Tiny Atlas Quarterly: There are some monumental elements in and around the hotel, for example, the carved sunburst door featured in images on the hotel website. What’s the history of that door? Was it put in by William Cody when he originally designed the hotel in 1952? Or was it something you brought in when you redesigned the property during its renovation?
Steve Hermann: The door is something that I brought in. It was designed by Paul Tuttle in the late 70’s and early 80’s for Panelcraft. I loved the door and thought it would make a great pièce de résistance upon entering the hotel.
TAQ: What thoughts for clients and guest experiences shaped your design?
Steve: I always design for myself. I am the client. I have certain ideas that I feel strongly about and believe that if something resonates with me then it will probably resonate with other people as well.
Trying to design something to appeal to everyone will only get you a watered down product. I want to design a space so I am emotionally moved by it. People with a similar perspective will also be similarly moved then.
TAQ: What do you want for people to experience from a property you’ve designed?
Steve: Design is all about emotional connection. I want people to be moved by the experience of being in a space I have designed.
When I would design homes, people that came to take a look at it would often want to spend the entire afternoon in the space. I realized then that I wanted to create spaces that everyone could enjoy on a perpetual basis. We have only been open a month and we’ve had multiple repeat guests—they felt an emotional connection to being on the property.
TAQ: What design principles were your guideposts for L’Horizon? What was your design inspiration—physical objects, spaces, history (past or future)?
Steve: I wanted to respect the original architecture (L’Horizon was originally designed by the famed mid-century architect William Cody) while updating the interiors to reflect today’s design sensibilities.
We created a luxury hotel and in doing so we didn’t want to just create a time capsule of the past, but rather integrate the past with the present.
TAQ: What was it about The Leading Hotels of the World that made you feel it was an essential match for L’Horizon?
Steve: The Leading Hotels of the World is the premiere, independent, luxury hotel association. It’s member hotels are some of the most storied hotels in the world. It gives us international exposure to a very sophisticated traveler while allowing us to have our own individual identity.
TAQ: How did Palm Springs inspire you?
Steve: I have always loved Palm Springs (I grew up nearby). I love the hot dry days, and nights, and have always felt this place is a part of me.
Palm Springs has the most intact mid-century modern architecture of any city in the world. For a design buff, it’s a pretty special place to be.
TAQ: What are your favorite times during the day and your favorite places to visit while you’re there?
Steve: The mornings are amazing in Palm Springs. They are crisp, and cooler than later in the day, and almost every day starts off sunny. It affects your mood right from the start.
I also love the early evenings… around dusk. The sun dips bellow the mountain range and the temperatures cool off 5 degrees immediately. It’s still warm but the harsh sunlight has dimmed into the cooler dusk.
TAQ: What do you look for in hotel when you're traveling around the world?
Steve: I look for great design and impeccable customer service. They go hand in hand in a great property.
TAQ: Where do you stay when you’re in Palm Springs?
Steve: I used to have a home out here but sold it when I opened the hotel. I wouldn't stay anywhere else but L’Horizon.
TAQ: What makes the Miracle Mile and Fairfax area special to you compared to other parts of L.A.?
David: Probably the fact that no one seems to know about it. It is near the Grove and the Farmer’s Market and LACMA, but other than these famous landmarks, the cultural life somehow remains pretty secret. It’s also so central: If you need to get to the beach or the valley, you’re never too far.
TAQ: What are your favorite things to do here?
David: I love that every Friday and Saturday during the summer, LACMA hosts open concerts where thousands people come with food and wine to picnic and listen to music. These are definitely the best events happening in the city. There’s also a group of writers and artists that meet at the Farmer’s Market every Thursday night. It’s an amazing way to meet interesting people in L.A.
My very favorite thing to do is to simply walk around. We don’t think of L.A. as a town for pedestrians because it seems so dominated by cars, but there is no better way to discover the city than by walking or biking around. I love to bike past by the apartment buildings and look at all the different doorways, they are so diverse in shapes and colors. There’s such an interesting visual contrast, which you don’t get to see when you’re driving.
TAQ: You said the yep [young entertainment professionals] crowd was settling in the neighborhood. Do you think it has something to do with the proximity to Hollywood? Or did the entertainment scene spread to your district?
David: I think it’s been a long time since Hollywood was the center of the entertainment life in L.A. There is a tendency to think of theater as only being a big Broadway musical. But in the thirteen years I’ve been producing Mortified, I’ve come to see that L.A. has more small events and stage shows than people give it credit for. Mortified is one of the longest running stage shows currently in Los Angeles and it’s only because the community and the city supports it.
And he’s right. It strikes me every time I drive east on Route 27 . . . the tended lawns and giant elms of East Hampton give way to windswept dunes of Napeague, and then the ragged, bare cliffs of Montauk. Amenities aside, Montauk, with it’s exposure to salt and wind, will always be raw.
As year-round resident of the last town on Long Island, about a hundred miles out on the Atlantic Ocean, and creative director for The Montauk Beach House (MBH), Walt Lindveld translates and refines Montauk. Walk past the breezy MBH front desk and you feel It immediately . . . when you see the little kids in the pool alongside smiling staff in high-cut denims. It is chic without pretense. There’s sun, shade, sleek lines, and plenty of soft places to land. You can see immediately what you’re getting into and you want to stay a while. And that’s what Walt Lindveld does well. He creates environments that make you want to stay.
At a Monday lunch on a cool, shady couch near the pool the vibe is relaxed and lovely, low music and seagulls overhead.
“Spacial design has to mean functionality first—beauty can only be beautiful if it’s useful. Generating this environment means learning from its successes and making changes based on what works. You can arrive here and instantly reconnect with nature. The balance of opposites. We want our guests to experience that.”
It’s the tail end of summer and Walt, like the rest of us on the East End, is ready for the annual collective exhale that is Labor Day. First the weekend, then mass exodus on Monday, followed by what’s known locally as Tumbleweed Tuesday when a take-back-the-land spirit prevails.
“That’s our summer. Fall is the most magical time out here.”
Walt’s been a year round resident of Montauk for seven years, ditching his high-profile Manhattan design life for Montauk. For him, it was a matter of balance; not live/work necessarily, but nature and creativity.
“It’s one of the most beautiful things, to come to Montauk and quickly reconnect with nature. We have our work but we need to come back to nature. It’s about that moment, that balance, the balance of opposites.”
As always when someone tells you that they dumped the city for the sea, the question is: What kind of person does that?
“The kind of person who wants to step back and regain control. In the city, you’re so involved in the grind. Here, you can have access to all of it but with the ability to escape. You don’t have to go full throttle but you’re not letting up on the gas. I don’t want to be a hippy, but I don’t want to be a city rat either. I think more and more, people want to tread their own path. I think the new great achievers will be people who can step back away from it and reconnect with what’s natural.”
We each know more and more people making that choice, year-round transplants despite the fears of the dreaded mid-winter loneliness that overtakes summer towns around February or March. “Winter is an intense and productive time. But you have to want that,” he says in anticipation of the coming cold. “The city’s not far. It’s there when you need it.”
And when you don’t, Montauk is a small town full of boldface names, a place where things are happening. “The influences are all right here; success, creativity, artists of every kind. You can have it, hear it, and feel it. And there’s the ability to connect in a very intense way with nature.”
How do you step away (connect with nature) when you’re surrounded by people on vacation? “I surf,” he says with same sense of relief in his voice that you hear in people who have to surf. “That’s my community.”
Is that when you do your best thinking?
“No, it’s when I’m not thinking. It’s bliss. Surfing is creative. Design is creative. Anything I do I align with the most random, complex, or meaningless process. I want that process to be as available as possible. Being out on the water, it’s readily available. All that beauty.”
It’s nearly impossible to have a conversation about the beauty of the East End without mentioning the famously flattering radiant sunlight and the photos that can result. I ask Walt, with his photographer’s eye, what he wants to see in a photo.
“Pictures that capture a moment, ones that tell you a quick little story either about the subject or the photographer. Beauty is there for the taking but the good pictures tell you a story.”
Speaking of stories Walt, where’s your favorite place to get a drink?
“The Dock. I love that place. Grumpy old men and the signage is genius.”
“Old Montauk Highway. As a driver, I love that road.”
And what’s on the radio when you hit the hills, where you can see the waves from the driver’s seat?
“Corny, old school classic country music.”
And what should everyone who visits Montauk do at least once?
“Get up early. Experience the Montauk morning. Get in the ocean. There’s a raw connection. Take your shoes off.”