As a young interior designer working at a residential and workplace architecture firm in New York, Nina Gotlieb knew exactly what she wanted to do. “Having access to some of the best and most beautiful restaurants in the world, it wasn’t long before I decided I needed to move into hospitality,” she says, noting that it was the initial theatricality that drew her in. “It felt like design on our own terms, rather than design driven by a client’s personal aesthetic. I was creating these beautiful private spaces that nobody I loved could experience. In hospitality, everyone is welcome.”
In 2007, she joined AvroKO, then a burgeoning firm, where she discovered firsthand that “restaurants are living, breathing beasts,” she says. From there, she went on to design more hospitality spaces at venerable firm Roman and Williams (like the Viceroy in New York) and eventually landed on the St. Regis and Luxury Collection design team at Starwood Hotels. “I learned how to view design through the lens of a brand and the importance of creating, maintaining, and evolving a particular voice when dealing with multiple properties on a global scale.”
When Starwood was acquired by Marriott in 2016, Gotlieb found herself in the West Elm offices talking about design and their upcoming contract business. Now, nearly three years later and with a team of four, she runs both interior design and product development at one of the most widely recognizable consumer furniture brands in the U.S., which is embarking on its own hotel mission with plans for properties in Detroit, Minneapolis, Savannah, and Indianapolis, to name a few.
Gotlieb points to her childhood growing up in suburban New Jersey as the inspiration behind her career. Her home was filled with collections that told stories about where she came from and a life that happened before she was born. It has since shaped her own design vision, which she carries throughout her projects. “I love spaces that don’t feel overthought,” she says. “They have to be designed from the gut.”