When we last met up with Sara Duffy, she was coming off a high. A Stonehill Taylor principal, she was instrumental in the interior design of one of New Yorkâ€™s most highly visible and talked about projects in years. That would be the TWA Hotel, transformation of Eero Saarinenâ€™s 1962 TWA Flight Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners, INC Architecture & Design, and Lubrano Ciavarra Architects.
A New York native who grew up just blocks from the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, Duffy was destined to be a creative. Her mother was a high-end residential designer, her father a writer. She came to design, however, via a circuitous route, starting out in television at MTV. There, animation led to a liaison between the consumer products division and the graphics department. Then came MTVâ€™s first storeâ€”Duffyâ€™s â€śaha momentâ€ť for a design career. She was involved in choosing the architect, reviewing drawings, and participating in site walkthroughs. All a natural lead up to enrollment in the Fashion Institute of Technology. A prestigious internship at Rockwell Group ensued, turning into a full-time job upon graduation. In 2008, she joined Stonehill Taylor where her hotel credits include the Renaissance, New York; JW Marriott, Nashville; and The Eliza Jane, New Orleans.
Interior Design: The world is a new place, and who knows how the new normal may evolve. What are you doing now to stay busy, creative, and connected to colleagues, clients, and potential clients?
Sara Duffy: Fortunately, Stonehill Taylor has continued to move forward with existing projects, and weâ€™re finding ways to be even more efficient. I have numerous calls throughout the week to stay connected to my team, making sure that everyone is staying on top of deadlines and has the resources they need. With clients and potential clients, Iâ€™ve been reaching out personally to make sure they know I am fully available. In ways, our creativity has been augmented. While working from home, weâ€™re spending a lot of time on our computers, so focusing on the creative aspect of the design process gives a welcome break.
ID: What are learning from this personally and professionally?
SD: The silver lining has been having more time with my family. To take advantage of the extra time I can have with my daughters, Iâ€™m prioritizing being thorough and efficient in my work. Iâ€™ve been more productive than ever.
ID: Particular challenges and solutions you can share?
SD: Our greatest challenge during this time is the ability to review and select materials. We have a fantastic library in our office and if we didnâ€™t have something available, it was easy to meet with a vendor or have a variety of samples delivered right to our desk [think Material Bank]. Now, itâ€™s a more cumbersome process of sending samples not only to our teamsâ€™ homes, but to each of the clientsâ€™ teams and to consultants. Before sending to the client, we typically have a video call to review samples internally. While the process takes more time, it ensures everything is vetted and approved.
ID: Letâ€™s talk about travel. As a hospitality specialist, how do you see things opening in both business and recreational arenas?
SD: As the world begins to open back up, travel will also make a comeback as people seek ways to recharge. Travelers will opt for destinations perceived as safer and more affordable, meaning those reachable by driving or even spaces in their own communities. This will build a strong foundation for regional hospitality. Business travel will follow this trend. Companies and institutions will likely choose to keep conferences and larger meetings closer to home.