Exclusive Interview With Dieter Cartwright From Dutch East Design
An inspirational interview with this top interior designer from Brooklyn!
Dutch East Design creates tailor-made environments with artistry and technical precision. The studio is passionate about design and committed to the quality of all aspects of its projects. The team thoughtfully evaluates the unique nature of each project by listening, identifying the social, functional, aesthetic, and fiscal needs.
The studio’s team is a powerful collection of New York’s best talent, whose skill and enthusiasm are harnessed by a love for transforming ideas into reality. As much a business resource as a designer, the company fosters a culture of collaboration, working with owners, operators, and consultants, bringing to bear extensive experience, as well as re-examining industry norms to find opportunities for innovation.
Home and Decoration had the opportunity to interview Dieter Cartwright from Dutch East Design, and we will share everything with you. Enjoy!
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Exclusive Interview With Dieter Cartwright
Home and Decoration: How did you get involved in the interior design Industry?
Dieter Cartwright: Since before I knew what it was, I had wanted to be an architect. After finishing my studies I worked on high-rise construction in Sydney, among other building types, before coming to New York. I moved to NYC to combine my passion for design with my long experience in hospitality, as I had worked in bars and restaurants all over the world on and off before, during, and after university. As it turned out, the result of combining those two passions is the co-founding of an interior design and branding studio specializing in bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Home and Decoration: How would you describe your work style? Do you have any kind of signatures that help to identify your projects?
Dieter Cartwright: There’s an ever-evolving thread that runs through all our work, but our true signature isn’t necessarily evident in the outcome, it’s in the process. At the core of what we do is treat each project as a unique set of problems and goals, not as something to impress upon with a pre-existing design position. If there are some design rules that I follow for every project, they would include: don’t sacrifice the practical needs, explore the social and emotional potential in a design, and honor the human experience.
Home and Decoration: Being in love with our work is always the key to achieving better results. Are you in love with this job? What do you love most about being an interior designer?
Dieter Cartwright: Solving problems – or fulfilling needs – in imaginative ways is my favorite part of the job. Even if it’s not specifically a “design” problem, being creative in any aspect of our business, and in life in general, is what excites me most. While I was growing up my parents built two houses, one of which they largely designed themselves, so there was always some sort of design charette going on to resolve a particular detail of the construction, and I really fed off that.
Home and Decoration: Keeping up to date on all the trends is essential for anyone who wants to conquer this market. In what ways do you keep current with new trends?
Dieter Cartwright: Rather than design trends, I’m much more interested in behavioral trends, and that presents itself to me in new kinds of typologies in hospitality. With that, I don’t necessarily follow design trends, but instead read and listen to how consumers’ tastes and interests are changing from an experience point of view, and how that affects how they’re being served. To give an example, we did some very preliminary branding work for the Area15 project in Las Vegas. To me, that project wasn’t as much reliant upon a design aesthetic (or design trend), but on providing a very experiential setting to which food and beverage are peripheral. It was how the whole development was programmed that made the magic. I think it’s quite satisfactory to think of behavioral trends and aesthetic/stylistic trends as two very different things.
Home and Decoration: How would you describe your personal decorating style?
Dieter Cartwright: Contemporary, with focused, high concentrations of eclecticism.
Home and Decoration: All artists need some inspiration to work, and interior designers are artists too. So, what or who really inspires you?
Dieter Cartwright: I design spaces for socialization, interaction, and respite. So my inspiration comes from observing how people use their space, and how clever people have responded to that. I’ve traveled a lot, and it’s through travel that I experience this the most, probably because that’s when I’m most receptive to different viewpoints. But even when it’s not all that clever, it’s through the lens of a designer that something quite mundane in one culture can be translated into a useful design tool once back at the drawing board.
Home and Decoration: Inspiration is something that pushes everyone to create unique things. What makes you see the world in a different way?
Dieter Cartwright: For me, it’s been exposing myself to a wide range of experiences, personally and professionally. And in doing so, trying to jettison as much baggage as possible.
Home and Decoration: If you had to pick one project around the world that you wish was made by you, which one would it be?
Dieter Cartwright: The Perth Wave Power Project off the coast of Western Australia. It’s a deepwater energy system that generates clean offshore electricity. I’m fascinated by wave power because of its massively untapped potential. Also, a second project, Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut. It’s a place best described by pulling directly from the foundation’s website: “Grace Farms is a humanitarian and cultural center serving local and global communities. It is a place for meaningful interaction where people of all ages, experiences, and interests come to collaborate for good and pursue peace within Grace Farm’s 80 acres.” The architecture, by SANAA and Handel Architects, truly has to be experienced in person.
Home and Decoration: How important is a perfect chemistry between you and your clients to achieve the best results?
Dieter Cartwright: In a client-designer sense, great chemistry for me is defined as having an alignment of goals and a healthy respect for each others’ professional role in the relationship. And that’s crucial to a successful project.
Home and Decoration: Do you think working with teams in interior design is better or worse than working alone? Why?
Dieter Cartwright: Designers should work how they want to work to suit their style and process. I work on ground-up or adaptive reuse hotel projects that are of a scale and complexity that demand teamwork. From the point of view of the creative process specifically, I do thrive in both being able to isolate myself with a narrative to see where I can take it solo, as well as working with others to explore the problem at depths unreachable alone. In our studio, our creative process often begins with collaboration to make sure we’ve teased out the brief accurately, so we can agree on the goals. Then we’ll break off to research and experiment separately, then rejoin to share and critique.
Home and Decoration: Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Dieter Cartwright: We’ve just launched our very own rug collection, called STRIA, in collaboration with Jamie Stern, which just received an Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Award. We are also doing the interior design and branding for a new hotel in New Haven, CT, that we’re really excited about – it’s an adaptive reuse of a Marcel Breuer building, and is setting new standards for sustainable design. We also have a number of restaurant projects underway in Florida that will reach fruition through 2022.
Home and Decoration: What has been your greatest accomplishment as a designer? What goals do you have for the future?
Dieter Cartwright: Honing my craft – my process – I consider an accomplishment, and my goal for the future is to continue improving on that.
Home and Decoration: Do you have a favorite project or a favorite story about one of your projects?
Dieter Cartwright: We often enter unchartered territories in our work, and in doing so we need to ask our collaborators to work very differently from what they’re used to. In the design of a subterranean cocktail lounge, I was inspired by kinbaku (erotic Japanese rope bondage) in the development of a screen system to divide up areas of the lounge. The client loved the idea, so we were then tasked with finding an authentic practitioner who could adapt their technique to an architectural scale. Her name is Midori, and she spent a week on the construction site beautifully tying an elaborate rope sculpture that was truly amazing. I like that story because it’s a good example of how a crazy idea still needs a practical solution to make sure it is realized. It’s also a reminder to me to trust my process – we didn’t arrive at the idea from seeing other interior spaces employing the same technique, but by exploring something tangential but resonant with the tenets of the project.
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