Therese and Regina Virserius’s design ethos is joy. The Swedish–born sister duo behind the namesake studio inject playful elements of color and pop art into their hospitality spaces with the intention of provoking convivial feelings in the patrons who frequent them.
From The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’s jewel tones and bold patterns to W Atlanta’s floral motifs and digital wall coverings, Virserius designs with youthful energy. Below, the sisters tell us about their art-world backgrounds, Swedish upbringing, and the benefits and challenges of working with kin.
How did you both get your start in the design industry?
Therese Virserius: My background was in law, but I was always interested in design. Working at IKEA in Shanghai gave me freedom from what I was doing in my native Sweden. I developed my interest in art while living there, with doing paintings (acrylics) and I had several exhibitions. I wanted to transition from 2D to 3D by doing accessories, moving to the U.S. in 2000 to study design and create movements and manipulate people in larger spaces at NYSID. From smaller to a grander scale, it was a natural progression. The objects got bigger.
Regina Virserius: I have always been drawn towards design, but more as a fine artist than in product design.
Did either of your upbringings have a strong influence on the way you think about or experience design?
TV: We are from Sweden, where it was less expensive to go to museums and theater than it was to go to a popular movie theater, so we had art exposure and influence from early on. Our mother did have a strong aesthetic, very minimal but highly inviting. Our V/S (Virserius Studio) aesthetic is a little different than Scandinavian design. We are full, eclectic, and robust, not minimal.
RV: I have always enjoyed that line between sculpture and design, the association of body and space. I love reading theory of what an object is, then moving to a drawing, a model, an experience, and finally the definition of the object as a design or a sculpture..
How did you decide to start Virserius Studio together? As sisters, do you ever find it difficult to work together?
TV: We did work together briefly in the beginning but had to part for a bit. We rediscovered each other and then we began working together again more formally in 2013, forming Imaggo Production, the art consultancy, to complement what V/S was doing. Regina comes from fine arts, which involves questioning and researching. She’s more intellectual, whereas I’m more commercial—function, operation, and execution. Our work styles are complementary.
RV: We saw each other’s skills and capacity and knew it could work. It is also a way to be together and to have conversations with different points of view. Being sisters and good friends, you go through a lot. When you work together there are challenging times and you may argue. But then like sisters and friends you move on!
What is the biggest challenge of owning your own design firm?
TV: To not micromanage your people. It’s sometimes impossible with so many different projects, but you have to build and trust the people you have on your team. Learning how to set expectations for clients, as well. The deeper and longer the relationships, the better. There is deep trust.
With new clients, it’s crucial to set expectations and have clear communication throughout the process. You must listen, listen, listen. We are a global firm and work in different countries with different cultures and languages, so we are mindful and adaptable to those challenges. Having an international company with international work has made us patient and diplomatic.
What project are you both proudest of?
RV: I think The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for its enormous scale and tempo. But I also love Le Campus at Hyatt Regency, Charles de Gaulle for its scale and close collaboration to each of the teams involved in that project.
TV: Le Campus Hyatt Regency because everyone involved was collaborative, The Cosmopolitan for the incredible in-house project management, and W Atlanta for the creative freedom and support from ownership.
RV: All types of life experiences: traveling, reading, and meeting with people to understand sensibilities in an ever-changing society. Art is always in the center of my process of work.
What are you currently working on?
TV: The Ray in South Florida, Waldorf-Astoria Biltmore in Scottsdale, and Marriott Opera House in Paris, which is in a historical building with classic Haussmann Architecture. We have also launched an interesting project with P Kauffman, a textile line called Whist.
What do you do when you’re not working?
TV: I’m out in the Virginia countryside.
RV: Reading, sports, gardening, museum or art gallery visits, curating new programs. But for me that is still part of working. So perhaps when I’m not working, I’m sleeping.