Parterre Designer Conversation Series: Bessie Shen
Bessie Shen is a Senior Designer at KNA Design in Los Angeles, California. She has been in the design industry for nearly 12 years and specializes in hospitality and residential interior design. Bessie and KNA have worked with many giants in the high-end hospitality industry, including Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Caesars Palace and the Marriott Corporation.
Bessie recently took the time to walk Parterre through her design process, her inspiration and where she thinks the industry might be headed for the latest edition of our Designer Series.
Parterre: What made you initially want to pursue interior design? And what do you enjoy most about being a designer?
Bessie Shen: I always knew I wanted to be in the creative industry. As a child I was really into arts and crafts, drawing, and photography, and then I was introduced to interior design in high school as an elective course. After doing that for three years I continued on the same path after high school.
The part I enjoy most is being able to be creative while also solving space planning and layout issues. I like collaborating with different vendors within a project – carpet design, artwork design, wallcovering design, and doing custom designs within each project.
What do you feel has changed the most about the design industry since you first became a designer (or were in school to become a designer)?
There are way more new products and a lot of suppliers and vendors who carry similar products which gives us a good selection when designing but it can also be a bit overwhelming and challenging when trying to find the perfect product.
Where do you find inspiration for interior design? And what inspires you?
Interesting and unique color combinations and mixing materials as well as anything aesthetically pleasing. We are so visual as designers and I think we automatically get a vibe or feeling when we see something that catches our attention.
What is your favorite design trend that you’ve seen in the industry recently?
Mixing metals. I see a lot of mixing of two or three different finishes within a space and utilizing those combinations. I also like a minimal design approach to keep things a bit more timeless, clean, neutral, and serene.
Are there any past trends you wish would make a comeback?
I always like rose gold, blush tones and lacquered finishes. I think trends do come and go, but when you use them in small amounts and touches, they add some personality. It doesn’t become a trend that stands out, it just becomes a detail.
Can you tell us about a recent project you’ve enjoyed being a part of? What drew you to this project?
We do some work with Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and last year I worked on renovating some of their suites. There are 12 suites on the 29th floor of the Palace Tower specially designed in four distinct classical design styles: Ancient Grecian, Biedermeier, English Regency, and the French Empire. I was able to work on the French Empire design style.
What I enjoyed about this project was that we treated them like mini-residences and used luxury, high-end furnishings and finishes. I enjoyed designing in terms of a classical approach but adding modern touches to keep it current.
What is a common design challenge you see when designing hospitality spaces and how do you overcome it?
For the most part, it’s about finding the right balance of design, durability, and being within a certain price point since budget is a main factor in many projects. You have to work with multiple vendors to find the right fit for the project and find a product that checks all of the boxes.
What design element do you typically consider first when designing a space? What is your overall process?
It varies from project to project, as inspiration comes from different elements within different spaces. Sometimes it could be an element of a floor that is a starting point, or a carpet design or a furniture piece. But normally for me it would be the furnishings because it fills the majority of a space, and then details within that can accentuate the design style you’re going after.
Could you tell us about your overall opinion of luxury vinyl?
Within the last few years, I’ve become more familiar with LVT and I’m currently using it on a project. It is a great option for durability, flexibility and design patterns. I like that it’s a tactile mix between hard and soft; it’s right in the middle. I see it being used most in hospitality guest rooms, restaurants, and fitness centers, but it can definitely be used throughout a variety of spaces.
What is your go-to product or a general design element that you try to incorporate into projects?
I don’t really have a signature when designing for projects as we typically design for the client in mind. Each client and project have its own distinct design style they’re going for and we help deliver that with our own take. But I do like to always add a bit of unity to a design. Even though you’re creating a space with different elements, they should always come together in a cohesive manner for a successful project.