Hotel Design Magazine Features Kris Lajeskie and Richard Branson as Design Visionaries in the Hospitality Industry

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In a world of generic hotels, authentic design is hard to find. That’s why Hotel Design Magazine, the flagship publication of the Hotel World Network, singled out such visionaries as Richard Branson and Kris Lajeskie in its Spring 2010 issue as leaders who bring a fresh design approach to the hospitality industry.

In the case of Buffalo Thunder's Governor's Suite, the bigger whole is half a century of Native American arts, culture, and landscape juxtaposed against designer Kris Lajeskie's edgy, modern sensibilties.

In a world of generic hotels, authentic design is hard to find. That’s why Hotel Design Magazine, the flagship publication of the Hotel World Network, singled out such visionaries as Richard Branson and Kris Lajeskie (http://www.krislajeskiedesign.com) in its Spring 2010 issue as leaders who bring a fresh design approach to the hospitality industry.

Branson and Lajeskie subscribe to the philosophy that collaborating with the top talents in their fields can yield a result that’s distinctive and unique, and they both strongly believe that hotel properties should have a strong sense of place that’s conveyed in the design elements.

Highlighted in the issue is Lajeskie’s innovative design at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino, a $250 million luxury resort on Indian land just north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, that features the work of world-renowned Native American artists and craftspeople. George Rivera, the governor of Pojoaque Pueblo, commissioned Lajeskie to create a one-of-a-kind design for the property’s 2,500-square-foot penthouse suite at the property. Lajeskie’s trademark attention to historical detail, cultural touchstones, and aesthetic harmony was brought to bear in this dramatic space, which incorporates a number of Native American themes and icons in its imposing but elegant contemporary design.

“In all of my work in the hospitality industry I strive to highlight key elements that are symbolic representations of the local culture,” explains Lajeskie. “Hotel rooms are known for their generic, this-could-be-anywhere quality. I like to imbue them with a strong sense of local culture and history to make them stand out as a unique experience for guests. I do this by working with local artists and using as many handcrafted items as possible, as this honors local traditions and talents in a meaningful way.”

At Buffalo Thunder, that meant creating a dramatic entrance to the penthouse with a 3-D image of the white buffalo, an animal considered sacred by the Pueblo peoples. Creating a tribute to the namesake of the penthouse - Governor's Suite, Lajeskie commissioned a life size, mosaic mural of Governor Rivera- utilizing 23,000 tiles pieced by hand. Upon entering the suite, a six-foot-tall clay mask sculpted by world renown Pojoaque artist Roxanne Swentzell is highlighted on a 14 ft. focal wall above the 6' ribbon fireplace. Another feature wall includes 5" thick tree rings cut from a dead-standing New Mexico spruce tree - "an organic take on wall paper", amuses Lajeskie. A water element shows up as mosaic tile river meandering through the room which was inspired by a turquoise, coral and onyx piece of jewelry from Lajeskie's personal collection. Wrapping the stairwell to the penthouses' spa level features a main theme in the Pueblo culture - the growing of corn: hand-blown corn and rain drops are back lit by glass master Ira Lujan, and a custom designed lighting fixture by Catellani & Smith, towers above the harvest installation as the symbolic cloud providing the rain. "These elements of nature are highly revered by the Pueblo culture and it was my job to share them in an authentic and artistic way," Lajeskie adds.

Custom master-artisan finishes such as Venetian plaster, a 6' diameter etched black granite medallion with authentic Pueblo designs and handmade, local furniture complete Lajeskie’s vision. “Everything in the space was designed for impact,” explains Lajeskie. “I want to draw people’s attention to the symbolic elements of the culture. The best design hotels have to match their setting,” she continues. “They have a responsibility to address history, and to bring guests together in a comfortable environment that makes them feel they’re part of a larger whole.”

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