Gina Deary – Art Installations, The Key to Transforming a Hotel Design Into an Experience

Art Business News

December 13, 2022

For more than two decades, our interior design teams at KTGY-SDDG have amplified the deep intraconnection of each of our hotel and hospitality projects through design narratives that shape and articulate the guest experience. The layered process of bringing together craft, discipline and perspective allows for a dynamic spatial dialogue that inspires a brand story and defines a unique sense of place. Art plays a key role in creating this dialogue and the creative collaboration between designer and artist ultimately allows the story to unfold in rich and distinctive ways.

From clever mixed-media busts at the Hotel Kansas City to the stunning installation of nearly 360 Edison bulbs at the Detroit Foundation Hotel — and dozens of other projects on our resume — our collaborations with artists and the built environment inform and inspire the guest experience.

We wholeheartedly believe interactive hospitality spaces — ones that support and exhibit the magical relationship between art and architecture — are what make our environments unlike any other. Only by creating a symbiotic relationship with art, the artist, and the space itself can we deliver sensory experiences that delight and engage.

We begin with a concept, and the process of finding that big idea involves much plotting and planning around how art can help define our design narrative and elevate our aesthetic. The idea is the starting point; then we begin engaging with individual artists and the artist community. Whether we’re supporting emerging talent or a well-known name, we make sure each artist shares our vision of creating distinct focal points that tell a memorable story and engage the community.

As designers and artists, it’s nearly impossible to explain how the creative process manifests itself; it’s an individual journey. In the relationship between designer and artist, it’s the designer’s role to clearly communicate the concept, the possibilities, the brand story and, sometimes, the limitations of space and time — and then step back, wait, and watch as each artist brings their creativity to full realization.

We’re constantly amazed by the energy, both tangible and intangible, that artists bring to our projects. Between context and the freedom to work, the artist inevitably conjures up exactly what the space needs, sometimes through what feels like an otherworldly process.

While we’re used to collaborating, most of our clients haven’t typically engaged with artists. But by the end of our design journey, we’re thrilled to see those relationships deepen. Often, following completion of our work, the client plays an integral role in continuing the relationship with the local art community. After our design team has moved on, the project’s story lives on and the art installation becomes a unique, living piece of the property; a voice, whether it’s small and subdued or big and roaring, that belongs only to its environment.

Throughout our design history, we’ve learned that striking a careful balance between art — whether it’s an installation, a sculpture, a painting, or a light fixture — and interiors is an art unto itself. We’ve been lucky enough to have had many powerful moments when the stars aligned, and magic was made.

Image courtesy of KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group

Our project at the Hotel Kansas City is a favorite illustration of how art can breathe life into a property’s history. The Gothic Revival building, which sits on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in Missouri. We wanted to give a nod to its historical reference with a dose of humor and irreverence. To accomplish this, we commissioned a series of modern busts of the six original key club members, including Teddy Roosevelt, who now greet guests in the lobby. It’s an unexpected moment of playfulness that adds intrigue to an already important property.

As a rule, location and history always inform our artistic choices. When we began our work at the Detroit Foundation Hotel, I immediately flashed back to one of my earliest memories of the city: an abundance of broken-bulbed streetlights that marked the then-decaying downtown. How could we incorporate that visceral memory and a piece of the city’s history into a project that spoke to its rebirth? A collaboration between artist Alex Porbe, Incite Design, and our design team unearthed the answer. The result is a luminous installation of 357 custom Edison-style vintage bulbs and 50 hand-blown glass globes now hanging over the hotel bar, elevating a simple memory into a sublime work of art.

Image courtesy of KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group

To pay homage to that same building’s history as the former headquarters of the Detroit Fire Department, we commissioned Kim Harty of College of Creative Studies to create a piece honoring the souls of the firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. Hundreds of glass-blown balloons now float up the building’s original fire shaft in a stunning and meaningful display. This kind of grounded and significant art is the story visitors want to be told.

At JW Marriott Charlotte’s Oyster Bar, we again let the location tell the story. Artist Windy Chien created an intricate knotted rope wall installation inspired by the coastline business of oyster farming and the art of fishing knots, which now anchors the hotel’s bar. Similarly, for Atlanta’s InterContinental Buckhead, artist Niki Zarrabi took inspiration from classic southern botanicals and Georgia’s state flower, the Cherokee rose, to create an over-scaled giclée on canvas in which the flowers drip and grow out of the frame in every direction. The eye-catching piece is the centerpiece of the lobby lounge.

The chic collision and collaboration of French and Spanish hotel brands Le Meridien and AC Hotel in downtown Denver posed a design challenge that we met with whimsy and ingenuity. For Le Meridien, we commissioned approximately 500 individual portraits of the iconic rule-breaker Marie Antoinette. We then configured them in a way that suggests a mountainscape. Bold red backgrounds and smart acrylic boxes help pull off a beautiful bit of trickery, fusing together the crisp feel of the Rocky Mountains with classic French flair.

At the Chicago hotel The Gwen, we celebrated Gwen Lux, a turn-of-the-century sculptor who made significant contributions to the original building’s exteriors. To pay homage to her unheralded, groundbreaking art, we commissioned artist Deborah Moss to create a carved sculpture that harkens back to the relief sculptures Lux created on the building’s facade. Her use of Hydro-Stone with a solid bronze metal inlay masterfully undulates, inspiring a moment of movement and exceptional intrigue.

We firmly believe art should amplify creative freedom that challenges convention and pushes the limits of expected design practices. The magical mix of well-designed space and art that captures and extends its narrative takes the guest experience to the next level. It speaks with a more daring and provocative tone, igniting conversation, emotion, and wonder, not only accommodating guests but captivating them.


Author’s BioTo create an interior design firm that would prioritize artistry and the development of industry talent, Gina Deary established Simeone Deary Design Group with Lisa Simeone in 2002. In 2021, with a collective vision to create a fully integrated architecture, branding, interiors, and planning practice, Simeone Deary joined forces with KTGY. Today, KTGY Simeone Deary Design Group delivers unique experiential spaces to hospitality, retail, and entertainment clients as well as residential and mixed-use developers, owners and operators.

Gina has developed an international reputation for curating culturally tuned designs that deliver forward-thinking, prismatic drama. Clients commission her to attract desired users to their developments as she leads with foundational knowledge of the local business environment and deep respect for each project city’s history and architecture. Art programs and installations that celebrate regional industry and landscape are a hallmark of Gina’s work and she has led the design of significant and award-winning adaptive reuse projects such as the Detroit Foundation Hotel and Hotel Kansas City. Gina views the firm’s greatest asset to be its visionary design talent and feels passionate about the importance of creating a safe, inspired place for career development.