Future Wave 2022: Diana Martinez

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Diana Martinez, Senior Director of Design at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, recalls having an affinity for creativity from a young age, pursuing whatever medium she could get her hands on, from drawing to painting to ceramics and photography. While attending the University of California, Davis, Martinez majored in interior design, which led her to study in Copenhagen, where she cemented her passion for design and quickly began her journey. professional at Graham Downes Architecture in San Diego, now closed.

What are your earliest memories of design?
I was born in Mexico and moved to Palo Alto, CA when I was 5. I consider Palo Alto my home, but the fond memories of my childhood in Mexico have stayed with me and shaped my worldview. I have always had a passion for all things creative: sketching, painting, jewelry making, photography, ceramics. When I applied to college, I didn’t know what I was going to do. It’s only my first year at the [University of California, Davis] that I discovered the design program. I submitted a portfolio and was accepted. Part of that was a semester at DIS [Danish Institute for Study Abroad] in Copenhagen. It was the most precious moment of my education.

When did you know you were on the right career path?
I remember working all night on several projects for school and feeling so fulfilled, ambitious and proud of what I could accomplish. I didn’t enter the hospitality industry until my first career with Graham Downes Architecture (GDA). The community, energy and passion I experienced there, combined with the learning experience, was magnetic. I was sold on the industry.

What did you learn from your time at GDA?
When I was first hired, my initial task was to make sense of a very chaotic sample room. I loved browsing through everything they collected. It took me a while, but I had the space in tip-top shape and could find everything the most experienced designers and architects needed at lightning speed. It was the beginning of building a network of relationships within the industry.

What are some of your memorable career milestones along the way?
[While at GDA], I’ve helped on a few hotel projects, including the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, where I learned just how big creative work can get when it comes to an interior environment. After GDA, I designed high-end residential projects for an architect in San Francisco. Although I could still use my imagination and creative direction on materials and finishes, I felt limited and knew hospitality was where I needed to be.

What do you enjoy most about your role at Kimpton?
When I found the job posting at Kimpton, I didn’t know the brand. But the job description intrigued me. I was so young and naïve, but it was this kind of open-mindedness that allowed me to adapt, learn and shape my position at Kimpton. I am able to have so many different roles. One day I’m reviewing a set of designs, and the next I’m in another country looking for stores to accessorize a hotel lobby or on the phone discussing new interior design talent for an upcoming project.

Your greatest work-related achievement?
There are several, but the work we did at the Sylvan Hotel in Atlanta stands out. The multiple locations allowed us to expand the design possibilities and gave us a platform to experiment and express so many concepts in one space.

Describe your design style.
I’m drawn to a mostly neutral but authentic palette – soft hues, but as natural as the materials can be as a base. I believe in layering and bringing in elements that have more character, color or story behind them.

A space you love but didn’t design?
The Barcelona pavilion is my favorite work of all time. I also like the Janu, Aman hotels and what Hoxton and Soho House have done. Also Maison de La Luz and Ace Hotel in New Orleans.

Guilty pleasure?
It’s a rare opportunity, but shopping in [New York’s] SoHo. I love how retail speaks much louder and faster than hospitality. It’s like a trendy version of what we do for hotels.

Your favorite place to travel?
Mexico. I get so much nostalgia every time I come back and yet I feel the thrill of some exotic new place I know nothing about.

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