Tracey Sawyer has built a career infusing lifestyle spaces with personality and beauty. A human-centric ethos serves as the foundation of her practice, Sawyer & Company, guiding projects from New York City (Marriott Downtown) to St. Petersburg (Tribute) to the sea (Celebrity Edge’s Raw on Five Restaurant) and beyond. Now, after more than a decade in the hospitality world, the studio is branching out into the residential sphere and bringing the guest experience to the home with its signature natural, calm-inducing aesthetic.
“With many now working remotely and unable to travel internationally, the spaces in which we spend our time must provide solace and respite, while also serving as functional offices, classrooms, and workout studios,” she says. “Now, we are able to apply what we’ve learned from the hospitality space to the interiors of residential spaces at a time when our homes and how we use them is more important than ever before.”
Below, we speak with Tracey about the studio’s foray into residential, starting with a range of conceptual villas, the ability of space to create, emotional connections, and her dream project.
How would you describe your approach to design?
I like to think about how people interact with and move through space—the human factor. We solve design problems; whether that’s understanding the programming or the way that spaces fit together. Space should appeal to the senses and create emotional connections. It should always make you smile. It should bring moments of joy as you move through it.
What are your go-to materials?
Our material palette is always informed by the experience we are looking to create—the functionality and use cases. We ask ourselves: Who is the end-user? How do they live their life? How will they use the space? Beyond that, we trend toward organic design, neutral color palettes, and natural, durable materials.
What are some standout projects in your repertoire?
We were thrilled to be the lead design team for the Marriott Modern Guestroom Initiative that transformed more conservative thinking and design into their new contemporary identity. We translated that thinking, albeit on a much larger scale, into one of our biggest projects at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Some of our other favorites are working with soft brands including the Tribute and Curio Collections, and more recently the Sheraton Palmetto implementing their forward-thinking brand DNA.
What made you want to forge into residential design?
The pandemic caused a standstill for most of the world—strict quarantine rules, remote work, and of course, limited travel—and homes quickly became more multi-functional than ever. I wanted to bring beautiful resort-like aesthetics and efficiencies to the home to help bring an element of escapism.
How will your hospitality experience translate to private residences?
It’s about understanding smaller pockets of space in order to accommodate different considerations. First and foremost, the guest wants to feel cared for in hospitality, everything is thought through for you. For instance, in a bedroom or a hotel room, we look at a number of things: How are you going to get up in the morning? What do you need next to the bed? Where is the power? Where are the light controls? It’s about providing people what they need before they realize they need it. We’re dead set on bringing that ideology from hotels to homes.
When creating a narrative for a hotel, we create a bespoke design for each property based on history, location, and the narrative of the brand. We carry this thinking into residential design— each home has its own story and identity. We create transporting experiences and moments that make you say “aah.”
What type of project is on your wish list?
I’m looking forward to designing a full-scale resort and spa, one that is calm, luxurious, based on mindfulness, and engaged with nature. We’re excited to apply this philosophy to residential spaces, as well, allowing our clients to enjoy a resort-like atmosphere at home.