Moncur Design Associates Inc.
Robynne Moncur founded Moncur Design Associates Inc. (MDAI) in 1992 with the belief that hospitality spaces could be beautifully designed and exquisitely crafted, and still remain within budget and on schedule. The company designs spaces to be stylistically versatile. Each project marries the client’s unique requirements with the imaginative insight of the design team. It is dedicated to the subtle balance between function, beauty and superior quality. As a privately owned company, MDAI meets the needs of the hospitality design industry, developing well-conceived interiors in a professional manner.
Over the years, the company has been involved in both new build construction and renovations of large and small projects for individual owners, including large corporations across North America. Some of its clients include Davidson Hotels & Resorts, the King Edward Hotel, Caesar’s Windsor, Fallsview Casino Resort and the Redstone Winery. The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with President and Principal Robynne Moncur about the company’s unique design philosophy and what puts MDAI ahead of the competition.
Unique and Responsible Interior Design
MDAI’s design philosophy doesn’t follow a particular look—and that’s the point. Moncur explains that each project has a unique set of requirements and clients hire her design team to provide something that is unique to the client’s property. “There are some hospitality designers that have a certain look,” she says. “I try to the do the opposite of that.”
While the company strives to design unique projects every time, of equal importance is what Moncur calls responsible design. She describes responsible design as a combination of elements which result in world-class interior design. “I think it’s very important that design is responsible—not only financially viable— but it needs to meet the client’s budget and their time constraints,” she explains. “Anybody can get it right if you keep throwing money at it. The idea is to do the best job for the client within their budget and answer whatever design criteria that they put forward.”
“Responsible design is also a product that looks good, but will also perform. It may look great the day it opens, but if it doesn’t look just as great three years down the road, you haven’t designed responsibly. Sustainability comes into that—green choices—that’s all what I consider to be responsible,” she adds.
In fact, time and budget limitations don’t thwart creativity, Moncur says — they fuel it. “Being on time and on budget is very important. To me, within a limited timeframe and a limited budget, it is the creative person that really answers all of those questions and gets it right the first time.”
Moncur says she draws inspiration from many sources, especially Europe. “I read every design magazine you can possible imagine. I attend many different design shows. The shows in London and Milan; the furniture shows. The flooring show, the lighting shows in Italy as well. I make a point of keeping on top of the industry. And I guess what makes me a little bit different is that I love the business of design. I love the business of hospital design and how hotel and restaurants operate and how they make their money.”
Interior Design with Subtle Storylines
For each project, the design team conducts thorough research, collecting information from the client. This includes what the client is looking for, what they want to achieve and who the end user is. This process then allows the design team to create a storyline and proceed accordingly. For example, the interior design of Marriot in St. Kitts was inspired by culture of liming, basically relaxed cocktail culture, Moncur says. “Everything relates to the story — but it’s not a match set. If anyone wants to know the story and they want to delve into it, it is possible,” she says. “So it’s that interest without it being kitschy that we like to weave into our design.”
In designing the interior of the King Edward Hotel, Moncur elaborated on the company’s design vision. She wanted to maintain the hotel’s classic feel, but add modern touches and upgraded amenities. She says there is a tendency to to put a modern face on a property when doing a full renovation. “But rather than masking the character, you should embrace it — that’s where the interest lies.”
Close Attention to Detail
While the interior design industry requires immense creativity, attention to detail is an essential quality. “I work with a lot of different people who say that once the designer has completed the design work, they never hear from or see them again. Whereas with us, literally when the hotel is opening, it’s myself and a couple others who are running around and straightening the flowers.”
“I have been told many, many times by clients that they are amazed that we never miss a date,” Moncur continues. “If I tell them they are going to have such and such on such a date, they do. Full stop. We don’t miss deadlines and we do what we say we’re going to do when we say we’re going to do it. Within their budget. I know it sounds like a simple formula, but it doesn’t happen a lot.”
Constantly Striving for Excellence
“I’m always trying to improve the caliber of the work we’re doing. And when I say caliber, it’s not necessary bigger projects, it’s more interesting projects, maybe a little more unusual,” Moncur says. “I really love getting a new client; to me, it’s an exciting prospect. I like interesting projects, small boutique hotels, individual restaurants, grab-and-go outlets, they can all be exciting projects. So it’s the caliber of the project that I’m always trying to improve.”