: This is the beauty of working as an in-house designer for a hospitality company is that my client is my operations team. I need to be able to meet their needs in running a restaurant on a day-to-day basis and their main agenda is to make sure that the guest has the most flawless experience as possible. This kind of collaboration is fantastic as it really challenges the form vs. function philosophy.

Kibo

HD: What's the one thing designers have to remember when designing a restaurant?

TO: I feel that it is really important to place yourself in every corner of a space, to actually be the guest. To try to immerse yourself into the sights, sounds, and overall experience so that you can make the guest feel more comfortable. It is equally important to be the server so that you can figure out the best solutions for operations and allow the space to function seamlessly. When the effort of the operations becomes invisible to the guest the goal is achieved.

HD:: What's one restaurant you love for its design (but you didn't design) and why?

TO: Hmmmm, I am just going to give a shout out to the creativity and exploration of all the new little joints in Brooklyn. Some are really hitting it out of the park and completely taking a departure from the expected!

HD:: What's your favorite hotel for its design (but you didn't design) and why?

TO:The Raleigh in South Beach and this is mostly due to the public spaces. It really is a prefect blend of old school glamour meeting warmth and elegance; these two had a baby and out came the Raleigh. You walk in the lobby and can just feel the story; it doesn't try too hard. I could just swing in a hammock, have a cocktail, and listen to the buzz for hours.

Kibo

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

TO: I think a few places: at home doing some renovation projects (by the way, help is always welcome as the paint stripping on the banister is getting extremely painful); exploring some new part of the great big world around me; or just enjoying time with those I adore.

HD:: Motto to live by?

TO: Do Everything Every Day

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