Ever wonder who’s behind your favorite spaces at Kimpton? Who found that incredible vintage chair or chose that ah-maaaazing wallpaper? You have Ave Bradley, Creative Director & Global SVP of Design and her team to thank. She’s responsible for designing the beautiful backdrop to your memories here at Kimpton. Where does Ave find inspiration? We asked her that and more!
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Green Bay, Wisconsin
Q: Does that mean you’re a Packers fan?
A: Of course I am. You bleed green and gold when you’re from Green Bay, Wisconsin. That’s all you have. You get June, July and August, and you get football.
Q: Ok, from Green Bay to all corners of the world, what’s your favorite place in the world and why?
A: I’m fascinated with archeology and had always wanted to see Angkor Wat. I finally made it there for a short 36 hours, and I packed it in. I stayed at a hotel called Amansara, which was built in the King’s former guesthouse. They have private access to enter the east gates at Angkor Wat, so at sunrise I was able to be there alone for a truly transformative experience. On that trip I also went for a water blessing with the local high priest. He gave me a robe, and I sat on the steps of a simple temple while he dipped a paddle in giant urns and flicked the water on me while chanting a blessing. Twenty minutes later, I opened my eyes, and I was just covered in flower petals. The whole experience was just incredible.
Q: How did you find your way to a career in design?
A: After I got my degree in psychology and was working out my next move, I took a part-time job on the sales floor at Pottery Barn during the holiday season. I just wanted to be surrounded by furniture and decorative accessories and all the things that I loved. The store I worked at was the test site for all the visual merchandising, and whenever the corporate team was lying out the visuals for the next season, I jumped in to help. I was curious, and I wanted to learn. Eventually, they plucked me off of the sales floor, and I assisted the buyers across all departments until I eventually became the furniture buyer.
Q: When did you transfer this over to hotels?
A: When Barry Sternlicht was launching W Hotels, he was looking for people outside of the traditional hotel design industry. I started to consult with them and eventually joined full-time about a year before the first W Hotel opened in NY. It was baptism by fire. Everything I had learned in retail, I had to apply so differently.
Q: What was a turning point in your career?
A: In the middle of launching W Hotels, we were tasked with rebranding 23 Sheraton Hotels and 16 Westin Hotels. So, I went across the country and put 20 model rooms together as a side project. Our team was so swamped with the creation of the brand that I was put on this assignment alone. I had a moment late at night where I just froze and thought, do I know how to do this? It all felt so foreign. I remember telling myself, you have to do one thing at a time, and eventually, I got there. I look back at that time as the single biggest confidence-building endeavor. I realized that if you’re willing to work hard, be scrappy, be resourceful and build strong relationships, you can re-apply your skills in a different dimension and make it work.
Q: Eventually, Kimpton was lucky enough to snag you and you’ve been here for 12 years now. What has kept you here?
A: What’s kept my interest for so long is that every day and every project are radically different than the one that came before it. If I had to plug into a formula, I might have become bored by now, but the way we do it is definitely the more challenging and more rewarding way, for me personally anyway. To continually reinvent ourselves and conceive something different each time keeps me challenged and doesn’t leave room for getting bored.
Q: When you’re seeking inspiration for a new Kimpton design – where do you start?
A: I start in the local neighborhood, the people who are using local business, the site and the building itself—in that mix a thread of an idea starts to form. Nature is one place where I pull inspiration and ideas, especially for patterns. Fashion is where I look for color palette and also attitude. Finding peace and quiet outside; being still and looking around and listening create space to appreciate the wonder that I’m surrounded by and be inspired.
Q: What’s been your favorite single object you’ve added to a Kimpton room and why?
A: There are two. A spectacular lounge chair & ottoman at the Gray Hotel. I found them at a vintage shop in Palm Springs by a well-known Swedish designer named Bruno Mathsson and it’s just a phenomenal piece. And the other favorite is the two-piece Terrazza furniture from Italian designer, De Sede, which is at Rowan hotel. That last 10% of what we do – that special layer of adding hand-selected pieces – is one of my favorite parts of the design process and what I think add so much character and soulfulness to the projects that we create.
Q: If someone were to write a book about you, what would the title be?
How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything