Vuela Loves: Studio Tack of the Brentwood Hotel
Located in Upstate NY, Saratoga Springs is rich in history with it's famous race track, mineral springs, the arts and beautiful well-preserved Victorian architecture. It's opening day for the Saratoga Race Course! Located steps from the track is the charming Brentwood Hotel, owned and designed by Brooklyn-based design group Studio Tack. Only over a year old, it has become a classic destination for a cozy getaway in our quaint city of Saratoga Springs, where our seasonal studio (reopening soon!) is based. With an ode to the equestrian spirit of the town, the charming space fuses timeless details with modern sensibility. Founding partner Leigh Salem shares their design process and story.
Who is Studio Tack? How would you describe your design approach and creative process?
Studio Tack is a design and development group based in New York City that we founded in 2012. It is lead by four partners, Brian Smith, Jou-Yie Chou, Ruben Caldwell, and myself with an eclectic design and operations team to bring many perspectives to the table. We specialize in hospitality with the hope of creating uncommon and lasting experiences. Our office is comprised of a diverse group of people with backgrounds in architecture, interiors, real estate, construction, branding and creative direction.
Visiting the properties you've designed, from the Brentwood to Scribner's Lodge, one gets a sense of place and can see how the space embodies the spirit and history of the surrounding area. How do you approach each project to reflect and incorporate the sensibility, culture and environment of the property whether in the US or abroad?
Our design process is narrative driven, where each project starts with in-depth research on the history, programming, and culinary and design communities. This research helps us understand the cultural drivers and institutions to create unique experiences that fit in with the locale. For the specific site, we emphasize materials often deployed in the area but we try to implement them in unique ways. For example, if terracotta has a long-standing tradition of being used for flooring, we’ll try and find ways to use it for a bar or integrate it into mill work. It’s important that the material quality of the spaces feels natural with its surroundings yet remains playful and reinvented.
How did the Brentwood get started? What informed your design?
One of our partners grew up in the area and in several visits up, we fell in love with the town. Saratoga is incredibly vibrant and young but has managed to maintain its classic, traditional vibe with incredible architecture. With the hotel being across from the track, the design was heavily influences by the town’s equestrian heritage. We wanted it to fit in with the surrounding stables but have subtle irreverent undertones.
Saratoga Downtown I Yaddo
What are some of your favorite design elements or materials in the space?
There’s a sense of ease to the hotel which stems from the intimate bar/lobby. I personally love how the small bar transitions throughout the day, from morning coffee through cocktail hour. We utilized a combination of high-gloss black painted millwork with natural wood detailing and unlaquered brass fixtures. While small, the space feels intimate and warm, inviting one to settle in for the night on one of the six barstools
The Brentwood is located in our historic town of Saratoga Springs, what are some of your favorite spots to visit, hangouts or eateries in town?
When we’re in town, a few of our favorites are: Hattie’s, The Mouzon House, Hamlet & Ghost, and Henry St. Taproom. We love Comptons as well – kind of our spot.
Specializing in hospitality properties, what do you love about designing hotels? What are your current projects?
I love the entire process of designing hotels - across all scales - from the architecture of the building down to the amenities in the room. It’s one of the few programs where you can craft a full sensory experience for the guest, and the guest is open and willing to enter into that created world. We have several projects in the works right now around NYC and abroad -- South America and in Southeast Asia and several here in the states that are close collaborations with restauranteurs and local operators.
Running a business requires a lot of time and passion for what you do- on your down time, what are your other interests or activities that you guys enjoy?
With a 6 month old at home, most of my time outside of work is spent changing diapers, so that’s become the main passion around here at the moment.
Some of your projects take you abroad, what are your favorite places to visit and any travel tips?
As I mentioned before, we are fortunate to be working on some exciting projects in South America and Asia right now. My advice for traveling abroad is to immerse yourself in the local eating and drinking scene. The best place to start is any restaurant considered the local favorite. You’ll usually leave with a whole list of spots that can give you a true sense of the town.
What is your personal aesthetic and favorite designers, architects or artists?
As a studio, we have a very eclectic palette and take inspiration from many different people, places and things. A few folks that we have drawn inspiration from in our work are Ellsworth Kelly, Louis Kahn, Carlo Scarpa, Rudolph Schindler, Agnes Martin. We also look the objects of utility that are often overlooked. For example, we’ll take equal amount of inspiration from the details of a door pull or a vintage luggage rack to set the tone for the design.