Hospitality Design - July 2011 - 115
Left and above: A rendering of an undisclosed hotel; the lobby of the Grand Waikikian Suites by Hilton Grand Vacations in Honolulu.
Carl and Dolly Ross
Design Group Carl Ross Inc., El Segundo, California
Carl Ross ﬁrst spotted his future wife Dolly when both were undergraduates at the University of Colorado Boulder. “There was a beautiful girl doing broadcast TV,” he recalls, “and I said to myself, ‘I gotta meet her.’” And so he did. He was an environmental design major, she was pursuing journalism, and both followed their respective paths as they fell in love and moved together to Los Angeles for graduate school. By this time, Dolly had changed her major to English and Carl his specialty to industrial design. “I started working with ABC, doing space planning for the Olympics,” Carl recounts. “Then we moved back to Colorado for a bit, then on to Dallas, where I began to work at the ‘mothership’—Wilson Associates.” It was there that his interest in hospitality design truly blossomed, and he says that his tenure there was “pivotal. Trisha taught me more than I could imagine.” At the same time, Dolly was teaching English and taking on freelance proofreading jobs, but was ﬁnding herself pulled more and more into Carl’s world. “So much of what my [academic] colleagues were doing seemed very dry and political,” she says, “and Carl’s work was all about beauty and creativity.” A return to LA prompted Dolly to get an MBA at Pepperdine, and her “part-time” work for Carl was full-time by the time they opened their own ﬁrm in 1996, with Carl as president and Dolly as COO. “Things began to snowball right away,” says Carl, and since its inception, Design Group Carl Ross, now with 15 employees, has created hotels, resorts, spas, and restaurants in the U.S., Tel Aviv, Acapulco, and Barbados for such brands as Hilton, Hyatt, and Fairmont. As for their collaboration, “We keep things pretty close,” he says, “and established our roles early on: me with design, Dolly with the business. We each have our opinions on the other’s [domain], but someone has to take charge in each area. The result is synergistic. When we meet clients for the ﬁrst time, they see both of us and get both the business and the creative right away.” Married in 1982, the Rosses have three children, all in their 20s. “It was a challenge in the early days, when business was omnipresent,” says Carl, “but we’ve learned to compartmentalize.” Adds Dolly, “When we have family time, there’s no talk of work.” However, family vacations include a lot of research. “We’re always checking out hotels,” says, Dolly, “while the kids roll their eyes.” And after nearly 30 years of marriage, the duo maintain their admiration for each other’s bountiful skills. Says Dolly, “He has an amazing overall vision of the industry. And he’s an incredibly insightful entrepreneur.” Carl offers in kind: “She has a unique ability to assess a business situation. Also, our clients span the globe and she gets along with 100 percent of them. She has a truly magical rapport with clients.” hd