Ariane Steinbeck: Managing Director, RPW Design

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Ariane Steinbeck is the Managing Director of RPW Design and is fully involved in all the practice’s activities, working closely with the different design teams on ongoing projects and new proposals. Prior to joining RPW Design, Ariane was one of the founding partners of  a U.S -based interiors practice, and spent the last 8 years working and living in Hong Kong, where she established the firm’s Asia-Pacific Headquarters and opened their Manila office. She is an active contributor in the hospitality & interior design industry. Serving as a frequent speaker and judge at hotel industry events and awards, as well as commentator on changing trends and guest expectations in numerous notable trade publications and documentaries. Aside from English, Ariane is fluent in the German and Spanish languages.

How did you get into the industry?

I was inspired by my Godmother who was an Interior Designer with great taste and sophistication to pursue a career in the creative realm.  My studies in hospitality management opened my eyes to the possibility of combining that first passion within the realm of hotels whilst having the ability to work internationally.

Any emerging industry trends?

A focus on delivering great “experiences” for our guests makes it even more important to focus not only on design but the seamless interplay of service delivery.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The hospitality industry needs to answer to the proliferation of the sharing economy which makes it increasingly easy for people to be able to book their dream house for a beach holiday with friends, or find that extra special secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere in Scotland and not chose a conventional hotel for their stay.  Hoteliers need to find new ways of making their properties exciting, and as designers we need to be part of this challenge and opportunity to rethink the hotel experience.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

My core philosophy for the business is to remain true to what we do best—Interior Design – and to continue to create an atmosphere to attract and retain the best talent.  My vision for the Business is to remain under 25 people so that we can focus on quality rather than quantity!

What's next for the Business in the near future?

There are loads of exciting news but most are sadly still confidential! On the non-confidential side of things, we have recently promoted our Senior Designer Heather McLellan to our first Associate position which marks our commitment in nurturing our next generation of leaders.  

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Openness and sincerity towards your team! Be aware of any struggles anyone might be experiencing in their personal lives so that we can support where we can, celebrate our successes and create opportunities for people to get out of their comfort zone. This creates an environment where everyone feels like they can contribute and have an impact on the future of RPW Design as they will be the future of RPW Design! The next generation needs to be nurtured holistically.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

In my previous jobs, I found the rigidity of established norms to be very challenging. The world is changing and long-held prejudices continue to hinder progress for women and people of color. My biggest challenge was and is combining motherhood with the running of a business. You can NOT have it all and most male-run companies make absolutely no accommodation for parents.  The lack of affordable and quality child care creates an incredible brain drain, as women leave the workforce to become full-time parents.  The support is much better in Europe than in the USA, but we still have a long way to go.   And change must come from within – that is why we are quite flexible for people who want to work only part-time or different hours.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

There is nothing better than having a client with whom you can have a direct and sincere conversation, as this is the best way to achieve a successful project.  With our decades of experience on various continents, we have valuable insights to share.

How do you motivate others?

It is essential that we all feel like we learn something new every day, be it from each other or any challenges that we might have to surpass on a project.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Develop a thorough understanding of the hospitality industry, from the operational side, as guests and as designers.  How have others solved similar problems?  Travel as much as you can and keep your eyes wide open!  There is nothing more valuable and essential in order to be able to create interiors that are not only beautiful, but create a perfect platform to deliver exceptional experiences.