5 Questions for Robert McKinley
Principal of Robert McKinley Creative Services
1. How did you get involved in design, and what do you love about hospitality specifically?
My aesthetic training began in the fashion world with Giorgio Armani where I learned about lighting, texture, proportion, and the concept of creating venues where one can escape for a moment and dream a bit.
Hospitality really goes back to the definition of the word, which is the relationship between guest and host. There is nothing more satisfying than people enjoying themselves in my home, in my company, or in a public space that I have created. I also like the idea of helping people escape from their routine. Hospitality allows you to create these types of environments.
2. What did you want to create with your newest projects, Sant Ambroeus SoHo and Bar Felice in New York?
I have always been attracted to Italian culture and the communal feel that so many trattorias—or cafés—convey in that country. The project challenge was to evolve the Sant Ambroeus brand and translate it to an environment like SoHo. We set out to create a chic and traditional vibe all while maintaining a vibrant and youthful appeal. I felt like SoHo lacked a place where locals, as well as international clientele, could converge. I wanted to offer a taste of Europe that was not an exact replica of something out of Paris or Milan but was truly New York-meets-Europe.
Bar Felice was a nod to the relationship that soccer has with Italian culture. Our task was to create a comfortable place that had a chic design sensibility but was also a great sports café.
3. You are also working on other projects in New York, Honolulu, and Miami Beach. Can you tell us a bit about those?
I am currently working on some high-profile restaurant concepts in both Midtown and Downtown New York that will debut later this year. We want to offer the Miami market a hotel that is a bit less ‘designed’ that feels tropical but is also a throwback to a mid-century sensibility. In Honolulu, we have the same opportunity: to embrace traditional Hawaiian sensibilities but with a modern flare for a new hotel.
4. What trends or influencers in fashion are you paying attention to?
I think the interesting aspect of fashion right now really lies with designers who have a sense of luxury and are able to marry that with a sports/action vibe and street culture.
5. What’s your dream project?
A private tropical island escape, consisting only of treehouse guest quarters, restaurants, and shops—all populating the jungle canopy. With waterslides down to the grounds below and perfect waves surrounding the island!
Sant Ambroeus SoHo