Opening its doors in 1963, Stonehill & Taylor built its prestigious reputation sculpting the face of large scale hospitals and universities. In recent years, the New York-based architecture and design firm moved toward more contemporary settings putting their signature on the Ace Hotel and The Crosby Street Hotel, as well as shaping the aesthetic of the Manhattan nightclub Quo (pictured bottom). Mike Suomi heads up the interior division and led the project at Quo, as well as the Best Western President Hotel (pictured above and below). The native of Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula discusses how he constructs a storyline in each of his interior spaces.
How do you approach design?
I'm a narrative designer. I enjoy creating stories about the user and the user's experience—where they come out of, or something to do with the history of an era, or the people who inhabit the area, or a movie or a book that inspired me. I have to write my own story.
What's your role at Stonehill & Taylor?
For 10 years I ran a firm where we designed our own furniture, columns and floors. Iâve brought that forward to my work here. Stonehill & Taylor started in 1963 and was known for architecture with a capital A, and for its service. They were starting to get projects that required more finesse and they brought me on board. Iâve been pushing for projects I wanted to get, such as hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and also products. In the last month we finished a couple projects with strong narratives, one is the President Hotel and the nightclub Quo, which we designed in three weeks.
Can you elaborate on the design of the President Hotel?
I wanted to look at the bi-partisan political system that has come to dominate politics at the expense of our own country, and that Washington has become known for. I wanted to go back and study history again. The nature of the presidency had changed so much with Bush, who rewrote the laws. I want to explore the history of the presidency and the symbols of our country.
I created a bi-partisan make-out area, the walls have the Gettysburg Address etched into the walls. The curtains referenced the American flag, but we did stripes in purple and white—purple is bipartisan concept color.
I didnât want to do something cynical or to do something that was awful, because of George Bush who was still president then. I wanted it to be fun, irreverent across the board and look at the history of the presidency as something that wasnât about pointing fingers. I also wanted to tackle uniforms so I brought in a fashion designer and a stylist, as well as a music designer .