Having started her career in luxury residential design before moving on to roles with heavy hitters like Roman and Williams, AvroKO, and Starwood Hotels, plus a stint with West Elm as director of design, Nina Gotlieb has developed a wide-ranging set of experiences that she brings to her newest venture.
Tell us about your recently launched company, Otherworld Creative.
Nina Gotlieb: We are an interior design studio and advisory. I, along with many other small studio founders I know, have a collective vision for a new way of doing things. Hospitality infuses everything we do, including our own services. We dive beyond a look and feel, taking a holistic and strategic approach to curating the right team, and collaborating with our clients on mission, values, identity, programming, etc. We aim to really put ourselves in the guests’ shoes at every stage to create beautiful solutions to complex puzzles.
How do you bring your hospitality and product design experience to this new venture?
NG: I’ve been living and breathing this professionally for over 15 years, and I’ve been on all sides. I’m re-inhabiting the trenches of design, bringing all the knowledge from my experience on the brand side, the operations side, and the product side. It’s easy to create a compelling photo these days, but if the collective goal is to truly help your clients bring a new business to life and have it last, it has to do more. Nobody comes back to a hotel or restaurant or spa to take and post another photo—they come back because the experience they had there was memorable. They remember how they felt, and they tell their friends about it. Our job as designers is to understand our contribution to this.
Are there any surprises or lessons learned as you’ve launched?
NG: I’m learning things all the time. Everyday. Things that have to do with running the business, mentoring my team, writing proposals and contracts differently, tweaking our process. I keep a “Lessons Learned” document in each project folder that helps me approach each new one a bit differently. I’m also incredibly grateful for my network of small studio founders that I lean on all the time for advice. I hope I can be as supportive, transparent, and generous to them and others as they are to me.
You worked with Hyatt, Host Hotels & Resorts, and Within Light Studio on the Imaginative Travel by Andaz Designed Space at BDNY. What were you looking to create?
NG: It was a really fantastic collaboration. The Hyatt team had a clear vision and delivered us a concept that was complete and specific, but in no way prescriptive—the perfect jumping off point. We got it instantly and felt like we had enough room to create something in our own way. I don’t think this is talked about enough between brands and design teams; everyone does this differently, but if it’s done properly, it sets the stage for a very joyful and inspiring collaboration, which obviously yields the best end result. Our goal was to pay homage to that magic hour that truly defines every beach getaway: chilling with a cocktail, watching a vast expanse of sky cycle through every imaginable color as the sun goes down. Doing this inside the windowless Javits Center gave us the opportunity to go a bit surreal with it. We didn’t want to try and be literal about anything, but we didn’t want to go over the top either—this was still about showcasing a luxury lifestyle brand in a sophisticated way.
What’s coming up for you?
NG: We just finished doing a sizeable experience strategy project for a new concept, and that was an extremely fun and informative way to set the stage for the actual design portion of the project, which hopefully will kick off later this fall. I would love to do more of that for clients. Beyond that, we have a hotel project finishing up soon, and few F&B projects in the works, along with something very special and of course, top-secret.
Hear more from Gotlieb during the Making of a Designed Space Session: Imaginative Travel by Andaz session at BDNY, November 12th at 10:30 a.m. in booth #1869. Register for BDNY 2023 today!