New independent hospitality design firm is launched

by | Sep 30, 2016 | Boutique Hospitality, The Society

Oregon Daily Journal of Commerce 
by Beverly Corbell 

“Daring, obsessive, experimental and boundless.” That’s how the Duchess of Mischief, Karen Bowery describes The Society, a new venture in “audaciously independent” hospitality design.

The hospitality business is hot in the Northwest, Bowery said, and her group will be able to meet demand for individual, eclectic and unusual interior design. Team members have experience working on such projects, and have wanted a chance to do more, she said. “We think smaller is better and we are people who live and breathe design, so it’s kind of a dream come true.”

Five team members of The Society are located in Portland and five are from the Seattle, Bowery said. Their freewheeling individuality is expected to be expressed in their designs; it’s already evident in their unique job titles.

Bowery, the Duchess of Mischief, is leader of the group that includes four architects, four interior designers and two branding strategists. Others’ job titles include: Hot Air Balloon Captain, Tour Guide of the Universe, International Man of Conspicuousness, Secret Agent and Resident Disc Jockey of Jupiter.

Each member of the “audaciously independent” team has a strong personality and a seasoned sense of design, Bowery said.

“Audacious means we are quite a group of characters and independent means we wanted to make a mark about being on our own,” she said. “Many well-known firms have a figurehead, but we are a collective that brings our individual voices and talents, which is why we have personalities to start with.”

Bowery said she doesn’t know why, but developers tend to not work with the same firm for both architecture and interior design; many seem to prefer smaller groups like The Society. She hopes that a more intimate and individualized approach will not only give her group a chance to branch out.

The Society team has already worked on projects for Ankrom Moisan Architects. One is the Moxy Phoenix Tempe, a Marriott-owned hotel that captures Tempe’s vibrant art scene through an evocative art display in the lobby and off-the-wall features. For instance, an elevator doubles as a photo booth, and each room has a record player and vinyl records.

This week, Bowery visited the opening of another unusual project handled by team members: two tree houses created for Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington. The rooms, which sleep up to four, are elevated to overlook the forest and the Columbia River. Each one has a large, outdoor deck and an indoor/outdoor fireplace.

The Society is working on interior hospitality design projects in Seattle and San Francisco for other architecture firms. Though the group is split between Portland and Seattle, Portland-based Bowery visits Seattle every week. Also, members connect electronically on a daily basis.

“With technology you can really work anywhere, and everybody collaborates now and it’s expected,” she said. “And it brings the two offices together.”

Other Portland members include interior designers Brad Criswell and Stacey Clifton as well as brand strategists Sarah Bartlett and Willy Dang. Seattle team members are interior designers Gina Leone, Casey Scalf and Heather Hayes and architects Jason Lamb and Jenny Chapman.

Bowery said the new business’ name stems from the notion that all great societies start with a simple idea, which the name is meant to convey.

“It holds the imprint of luxury and exclusivity in one hand with the creatively mischievous personalities of its members in the other,” she said. “It started small, but has aspirations to evolve into a movement, with clients, designers and great ideas all invited to join in.”