August 17, 2016

The Asbury Hotel by Anda Andrei and Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture Celebrates the Jersey Shore

An ace collaborator, Anda Andrei honed her reputation as a hospitality legend while employed by the Ian Schrager Company. That meant working with Philippe Starck at Florida’s Delano South Beach in the early years. Later, it was Julian Schnabel at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel.

Another New York project launched Anda Andrei Design. Aby Rosen of RFR Holding asked her to recast a Holiday Inn as 11 Howard, and, ever collaborative, she brought Space Copenhagen on board to give the hotel a Scandinavian flavor. For the Asbury, a 110-room hotel that’s helping to resuscitate the historic New Jersey beach town Asbury Park, she teamed up with Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture and Design’s Enrico Bonetti and Dominic Kozerski, whose residential clients include hotelier André Balazs but who had never completed a hotel. The result is playful yet polished—drop by.

Interior Design: What explains your love of teamwork?

Anda Andrei: For hotels in particular, I believe that one plus one equals three. Collaboration just makes a place better. Plus, it lets me keep my finger on the pulse of new designers.

Certainly, when someone like Peter Zumthor works alone, those projects will be beautiful works of art. But I don’t consider hotels to be artworks. A hotel has so many more pieces.

ID: How did the Asbury team coalesce?

AA: I met Enrico and Dominic years ago when I hired them to help with Ian’s office. They were young, fun, talented, and enthusiastic. When I left the job with Ian, I got a lot of phone calls. But I only wanted to work with people I know and respect, on projects I found super-interesting.

As I was formulating the design of the Asbury, I realized that I could not keep up with the many tasks it required, since my intention was not to hire a lot of people at my own firm. So the three of us reunited to get into the details of selecting the hotel’s materials and furnishings.

Dominic Kozerski: Enrico and I also knew the hotel’s developer, Jay Sugarman, the CEO of iStar, because we did the interiors of his weekend house. We knew what makes him tick, what he likes. We began with the hotel’s model room.

ID: Could you describe the hotel’s overall concept?

AA: I always start by deciding what a hotel should be, based on the market and who the target customers are, what matters or doesn’t matter to them. You have to decide which details count, then budget accordingly. Many designers work in a vacuum. In architecture school, I wish they taught how to create an amazing design and a successful business.

Enrico Bonetti: We ruled out elements that might seem trendy or self-indulgent, so everything looks fresh and simple, not stuffy or trying too hard. We edit, then re-edit, then edit some more.

ID: What were the challenges?

DK: To deliver smart, casual beauty on a budget. We went back and forth with Anda, for example, to find the right plywood for the suites’ headboards. The joinery was ultimately done by Amish carpenters, and it turned out sophisticated in a matter-of-fact way—we didn’t make a big deal of “celebrating” the plywood. In the lobby, off-the-shelf rattan pendant fixtures hang in clusters to delineate spaces and functions.

ID: The lobby atrium is awesome.

DK: I like the atrium a lot, too. Its framework is what Jersey tomato-growers use for their greenhouses.

The lobby is supposed to be a comfortable hangout for the community, offering things you can’t find anywhere else along the boardwalk. Grab lunch or a snack post-beach. Or charge your phone—there are outlets built into the base of what we call the “pit sofa.” And the bleachers near the pool table are great for people-watching, having a drink from the bar, or listening to live music. They keep the lobby buzzing all day, similar to the lobby of a grand hotel on the Mediterranean.

ID: How did the three of you mesh?

EB: It was valuable that Dominic and I didn’t come with preconceived ideas of how a hotel should be. Working with Anda was a great gift. She explained things about operations that would have taken us years to figure out. We also had fun.

AA: I am the voice, and I have a vision, but a team with different points of view and experiences is the most creative. I taught Enrico and Dominic the rules. Then we designed together.

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