The Dallas-based founder of Studio 11 Design, noted for her high-profile hospitality projects, uses color, form and context to draw guests deep into Arizona’s desert mystique at Scottsdale’s Senna House.
The desert has a special kind of allure that contrasts from the formality of big city five-star hotels and the breezy ambiance of beach resorts. A memorable American Southwest retreat, even if it’s in the heart of a major metropolitan area, should fall somewhere between the two yet have its own personality. And if it’s designed with care, it will provide the guest a true sense of place through its integration of 21st Century comforts and Mid-Century Modern design with the locale’s history and sensory elements.
When Kellie Sirna, co-founder and sole principal of Dallas-based Studio 11 Design, was commissioned to bring Senna House to life, her starting point was two of Scottsdale’s most ICONIC natural assets—Camelback and the McDowell Mountains.
From there, she set out to create indoor space that flows readily into the view outside by applying the “five C’s of Arizona” (citrus, cattle, cotton, copper and climate). She rooted the color story (terracotta, dusty pink and deep navy blue) with luminous copper tones to tie public and private space together. One of her key objectives was to make guests occupying rooms and suites feel like they’re in their own private Sonoran Desert home regardless of where they visit from, be it Scottsdale, Scotland, Seattle or Singapore.
In other words, Sirna designs the kind of destination properties she would want to stay at.
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“I’ve always loved traveling and immersing myself in different styles of architecture and fashion,” she says, moving fluidly toward her “origin” story in the design field. “After college, I worked as a furniture buyer and saw a different side of the business before moving into design, which gave me a full picture of the industry and sharpened skills I still use everyday. My natural inclination for travel and my love for building interpersonal relationships led me to hospitality. The fulfillment comes from uncovering the heart of a destination and developing an approach that weaves in local elements in ways that feel authentic and welcoming.”
“I’ve always loved traveling and immersing myself in different styles of architecture and fashion.”
Other high-profile destination properties wrought in Sirna’s signature style include the Hutton Hotel in Nashville (a collaboration with musicians Dierks Bentley and Ryan Tedder) and Le Meridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh.
She’s also built a reputation for her residential interior design, which factors in retreat-like aspects of a fine boutique hotel into a private home’s function and form. Senna House, located in Old Town Scottsdale’s Entertainment District, is a consummate 4,500 square-foot “urban oasis” with 169 guest rooms, a full-service on-site restaurant, lounge, 10,000-square-foot pool deck, state-of-the-art fitness facilities and various retail offerings in tune with local tastes and international lifestyle trends.
The Kansas City, MO native feels a kindred spirit with hospitality clients looking to create one-of-a-kind settings that only a well-dressed and appointed boutique hotel can deliver. She believes her ability to understand her clients’ specific needs comes from the fact that she took interest in entrepreneurship even before learning about interior design and getting practical experience at different design firms after graduation. To do her best work and be able to make meaningful connections with clients and colleagues, she knew she had designed her own ideal workplace.
“The industry’s unique blend of creativity and hustle is what sparked my interest as an interior design student at University of North Texas,” she continues. “In the beginning of my career, I was inspired by the challenge of creating an authentic story for each individual client and still love the thrill of developing a design narrative that tells the tale of a destination through material elements. By the time I had decided to launch Studio 11 Design, I knew I was going to have to do things differently. I wanted the flexibility to lean more into my strengths as a business leader and needs as a single mom while also maintaining very close, hands-on relationships with my clients. To achieve the dynamic I knew I wanted in a workplace, launching my own business was the best option.”
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Senna House was a perfect place for Sirna to put her ideas to work because the hotel’s concept was right in line with Scottsdale’s natural landscape and its place in American Southwest culture. She describes the way she brought the region’s natural flora and geography into Senna House’s interior spaces as a design approach reflective of everyday life in Scottsdale. She also wanted the property’s public spaces to be truly adaptable for every guest and every occasion. For example, the pool deck needed to feel upscale and elevated for poolside meetings and the workspaces to feel relaxed and laid back for whiling away an afternoon.
This versatility is achieved through a flow created by the open floor concepts. However, creating the hotel’s second floor pool deck provided a challenge when developing the restaurant ceiling below it.
“The need to conceal mechanical equipment led to the design of a soffit feature that wrapped around the bar and flowed into the lobby, which was then echoed through the floor tile paving to connect the open concept public spaces in an intentional way,” she details. “Figuring how function and style would converge was no small feat, especially as a project that went through the final design stages during the peak of the pandemic, and the designers had to navigate a virtual model room review.”
Working with Phoenix-area companies was also critical to the success of the project in winning over not only visitors, but also Scottsdale residents and the community at large. While it was a given that the Senna House space not only needed to fit Scottsdale visually, it also had to capture the heart and soul of the location. Working with teams who deeply understood Scottsdale brought a collaborative element to the project that made it possible. As Scottsdale locals are sophisticated and seek out opportunities to explore and experience their city in new ways, she recognized it was important to ensure the public spaces pay homage to the city in thoughtful ways.
“Their knowledge and experience in the area coupled with our fresh perspective allowed us to create a boutique property that honors Scottsdale’s traditions while bringing something new to their hospitality scene,” Sirna says. “As the design of all of our projects must reflect the local community supporting creativity and connecting through art is my favorite aspect of interior design, and this opportunity completes the hotel’s design narrative.The focal cactus art piece in the guestrooms were a collaboration between Saatchi Art and Chase’s Place (a Dallas-area special needs school that’s one of our favorite causes, as art is incorporated as a therapeutic activity). Guest room art started as a painting by one of the students and was embellished by leading artists, and a portion of the production costs were donated back to the school.”
As a cohesive whole, Sirna’s vision for Senna House captures the soul of Scottsdale while introducing the excitement and newness associated with visiting a hotel. While it has already generated excitement among visitors since its opening last December, she is enjoying the process of seeing how Scottsdale residents themselves embrace this addition to the community.
“As I intended to draw inspiration from everyday life in the desert and tastefully elevate it, I am excited about giving the locals an opportunity to see their own city through fresh eyes,” she says.