Robert Jamieson only has one restaurant under his belt, having designed the The Ship cocktail lounge in SoHo which was named one of New York City’s Top Ten New and Noteworthy Restaurants in 2014 by Interior Design Magazine. However with an impressive background and a desire to design more restaurants Mr. Jamieson is on everyone’s radar. His tasteful use of reclaimed materials in unexpected and innovative ways has inspired industry trends and led to new restaurant projects he will be working on this summer. We had a chance to speak with him about how he got started, what he is working on now and where Mr. Jamieson is headed in the future.
Can you share the background of Studio Robert Jamieson?
My background is pretty varied. I began working for Kohn Pedersen Fox in New York City on large scale projects and later spent four years working for Michael Arad at Handel Architects in support of his vision of the World Trade Center Memorial. Then I switched gears completely, moved to Philadelphia and was Director of Store Design for Lifestyle retailer Anthropologie. I have always taken on occasional side projects and about a year ago I finally had enough clients to start my own office. I am now a little over a year in and just hired my first employee!
What or who inspired the vision behind the Studio?
Me, but it always starts with the clients. I try and understand what they want from and aesthetic and functional aspect for each project. Then I hopefully take them to a finished product that is exactly what they wanted but beyond what they ever imagined.
What was the niche you were trying to fill when the Studio first launched?
At Anthropologie I certainly developed a way of using reclaimed materials and repurposing antiques in interesting ways. I am working on a mix of commercial and residential projects, so I am not really targeting a specific niche.
Is your portfolio just restaurants or do you design other retail establishments?
The Ship was my first restaurant and I hope to do more. I just opened Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee in the Roxy Hotel in New York City and I have an upstart fast casual bagel restaurant and an oyster bar going into design later this summer.
What recent projects are you most proud of?
I am definitely proud of The Ship. I am working on a respectful renovation of a Richard Neutra home in suburban Philadelphia right now that has been a really inspiring project to take on.
With “green” design and LEED certification becoming more prevalent, is there a push from clients to responsibly source materials?
I have not had clients come to me and specifically say “I want it green”. Using reclaimed and re-purposed materials is fundamental to my work so by seeking me out as a designer you are aware that is part of the package. I would love to have a client that pushed me to make the project as “green” as possible. That would be a fun design challenge.
What trends are you seeing in restaurant design?
This is a little bit of a loaded question for me. I am seeing a lot of reclaimed materials in retail and restaurant design that I had been implementing in Anthropologie stores for years. I think you are seeing a lot of what I call “honest” design right now. Not flashy or over done, just simple spaces and materials executed really well. I appreciate that.
How do you balance the ego and demands of clients with your own ideas and thoughts for a design?
I tend to appreciate clients that are demanding and have a vision. I find it is actually more difficult to work with a client that has no perspective and just wants you to tell them what to do. I think the social aspect of the design-client relationship is something I have definitely learned over years of experience and being able to read who your client is.
Is it a case where the customer is always right?
I think it is usually educating them to what is right. Design is rarely one person’s clear vision without compromise.
Today branding is a critical part of a restaurant’s success. To what extent are you involved with things like logos, names, menu design etc?
We have not been on the creation side of logos or branding, but definitely part of the approval process with owners. Once branding and logos are chosen, they need to be creatively integrated into the design.
Speaking of branding, how does your firm market itself?
I have been quite fortunate to get some favorable press on projects such as The Ship. I have been referred by past clients to a number of new ones. I maintain a website and company Facebook page but have not been overly aggressive about paid marketing.
You can view Robert’s work at studiojamieson.com