Source:  Interior Design  magazine, Designwire May 2007

Source: Interior Design magazine, Designwire May 2007

In addition to opening a New York boutique, Tibi designer Amy Smilovic has been busy in Georgia. For the Cloister at Sea Island, a 1928 luxury hotel, she’s designed interiors for a premier suite, as well as uniforms for the staff and a clothing collection for the resort’s boutique. We ask her about her dabbling in the hospitality industry, and take a look at the resort designs.

How did you get involved in this project, and was it to first design fashion or the interiors?
AS: I grew up on St. Simons Island, Georgia, and it’s connected to Sea Island. When Sea Island was re-launching their property, they were looking to collaborate with a high-profile designer on custom items for the resort. So they came to me to design just a few items, and the next thing I knew, I’d designed an entire lifestyle collection and was offered the opportunity to customize one of their suites.

What were among their requests for the interiors part of the project?
AS: Bill Jones, the CEO, gave me carte blanche and said, “make it look fabulous.” I visited the new property quite a few times to get a feel for their direction. The key for me was to not have it look like the other rooms, but still feel very much a part of the property. Ultimately, I wanted the suite to be fashionable and chic.

What were some of your inspirations for the suite design?
AS: I focused on the locale—the sea, the marsh, wild oak trees, a hunting spirit, blue skies, and sun. And there was this amazing spread from Town & Country magazine on the property from around 1960 that featured the fashionable women of Sea Island. These were the women I envisioned staying in this suite. I also wanted to capture the spirit of the 1920’s, which is when the original hotel was built. There are these images of their guests in the ’20s and that style plays a large part in the theme throughout the interior of the hotel. So my theme for the suite became 1960’s meets ’20s deco with a southern spin.

What are some of the specific elements then?
AS: In the entry hall bathroom, I created a custom stencil of wild ferns that I had painted on the wallpaper in oak brown. I even included matching little marsh-printed cups and saucers that I found online. For the entry hall itself, I asked my father, who’s an artist, to do a series of painted panels. As inspiration, I gave him a vintage swatch of chinoiserie wallpaper, but asked him to make the motifs more localized. To capture the hunting spirit of the area, I commissioned a snakeskin bench from furniture designer Byron Stripling. Byron also made a glass desk with snakeskin legs for the living room.

There are a lot of your touches in the living room and bedroom. Tell us about some.
AS: I designed a rug with a shell motif from a dress I did in a collection four years ago, and I specified the couch in an ocean-blue linen. The chandelier is hanging shells, a side chair has a deco motif, the desk lamp is made of horn, and the console table I commissioned from Byron is acrylic to really offset the whole room. I also purchased a Sonia Delaunay print form the 1920’s from an antique dealer in Paris, as well as some art I found from Paris and New York street vendors.

In the bedroom, I used rounded side tables to complement the shape of the room. The lamps are vintage 1960’s purchased from an antiques dealer in Los Angeles. A New York artist by the name of Ryan Good created the three paintings here, which are an abstract interpretation of the original Sea Island flower logo. I commissioned from Byron an acrylic and brass suit stand, and used my own custom print, inspired by the stained-glass window motifs of the hotel, for the upholstered chair.

Did you infuse the spirit of your Tibi label here?
AS: Yes, the color palette and prints came very natural to me, as they are all very Tibi and Sea Island at the same time.

What types of requirements did they have for hotel uniforms?
AS: Functionality! The front desk area was to be more refined in appearance, the beach club staff more fun, and the service staff professional.

So how did you respond?
AS: For the front desk and bell hops, I went more British colonial—lots of safari-esque tunic tops and navy blazers. The beach staff is wearing green and white seersucker. And the service staff is wearing lemon yellow and white with the hotel’s flower logo embroidered on their pockets.

How about the resort collection?
AS: The retail apparel is a full lifestyle collection that extends from knits, pants, and dresses. Each print was created by me and is reflective of something of the area, whether the azalea floral prints, the stained-glass geometric terry-cloth print, or the wild magnolia silk tunics.

How many pieces are in the collection?
AS: 40, they include polos, cardigans, sweaters, lace tunics, silk tunics, pants, skirts, and dresses.

So, what did you find most difficult about foraying into interiors?
AS: Worrying about what’s in or out of style in the world of interiors. I’m completely comfortable with knowing my fashion trends, like skinny heels now out, bootleg jeans are dead, etc. But I wasn’t sure if I would be making some horrible faux pas in the interiors world—what if acrylic consoles are the equivalent of a ghastly square toe in fashion? In the end, I just had to go with my gut instinct and do what I thought looked fabulous.

Any other interiors projects on the horizon?
AS: I had a few requests from other hotel properties. That’s not something I’m pursuing at the moment, as my venture with Sea Island was purely out of my love for their beautiful property. I’m going to focus on my own house now as it’s been completely neglected.