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Portrait of Loren Daye courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.
Design

Loren Daye: Designing Dreams with LOVEISENOUGH

By Eliza Jordan

January 6, 2021

Twelve years ago, LOVEISENOUGH was founded by Loren Daye as a design studio with an intuitive and contextual approach to interiors. Over the years, her projects have leaned heavily on juxtaposition and contrast, showing soft details among austere ones, refinement alongside luxurious elements, and sublime materials and fixtures among the banal.  Whether residential, retail, or hospitality design, LOVEISENOUGH designs are foiled by experimentation and pieces sourced from around the globe.

Prior to LOVEISNEOUGH, Daye worked with renowned firms Roman & Williams Buildings and Interiors and Aero Studios in New York. She also served as creative director and the head of interiors for Ace Hotel Group for nearly seven years, overseeing an array of points for the project—from conceptual development and retail collaboration to art direction and project management. While there, she led developments for Ace Hotel Group in Kyoto, London, Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, New Orleans, and Berlin, exploring, aggregating, bridging teams, and translating ideas.

Last year, LOVEISENOUGH revealed its decadent interior design for Le Crocodile inside the Wythe Hotel. The French restaurant in Brooklyn buzzes with an illuminating energy, greeting diners to brick walls, soaring windows,, burgundy leather booths, walnut tables, and a lengthy marble bar—an atmosphere that twinkles with dim lights from custom fixtures as the night falls.

Whitewall spoke with Daye about LOVEISENOUGH, where her creative process begins, and where she feels the future of design is.

Open Gallery

Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.

WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about your practice leading up to founding LOVEISENOUGH?

LOREN DAYE: My studies were in the social sciences, specifically in the culture and history of China, so I saw a clear path from human behavior to design when I went to graduate school for interiors at Pratt Institute. Early work in residential and retail design led me to work for some of the most discerning eyes, namely Aero Studios and Roman and Williams Buildings and Interiors. That led naturally to hotels and restaurants, where all my interests—architecture, travel, diverse cultures, food, and beauty—were indulged. 

LOVEISENOUGH was born from my desire to work in a personal way with agility, lightness and spontaneity.  I wanted to try to work differently by staying small, flattening the hierarchy and working laterally and collaboratively within the studio.

WW: Tell us a bit about some of your early projects.

LD: As LOVEISENOUGH, I renovated Steven Alan's TriBeCa shop in New York City, along with a handful of residential work. I had just completed a private dining room and test kitchen for client Geoff Bartakovics in SoHo when old friends from Ace Hotel Group asked if I wanted to develop an Interiors Department for them. 

Founder Alex Calderwood said, "Don't close your studio. Let's hang out for six months and see how it goes." Those seven years at Ace contained a great deal of research, incessant travel, and fruitful ideas executed and tested in the field. As a result, traces of my fingerprints can be seen in many corners of current, old, new, and future Ace projects.

Open Gallery

Portrait of Loren Daye courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.

WW: How did you approach the design for Le Crocodile? 

LD: The site as it was given to us belonged to Brooklyn of an era and felt casual and decidedly “matte,” but owner Jon Neidich wanted drama, romance, sparkle. I thought of the design narrative as "freshly washed, damp hair, a white shirt, and a gold chain." Our approach was 3 parts: celebrate the building by cleaning up the finishes and neutralizing the palette; introduce “high touch” moments at human scale and height; and generate reflectivity and glow. I knew the owners and chefs and believed solidly in their vision and expertise.  In addition, a large majority of my projects have been adaptive reuse of industrial buildings so the space at Wythe was quickly metabolized. 

The big restraint and challenge was the timeline, which was initially two months for design and construction, although construction ended up extending by two months. As a result, we had to be very resourceful as there were limits on what we could build custom (for example) in four to six weeks.  We front-loaded the architectural moves so the construction team (Tom McMillan of New Objects Design) could start on demolishing and disassembling walls, bidding out the custom millwork, and starting on changes to lighting and electrical. 

We went to great lengths to make any preexisting MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) work so the majority of funds could go to new fixtures, cleaning up the wall finishes and fabrication of custom furniture throughout—like banquettes, mirrors, tables, and chairs. Chefs Aidan O'Neal and Jake Leiber insisted on artless walls at their previous restaurant, Chez Ma Tante.  I identify with this idea of forgoing objects and decoration and instead embracing a layering of materials that achieves a "depth of plainness." This idea of simplicity and warm utility isn't a shy or easy proposal in an industry (hospitality) that is so hung up on a love of novelty, contrast and totems of affluence.

Open Gallery

Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.

WW: What hotels, bars, and restaurants from around the world inspired the space?

LD: Jon, Aidan, and Jake took a European tour of these very iconic spaces—the Ritz in Paris and Harry's Bar, Hotel Cirpriani, and Gritti Palace in Venice—in seeking that enduring quality of elegant hospitality. My colleagues, architects Zack Adelson and Chris Hudik (of studio LOVE), poured over some traditional hotel lobbies to study the play of asymmetries and historical furniture layouts. 

I layered in references from my time in Berlin (Pauly Saal and Le Petit Royal) and Vienna (Cafe Sperl, among others) for examples of seamless day to eve transformation, robust millwork languages, and restrained color palettes.

WW: What aspects of the restaurant are special to you that embody LOVEISENOUGH's design DNA? 

LD: Our thesis, "listen to the building," is primary to how we offer architectural solutions.  A play of scale is another tool.  The client's ambitions, identity, impressions, and dreams come quickly after. Le Crocodile was intuitive, collaborative and experimental—all values we embrace as a team.  I love very 'low' things and very 'high' things in equal measure.

On Le Crocodile, that meant reusing the large pendant fixtures in the dining room or stocked table bases alongside very custom benches and bespoke gilded stripe by the extraordinary atelier of artists at Callidus Guild throughout the dining room. We love spaces to feel collected, not planned.  It's a big compliment when the room falls away and people are focused on each other, the food, the beverage.  We love the design to play a supporting role to the real product: connection. This is a precious element of physical culture that we're all missing right now.

Open Gallery

Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.

WW: When you take on a project, where do you typically start?

LD: We always start with a version of mind clearing or amnesia.  An emptiness of mind helps us begin a new project.  This also helps me seek understanding before thinking and generally results in solutions sympathetic to the client.  Culling a vast archive of visual references and research is an early stage and something I learned from Robin Standefer. We've also started projects with a list of words or with just music or sound.  On most hospitality projects, we begin with many images that start—like a tidal wave—to pour over the client and elicit a series of discussions that lead us onward.

WW: Where do you feel the future of design is?

LD: As we're feeling at this moment, the world is an ever-shifting landscape of desire, need and survival.  Beauty will continue to bring me both hope and poignant sadness.  In contrast, design can provide solutions to our problems of shelter, care, health and safety. It should help us address the impermanence we feel all around us right now. Material, texture, acoustics, architecture give us emotional respite from the storm and allow us to anchor ourselves to something. 

In this way, design is a very effective vocation and tool we can employ to consider the issues of humanity. The way 'craft' has surfaced as a touchstone for precious design in furniture, objects and space, I believe rarity will be the new “luxury” and we will move away from the mimicry of class and wealth that now feels clunky and stale.  This rarity—in nature, in workmanship, in material integrity—will become the new version of aspiration and opulence.

We will begin to use our senses more and focus more on our bodies and health which will have an influence on how we create space. I also feel like small, flattened studios will reign as architects and designers begin to value their own health and voice within our industry.  The cult of personality thing we've had going for a while just seems hokey and conventional now.  I believe the future of work is found at the paradox of efficiency and beauty. To me, that means working at a studio level with incredible focus and rigor, total clarity of communication, mutual trust, and personal responsibility—for fewer hours—to make time for the things you want to savor time for like fuss with a millwork detail for too long, play with color, see art, or go outside.  

Open Gallery

Photo of Le Crocodile by Read McKendree; courtesy of LOVEISENOUGH.

WW: How are you doing right now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

LD: The pandemic has given me permission to indulge a domestic life at home that I didn't have for much of the last decade of travel and work.  I'm mostly working from my office in upstate New York and doing charrettes remotely in the studio which is nothing new for us. Last week I reorganized my entire office archive of books and found old projects from graduate school (when I received my Master’s of Science Interior Design at Pratt Institute) and some art studio pottery I thought I'd lost. I'm also cooking a ton with my husband Jesse Rowe, an apparel designer and collector, who is surprisingly ambitious in the kitchen and almost constantly making something to bring to someone in our town.

WW: How are you staying inspired?

LD: Learning and reading is a huge inspiration. One thing about the strange openness of time right now that I indulge my curiosity completely. I just read about a hunting lodge my friend Yolande Batteau, owner of Callidus Guild,once sent me on Elliôaey Island in Iceland where there is no electricity or plumbing but has a sauna. That led me to discover the Katskhi Pillar, a remote church at the top of a 40-meter limestone monolith in Georgia. That led me to learn about the Stylites, ascetics who lived at the top of these tall, constructed columns in the late 4th century. 

The world is full of interesting stories that fill me with thought and inspiration.  When I can, I teach in the graduate department at Pratt Institute and am presently rereading some of the course literature again—everything from Elements of Color by Johannes Itten to The Nature and Art of Workmanship by David Pye.

WW: What are you working on next?

LD: One of our projects is a retreat in upstate New York for which we're designing everything—concept, identity, architecture, interiors, menu, and operations. It consists of some existing buildings and some green space with lovely partners and a skilled team. Over the last year, the studio has gone from projects in the UK, San Francisco, and New York City, and finally to one that is super local.  It's about a three-minute walk from my office to the site. Very dreamy!

Ace HotelLe CrocodileLoren DayeLOVEISENOUGH

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