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Forces of Nature: Feel Inspired This Women’s Month With Stories From Our Female Design Experts

Our accomplished design leaders share inspiring insights, sustainability tips, and the stories of strong women who have paved the way for them.

Published on: March 07, 2024
Looxo - Optimara

After a long winter, it’s natural to look forward to March as a month of inspiration, renewal, and revitalization. How fitting that it’s also Women’s History Month—with International Women’s Day on March 8th--dedicated to honoring and celebrating the incredible impacts of feminine energy, empowerment, and accomplishments around the world.

Beginning as Women’s History Week in Santa Rosa, California in 1978, it took years for it to evolve into the internationally recognized Women’s History Month. Today, the celebrations spotlight the incredible women who have paved the way, the vital role of women in shaping our history, and the work to be done to fight for education, autonomy, and equality for females across the globe. Aligned with this legacy, the theme for 2024 is “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion,” raising awareness of remaining biases and inspiring social action for equality. 

To celebrate Women’s Month and honor the incredible women who have helped shape our world at 1 Hotels, we spoke with female design leaders and one of our incredible plant experts at 1 Hotel Nashville. Follow along as they share what Women’s Month means to them, insightful career advice, and tangible design tips to help you curate inspiring sustainable spaces in your own home. We hope these conversations empower you to see and celebrate all the female strength that surrounds you every day.

CARLY HAND, DESIGN DIRECTOR, SH HOTELS & RESORTS

What does International Women’s Month mean to you?

International Women’s Month is a time to celebrate women’s achievements, and reflect on those who came before us, and laid the pathway for change. It inspires young women and girls to have the courage to continue making change and fighting for women’s rights, especially in a time when those are once again being threatened.  

Can you discuss the importance of having women in leadership roles within the design industry?

Female representation in leadership roles is increasingly important.  Creating gender inclusive work environments help women to feel comfortable and inspired.  Maternity support is crucial for women to feel supported and in control of their careers, while balancing their home lives. It is important for young women in the workforce to be able to see themselves as future leaders, and to look up to the women in those leadership roles.

You were very involved in the design of our flagship property, 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay. How did sustainability principles guide the design, and what advice do you have for readers looking to design their spaces as sustainably as possible?

The 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay, as all of our properties are, is inspired by nature.  The building is nestled into the hillside, overlooking the Hanalei Bay. It was important for us to make sure we were thoughtful in our design decisions to simplify the original building, and direct the focus outward. We broke down a large interior lobby to create a beautiful courtyard, filled with landscape and water features, so when one arrives, they are quite literally entering through nature. There was a focus on using local woods and stones throughout the property, as well as engaging artists and artisans from the island. When designing sustainably, we want to leave the earth better than when we found it, and that was something that was important throughout this design process.  Giving back to the environment, while focusing on the transformative properties of biophilic design and wellness of our guests.  

As a tip for readers looking to design their spaces sustainably: look to where your pieces are coming from.  How are they constructed? Are they trendy”? Look to timeless elements that are made well, using authentic materials, and built to last.  We often incorporate vintage pieces, giving them a second life.


REBECCA KING, VICE PRESIDENT OF DESIGN, SH HOTELS & RESORTS

We’ve all heard the phrase, “The future is female.” But what does it mean to you?

For me, “The Future is Female” means breaking down barriers that have historically restricted women's participation and advancement and strives for a future where gender doesn’t limit anyone's opportunities or value.

At 1 Hotels, nature and sustainability are at the core of what we do. Tell us about your role with 1 Hotels and how these pillars influence your design process.

Nature serves as an endless source of inspiration, and it informs everything we design at 1 Hotels. For example, our approach to crafting furniture and finishes always draws upon the beauty of the natural world. Our aim is to imbue our creations with an organic essence, avoiding the overly manufactured or flawless aesthetic.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in design?

Be persistent and have the courage of your convictions! Interior design is unique in that everyone will experience your work and they will always have an opinion. Stay true to your design vision and be selective about which feedback to take on board.

MICHELLE MONTALVO, DIRECTOR OF VISUAL DESIGN, SH HOTELS & RESORTS

Can you tell us about your role at 1 Hotels?

I am the Director of Visual Design for SH – I provide direction for our global standards via lookbooks and style guides, create our uniform program, collaborate on our property activations, and direct our photoshoots as well as style our properties. 

Are there any female leaders or designers who have inspired your approach?

I am lucky to have had many incredible mentors in my career. Strong, hardworking women inspire me daily but I always have admired Iris Apfel. She was not only stylish and creative, she also took risks that inspired you to challenge your own approach to fashion and interiors as well.  

How do you incorporate sustainable practices into the design of our properties? 

As we source designs for our uniforms, we work with select local vendors to ensure the product is manufactured, packed and shipped in the most sustainable way. We gravitate towards organic fabrics and omit all unnecessary packing materials. 
 
Another sustainable practice to mention is that all of our harvest and festive decorative materials are either made from recycled materials and/or are compostable. Wherever possible, we also donate all of our festive trees to local parks.

Can you give examples of how you source sustainable materials and pieces, and how readers can do so for their own homes or spaces?

One of the ways we create unique and aspirational environments is by incorporating found pieces, reclaimed wood and loads of foliage into our overall design. I always jokingly say “ One wo/man’s junk is another wo/man’s treasure.” When you are out shopping next time please consider upcycling and repurposing furniture, vessels and materials for your home.

ANNIE MAUS, SPECIALTY GROWER AT LOOXO AND PLANT CURATOR AT 1 HOTEL NASHVILLE

What does International Women’s Month mean to you?

It means celebrating and increasing the visibility of women’s achievements past, present, and future without regard to any division. 

Is there a female superpower that you feel has served you well, especially while collaborating with 1 Hotel Nashville?

I have a lot of energy and using it to motivate my team is very important. We have about 3,500 plants inside the hotel, and our service can become very tedious. Being able to curate and delegate to a team that knows how to collaborate and adapt well has been extremely beneficial in our partnership with 1 Hotel Nashville.

Are there any women who have particularly inspired you in your career or personal life?

First and foremost, my mother, Laura, has always inspired me with her kindness, empathy, and gratitude towards others. Joann Salek-Holsbeeke was the first leader I worked with in this industry eight years ago. Her work ethic and ability to tackle large projects and serve customers with a positive and fun attitude continue to motivate me every day. Recently, Jan Goodman of Boston Cityscapes has been an incredible mentor of mine professionally. She has inspired me to make Nashville as green as it can be!

In what ways do you believe women's contributions, particularly in the realm of plant care and environmental sustainability, shape a greener future?

Diversifying our power does not mean taking power from others necessarily. In many contexts, women are more vulnerable, and sharing not just our strengths, but weaknesses with others allows everyone to open themselves up to more connections. Empowering women in the horticulture and agriculture industries is essential to understanding the adaptation of our climate and preparing for a more sustainable future.  By embracing everyone’s knowledge, ideas, and opinions and innovating together, we can leave our planet better for future generations. 

What nurturing advice would you share with women embarking on their path to make a positive impact on our environment? 

Start a garden! Caring for even one plant can teach you so much. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, that’s where a lot of learning takes place. Think out of the box but do everything with intention. See each opportunity, especially failures, as a chance to learn and grow. The Earth has given us so much, and it’s crucial to educate ourselves on how we can give back to Her. And lastly, no matter where you are on your green journey, read Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, she is incredible.

EMBRACE FEMALE EMPOWERMENT

Cherish the essence of divine feminine energy across our properties with women-led pop-up shops, opulent spa treatments, astrological readings, sustainable suppers, mindful movement classes, and so much more.

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