Amy Kehoe and Todd Nickey, the dynamic design duo behind the visionary interior design and product firm Nickey Kehoe, reveal behind-the-scenes details on the makeover of Hollywood’s storied Roosevelt Hotel, share updates on their own new brick and mortar office space slash store front and reflect on how the past four months have yielded unparalleled creative insights.
How are you guys staying busy right now?
Amy: I think we went through a training ground in the Spring, which was about survival and quick pivoting—there was no time for us to do anything except communicate with our employees and clients and listen to the news—and now, having gone through that, we’ve emerged really strong as a team. We listen to each other more and have found new ways of communicating with each other that we might not have developed so deeply otherwise.
Todd: I totally agree. We never really stopped, and it was also a time to witness our team really rise to the occasion, too. Resilience was definitely a defining theme across all fronts, from our individual relationships to our social media presence.
Tell me about the new shop and studio space?
Todd: Well, we opened March 3 and then closed March 13, so…[laughs].
Oh wow. The timing!
Todd: It’s crazy, but you know, we looked at it like this: We got out of our old space—our lease was up—and we managed to create this amazing new environment that we love and finish it before things went sideways. If everything had happened two weeks before, we wouldn’t have been able to move in and complete it so it actually worked out in a way. We got it all buttoned up just in time.
Amy: And the other things that happened sort of fortuitously, which we were just discussing, is how people are using this time to be more creative and that’s definitely true for us, too. We had such a tight schedule prior to opening our new space because we wanted to hit our own deadlines and move in, and then when everything changed and suddenly everyone was working from home, there was still a lot to do in the shop. About 6-8 weeks ago, Todd really spearheaded a big creative push to put the finishing touches in place and do some finessing and that was really nice—having that time was a bit of an unexpected gift in a way and it just underscored how much this moment in time has brought forth a lot of fresh creative energy for us and our team.
That’s a pretty inspiring outlook.
Todd: Let’s just say this, Amy and I have never worked harder but the focus is sharper, too. In a lot of ways, it reminds us of what the early days of being scrappy, entrepreneurial and in that start-up mindset felt like. Once the original anguish abated a bit, we’ve been able to reflect more on what really matters to us—both in terms of our creative vision and also in terms of the responsibility we have for our team and our work. Navigating the path from delivering a brick and mortar experience to transitioning to something more virtual has been something we’ve had to puzzle out, for instance. We were also incredibly concerned for our clients and for how they would be affected on a personal level, but they were equally concerned for us and were eager to keep going, which was amazing.
Amy: We checked in with our clients during the first few weeks after it became clear that this was going to be a pretty major moment, expecting maybe 20% of them would want to pause on projects. Nope. Surprisingly, not a single one did.
Speaking of projects, let’s talk about The Roosevelt, the famed Hollywood hotel that opened in 1927 and quickly became a favorite hotspot for some of the most bold-faced names in the industry.
Both, in unison: Absolutely. That was a really amazing project.
So your work extended to the restaurant, the lobby and the lounge—the gathering spaces. When you think about those spaces now, how much more emphasis does your work take on in hindsight? On the one hand, these communal spaces are more important than ever, since everyone has been confined to their own corners for so long. On the other hand, there are a lot of new considerations that factor into the design equation.
Amy: The lobby is completely installed. We went from a lack of seating and a dark atmosphere in which furniture was really being shuffled around to a more tranquil set up, where there are defined areas and cozy spots that feel welcoming and vibrant at the same time.
So the lobby and lounge are places where people can connect and also retreat.
Todd: Exactly. It feels like a new space, with new energy. It was definitely an energetic shift. Even as we retained the elements that contributed to the warmth and darkness in a good way—we installed a fireplace along one wall, for instance—we still kept true to the original spirit of the place.
Amy: Agreed. There’s certainly a sense that people are tired of downtime, honestly, so we wanted to add that layer of dynamism, as Todd said, but we didn’t lose the inherent darkness—which now feels warm and hospitable, like the kind of space that wants to host and has a spirit.
Speaking of spirits, there’s a report that some of those famous faces continue to haunt the property. Did you ever stumble across the ghosts of Marilyn Monroe or Montgomery Clift during the course of your work?
Amy: Hah! We never saw any ghosts but, because the hotel was closed during our work, it was eerie in a different way. The lobby was literally like a scene from The Shining.
How do the lobby, lounge and restaurant relate to each other? And how did you allow each to stand alone?
Amy: Well, they are very distinct spaces architecturally, so that was sort of the first inherent distinction. What’s really nice about the restaurant is that it is becoming what it was meant to be—is that it just feels so bright now. We got rid of the blinds and painted and it sparkles now, it has a brightness. Each space has its own lane, and the lobby had to really take its cue from what’s there. The arches, the chandelier—those were always going to be your first impression, this initial feeling. The boldest thing we conceived of there was the addition of color. The restaurant, The Barish, was really about Nancy [Silverton], her menu and her love affair with Italian food and Italy, and then to find the way those emotions coincide with Hollywood and glamour.
There’s a certain amount of soul to the project that you don’t really find in Hollywood projects or institutional makeovers.
Both, in unison: It’s absolutely what we love about this project, and it’s more relevant now than ever.
When should we expect The Roosevelt to open?
Amy: There is probably about 6 weeks left to the project overall. Our portions are fully done design-wise, but the restaurant is fully indoor dining so there is a sense of day-by-day development when it comes to opening some of the aspects of the hotel.
What inspires you both right now?
Todd: I find it really interesting and inspiring that people aren’t traveling right now. And because we aren’t able to travel and, especially for Amy and I and many of us in the design world, we aren’t traveling the world and staying in amazing places and having that desire for escape and the new stoked every day, we’re all living where we are and experiencing life differently. For us personally that’s important, but even in our shop, we’re bringing in more that’s local and creating a new sense of desire based on the here and now.
See below and explore the collection of fixtures designed by Todd and Amy - inspired by their spirited and eclectic California style.