Joel Villalon of San Francisco's BraytonHughes Design Studios Shares Secrets to the Firm's Success

By Pati Navalta Poblete | January 27, 2020 | People

SF-based BraytonHughes boasts three decades of success around the globe.

35.jpg Joel Villalon gained an early appreciation for design through travel.

The new Grand Hyatt at San Francisco International Airport, Four Seasons Tunis in Tunisia, Kukio Golf Club in Kona, The Village at Yellowstone Club. Though each is located in different parts of the globe, one thing ties them together: BraytonHughes Design Studios. The San Francisco-based design firm, which just celebrated its 30-year anniversary, specializes in hospitality, residential, corporate, institutional and private club spaces. With projects now spanning five continents, the firm continues to grow its talent, which includes an impressively diverse team of principals (three of five are women, and four are minorities). Most senior among them is Joel Villalon, who joined the agency in 1992. We caught up with the travel enthusiast to get his perspective on the success and longevity of the firm.

What are some projects that have special significance for the firm? Four Seasons Jackson Hole: an older project completed around 2004, and was the first hospitality project in the office that incorporated a regional sensibility into the design (architect: HKS). Private residence in Healdsburg: The residence sits beautifully in a vineyard and incorporates both expansive and intimate experiences in its exterior and interior world. Yellowstone Club: We designed seven different venues for this exclusive club that executes what we feel is important in collaboratively working with the owners, architect (architect: Hart Howerton) and consultants. Luminate Capital Partners: With Luminate, we are reintroducing ourselves to the corporate world. AVOW: I feel this is our best food and beverage project—one that truly speaks to the firm’s love for design.

What are some qualities clients can find in your designers and architects? Genuinely nice and independent thinkers who can creatively solve problems.

Trends you're seeing? Parametric architecture has been trending for years. Incorporating curvilinear, organic shapes and forms into buildings and interior designs is complex to its design and creates artful moments if executed thoughtfully. No. 2, incorporating LED lighting creates a way to transform any space. Our Fairmont Nanjing (China) hotel’s concept for the atrium was to create a 30-story-tall Chinese lantern whose color changes throughout the day.

Current Projects? Montage La Quinta—desert modern (architect: Gensler, Montage Big Sky), Wild West mountain modern homage to the American national park lodge (architect: Hart Howerton), Canopy Hilton Baltimore (architect: BHC Architects), family foundation offices for Eric and Wendy Schmidt (BAR Architects).

What makes BraytonHughes unique? Diversity in projects, diversity in leadership and staff, and work-life balance.

Photography by: Courtesy of BraytonHughes Design Studios