Creating Unique Experiences - Design Bureau

The Collective by ICRAVE

Fast Facts: The Collective
Location: New York City
Date opened: March 2010
Typical clientele: Party-going locals and bridge-and-tunnelers out on the town
Highlights: Being in a charming flea market without worrying about bedbugs

Provocateur by ICRAVE

Provocateur by ICRAVE

Fast Facts: Provocateur
Location: New York City
Date opened: December 2009
Typical clientele: Model-types and the bankers who buy them vodka sodas…if they can get in
Highlights: World-class house DJs and a retractable roof atop the garden

Holland Casino Rotterdam by ICRAVE

Holland Casino Rotterdam by ICRAVE

Holland Casino Rotterdam by ICRAVE

Fast Facts: Holland Casino Rotterdam
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Date re-opened: November 2009
Typical clientele: Jet-setting internationals and elegantly aged locals
Highlights: Eating, drinking, dancing and betting big all under one roof


Creating Unique Experiences

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Glamorous hotels, sexy nightclubs, unique restaurants, airport terminals, even cruise ships—is there any challenge that New York-based design firm ICRAVE won’t take on? “Prisons,” jokes lead designer and partner Siobhan Barry. Then, she hesitates. “I say that now, but you never know. There could be a client out there with a really amazing idea for a prison.”

The ICRAVE team specializes in a “choreographic approach” to design, where the goal is to create a space that evokes a certain emotional response, usually paired with a sense of excitement and discovery. Its process begins by brainstorming in what Barry describes as a “brown paper session,” where every single idea is jotted down on a large piece of brown paper tacked to the wall. From there, the firm figures out what the client’s goals are, and begins the process of bringing evocative ideas to life. The result is often electric—an energized combination of architectural and interior design that is not easily forgotten.

And ICRAVE’s approach is working; its brand of high-end hospitality design is beginning to garner a name in and of itself. Increasingly, potential clients are pursuing ICRAVE’s expertise, citing the firm’s impressive dossier of past projects ranging from W Hotels to STK and even Terminal 5 at JFK.

Although ICRAVE was originally conceived as a design-build firm (all three partners are trained as architects), its cachet has grown, along with the profile of its clients. Now, it focuses primarily on front-end concept and design development that is then sourced through local partners and architects. The shift is due in part to the high demand for its work. “Instead of getting a bite of the apple, we’re getting the whole apple,” Barry says, “But we still want to own every part of the project from a conceptual level.”

Step inside The Collective and you’re transported into a beautiful junkyard where you can munch on deviled eggs with truffled salt and sip a modified Moscow mule or a gin cocktail called “The Credible Hulk.” But it’s not the chic comfort food on the menu or the clubby scene at the bar that sets this NYC restaurant apart; it’s the uncovered treasures and found-object aesthetic that make The Collective an original.

“The Collective is about the reinvention of every object and element that we placed in that space. A return to craft, in a way. I almost see it as a phoenix rising from the ashes,” says Barry. “You sculpt something out of these discarded objects, and it becomes the spirit of the place.” Salvaged parking signs, orange pill bottles and massive first-model cell phones are among the decorative touches on the walls, chairs and tables that well-dressed New Yorkers clamor to gather around.

Nestled on the hip of the Hotel Gansevoort in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, Provocateur is an evolved clubbing hotspot conceived with the idea that where the women go, the men will follow. Owner Mike Satsky sought out ICRAVE to design two distinct spaces, the Café and the Nightclub, to appeal to different but complementary moods.

The Café’s decor is based on the idea of a fantasy dollhouse, where eight banquettes are outfitted with custom upholstery and theatrical backdrops that play off one another to make complete vignettes. “They’re meant to kind of tease people into letting go of their inhibitions and behaving differently than they would if it were a nice subdued love seat,” Barry explains. “It’s a way to tease out the performer in somebody.” And just like a child’s dollhouse, at Provocateur, you can take off the top; the glass roof over the Café is retractable and gives the space a Garden of Eden feel when it’s open during the sweltering summer months.

To counter the playful sophistication of the Café, the fantastical Nightclub goes wild in violet, black and gold. It’s where “femininity meets dominatrix,” in the words of ICRAVE’s owner, Lionel Ohayon. A set of 20-foot-wide feathered wings modeled on a mythical Egyptian phoenix descend from the wall behind the bar, and a menagerie of LED lights color the arched ceiling. Sound too good to be true? Well, it is guest-list only.

It took nearly three years from start to finish, but the redesigned Holland Casino Rotterdam brings together gaming, dining and nightlife in a varied, accessible setting. The casino’s layout allows for a broad survey of the space without the sensation of being overwhelmed by options, while the flow is guided and enriched by sculptural touches that punctuate ceilings and delineate one room from another. One of ICRAVE’s first international jobs, the Holland Casino was an expansion and renovation project that involved working within the framework of the casino’s original structure. The firm also had to account for the fact that much of the casino’s existing clientele was older, while a primary incentive in renovating the space was to attract a younger set interested in more than just playing the slots. The result is a dramatic yet comfortable entertainment space that houses a multitude of activities for gamers and fun-seekers alike.

Ellen Knuti is a writer and photographer based out of Brooklyn, NY. Find more of her work at


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