Surf Lodge fundamentally changed the town of Montauk when it opened. Whether people love it or hate it, it’s such an iconic, well-designed property, and its influence is undeniable. How did that project come to be and what were the early days like?
Yeah, that is a good way to put it. Lots of mixed emotions there. I was working on Goldbar with my two partners and this old night club and run-down motel came up for sale. I went to my partners and said, “Let’s open a hotel in Montauk. We can call it The Surf Lodge and it will be a special little spot.” They agreed and we raised the money with lots of skepticism from investors who said “Montauk, who’s going to go there? It’s too far.” We got the keys in April 2008 and opened Memorial Day 2008. It was one of the toughest projects of my life but I hired as many friends as I could to help out and made a few more along the way. The opening went off with a bigger bang than we ever imagined. It was a magic time. We were one big, salty, sun-kissed family.
Describe your creative process. What is it like going from concept to execution on a typical hotel project?
For me it always starts with spending time in the space and sitting with the idea or feeling that we’re trying to evoke with the end result. It’s really important for me to design something that is alive and that is able to have a life after we’ve done our part. We are very connected to material and texture, the things that you touch and feel. We create lots of samples and as many real-life mock-ups as possible.
Tell me more about the concept for the McKinley Bungalows.
In 2018 we wanted to create something different. We wanted to take our favorite brands out of the stale showroom environment and bring them to life in a real home setting. We wanted to share this home and how to purchase these brands with guests, fans, and media across the country. So, that’s what we did. We’ve acquired and gut renovated three homes in Montauk to create the McKinley Bungalows. The homes have been filled every bookable minute with discerning guests, journalists, friends, and friends of friends.