The New Social Order

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Design and Inspiration

Danu Kennedy  is a New Zealand native who moved to NYC to start her career in interior design and architecture. Since arriving in 2011, she’s brought to life stylish spaces such as the Manhattan coffee shop Happy Bones. She joined the design firm Parts and Labor Design in 2014 as Design Director, where she’s worked on award-winning hospitality projects across the country. Most recently, she leant her design chops to the new Thompson Washington D.C. We caught up with her to discuss the new hotel, the inspiration behind its design, and tips for upping our own interior design game.

1. When first imagining the interiors for Thompson Washington D.C., what did you feel they had to be? What feeling did they have to conjure?

Hospitality spaces have become gathering places for their communities; forums for exchange, interaction and shared experience – the new town square – providing a safe and welcoming place for an elevated experience. So our initial goal was to create a space that bought people together, a place for community building and involvement, local partnerships, events and stimulation while providing hospitality to every new visitor and return traveler. In terms of feeling we wanted to offset some of the more sculptural slightly brutalist inspired architecture with softer more human scale moments which you can see and  feel in the furniture and textiles. 

2. Which particular design details or features are you most proud of? What is your favorite room or vantage point?

That’s a tough question! However, I would say that there are certain moments within the Lobby and Maialino Mare that we feel are uniquely impactful Specifically, the custom sculpture we created for behind the check-in desk. This was a new approach for us –we really wanted to create authentic art for this project and I love the way it turned out.

My favorite guestroom piece is the headboard wall sconce: it’s a colorful and dynamic piece that brings warmth and an undeniable level of detail to the rooms.

3. How would you describe the design language of Thompson Washington D.C.? What makes it new? What makes it classic?

The design follows two main narratives:one being a gallery-esque style of architectural expression that celebrates figures in space in an ‘art as an object’ methodology. This is predominantly seen in the Hotel Lobby where we crafted the main standing elements such as the bar as a sculptural form that centers the room. The other being an indirect celebration of the nautical influence based on the historical site location.

We were inspired by sculptural art forms, repurposed industrial warehouse buildings, the structure of ships, the craft of their construction, the beauty of their hulls and skeletons or exo-structures. This repetition and symmetry worked together to create a rhythm for the project’s architecture. We took a more playful approach to the furniture and lighting, seeing each piece as part of a curated collection, imbuing moments of craft and softness where appropriate. 

4. Do you have a signature style? If so, how would you define it?

We would like to think that we don’t necessarily have a style that speaks to a certain time period, but one that is timeless and evolving. We always challenge ourselves to find ways to think beyond our direct influences and constantly progress our approach and style. The fact that we are such a customized firm means we have certain freedoms to create and express new ideas.

5. When choosing projects, are there types of spaces that you find yourself continuously drawn to?

A new challenge is always exciting.

We love hotel work as it’s a combination of a commercial and residential approach with a focus on hospitality. We are drawn more to a shared sense of values or vison early on, typically taking projects that we can find a common footing on with the client.

6. What would be your dream project?

Oh so many! I’m lucky as I’ve worked on a few dream projects, but forward-thinking I would love to design something I owned, a boutique hotel somewhere would be just perfect…

7. What are some contemporary tips for elevating and modernizing the interior design of our own homes?

First of all have fun, it’s your space so feel free to express yourself! It’s worth putting a little mood board together so you can explore different pairings and palettes before purchasing.

I think the best way to approach your own home is to not rush it, building a collection over time is always a great method and don’t forget about art work! Art can allow you to keep a relatively clean, less is more, modern feeling home while still imbuing it with color and personality.

Florals and carefully selected objects can also go a long way.

8. Having lived for eight years in NYC, what do you miss most about your native New Zealand?

My friends and family there.

Also some foods, fresh produce, dairy, bread, sounds silly but it’s hard to beat!!

And the landscape, NZ is beautiful.