Boutique Design - May 2018 - 88
Gensler's Melissa Pyell translates her overseas
travels and European education into wellinformed interiors for luxury boutique hospitality
projects around the globe.
INTERVIEW BY CHRISTINA GREEN
READING ABOuT international design trends was never enough for
Melissa Pyell. Until the age of 20, she lived in a rural community in
Nebraska, but wanderlust heavily influenced her visual creativity.
"Throughout my childhood, my sister was a teenage model living in
Paris and my mother would visit her often," says Pyell, a senior hospitality designer with Gensler and a 2016 Boutique 18 honoree. "Their
stories gave me a curiosity about all things foreign. I'd check out books
about travel and interior design from the local library and daydream
what it might be like to experience such extraordinary places."
It's that inquisitiveness that prompted Pyell to go to Florence, Italy,
to continue her education even though her design career was already
well-established. "During my first trip to the country, I was awestruck
by the unparalleled style, high level of craftsmanship and unexpected
mix of pattern and color," says Pyell (shown here in Driade's Milan
showroom). "In hopes it might rub off on me, I returned a year later to
study for my master's in design."
AT THE TIME OF THIS INTERVIEW, YOU'RE IN MILAN SCOPING OUT GLOBAL
DESIGN TRENDS. WHAT'S ON YOUR RADAR?
Retro vibes seen last year are in full force this year. Color trends are vibrant-dominated by pale pink and turquoise, often accented with orange, plum, yellow and
shades of green. Bulbous forms. Brass. Recycled materials. Classic mid-century
furnishings are receiving an unexpected hospitality twist with saturated velvets.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE FIELD?
WHAT DID YOU LEARN DURING YOUR STUDIES IN FLORENCE?
The fabrication methods I observed were a beautiful juxtaposition of
the most advanced technologies fused with handmade craftsmanship.
I was raised creating my own drawings, paintings and sculptures, so I
felt a connection with these true artisans who won't sacrifice the
quality of their craft no matter what the deadline or budget may be.
boutiquedesign.com may 2018
AS A MIDWEST NATIVE BASED IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, WHAT'S YOUR
PROCESS FOR CREATING AUTHENTIC HOSPITALITY INTERIORS WORLDWIDE?
Designing environments globally requires a tremendous amount of research to
create a fresh concept that's culturally accurate yet unique. Ideally I'll spend
some time at the project location to formulate my own insights. However, an
integral part of my initial process now includes perusing social media such as
Instagram and YouTube to understand other people's perceptions of a brand or
location. In-depth conversations with local residents are still a must. That helps
me filter out social media hype from reality and adds a personal touch.
I believe every hospitality design needs a great story to give it soul. Not a
fictional narrative, but an inherent and truthful one that wants to be retold
throughout the life of the space. When starting research on a new concept, it feels
like I dive in before I'm even sure what I'm looking for. That might seem quite odd,
but I just keep digging because sooner or later, I'm going to find the treasure.
After graduating from architecture school at the University of
Nebraska, I bought a one-way ticket to Waikiki where I started
designing skate and surf shops. Through hard work, eventually I could
afford more frequent trips to visit my sister in Europe, and with each
visit I explored more of the continent's hotel and restaurant interiors.
The creativity of the places I've traveled to is what drives me to design
boutique hospitality experiences today.