PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
with Interior Designer Elizabeth Rosensteel of Rosensteel Design
Never one to back down from a challenge, Elizabeth Rosensteel of Rosensteel Design is a firm believer that you simply cannot achieve great design without bringing your very best to every project. When things get tough, she gets tougher, but not in a way that is pushy or extravagant. Instead, Elizabeth displays strength by allowing the builders, architects, artisans and trades she collaborates with to rise to the occasion, share their knowledge and demonstrate their expertise to get the job done with excellence. In addition to relying on the skills of the team, she also looks to Mother Nature to play an important role in her design process. Just like with her industry colleagues, the environment is allowed to present its natural gifts in a manner that enriches the details of her projects.
In our conversation with Elizabeth, she describes the reasons she leaves no resource untapped, which allows her designs to enhance each living space with a distinction all its own.
The very first project I did back in 1986, I think I was the first person to do concrete countertops. Here in Arizona, I was working with a really reputable concrete company. After I let them know what I was aiming to create with them, the owner of the company wouldn’t align with what I wanted. Basically, he didn’t believe it could be done.
After a lot of back and forth trying to convince him of my ideas, I finally looked at him and said, “You know what? You’re right. I don’t know as much as you do about concrete. So educate me about what you know and tell me how we can make this happen?”
From that moment on, our conversations shifted to focus on what we could do together to achieve what the client wanted for their home. Sure enough, his team came back with the best concrete counter I have seen to this day. I tell you that it was perfect in every way.
Ever since that project I have always been cognizant of what questions I need to ask to educate myself about a process or type of material. I am always asking questions and knowing it is okay if I don’t know everything there is to know about a particular technique or craft. I’m not afraid to say, “Educate me. Tell me what this is about so I can understand the principles of what’s happening here. Then we can start to create amazing design from there.”
HONORING THE ARCHITECTURE
As an interior design firm, what sets us apart is that the architects we work with know we are an extension of them. We don’t come into a project trying to change everything they’ve done. As far as the collaborative aspect, there are times when we’ll look at a floor plan and make suggestions, but we always put that to the architect first before we ever present it to a client. The architect has put their heart, soul and philosophy into this piece of living art. It’s not just lines on paper. Any good architect will visit the site. They will “live” in the site and take it in completely. They know every inch of what’s out there. As a designer, I know how I like to approach my work, and the architecture is always the stronger element. We align our design with their vision and passion.
I often tell custom luxury home builders that, in our book, we will show you a detail, but that does not mean it is gospel. What it means is that we’ve thought through the process to detail what we want. Then it is up to them to inform me if there is a better way to do it. I want the home builder to know from the beginning that I’m not waving my hands and saying, “Just build it.” There’s a component of thinking through the details at such an intricate level that it shows them how I think a particular design would work. This gives them the opportunity to come back and offer a better, more optimal way to accomplish the same goal.
RELY ON THE EXPERTISE OF OTHERS
In my career I’ve learned an important lesson and that is the importance of constant learning. I’m always encouraging the expertise of those around me to come out, because I simply cannot do it all alone. I do not lead with the mentality that people have to stay in their lane. I think that way of thinking threatens the quality of a project. For example, I could not do my designs without Iliana, who has been by my side since 1999. She comes from an engineering background, so I learn a great deal from her structural approach to design. I depend on her eyes and her knowledge.
Of course, my designs are only as good as the craftsmen and women who produce the finished product. Without their skills and years of hands-on experience, my ideas would lay dormant on a piece of paper. Together with them, we can agree on a common vision. The rest is up to us to figure out how we can bring our strengths to the table to achieve great design.DESIGNING WITH ARIZONA’S NATURAL ART
I’ve often said all of these mountain sites in Phoenix that we work on have their own distinct microcosm. From South Mountain to Black Mountain and Camelback Mountain to Desert Mountain, you find so many amazing differences in the rock, the mountain’s texture and the colors that come from the Earth, right down to the plants that grow on the surface.
The first time I went out to Desert Mountain and I stood on a site, I thought, “Oh, my gosh, look at these little tiny flowers. They’re like orchards for little desert creatures. How beautiful is that?” Suddenly, the color introduced itself into my design pallet and became a natural feature of the architecture, which grew from the land and now could come through to the house. The elements of the environment are integral to both architectural and interior design.
I’d say the surrounding views you get from the environment are what make design in Arizona truly unique. In places like New York City, you don’t often have incredible views. Everything about interior design in New York becomes about creating a wow experience within four solid walls. For Arizona, your biggest piece of artwork is the view that you have from the side of the mountain or overlooking the Valley. Why compete with it when you can integrate it into your design.
ROSENSTEEL DESIGN AND TEAM DSC®
I was brought in to work on a residence known as Family Fiesta. I started by infusing contemporary design elements into the residence that the homeowners really loved. We did some very bold design moves for the time, like pre-LED lights that really energized the look and feel of the home. A lot of experimentation was possible thanks to the entire team building that home.
Teaming with Desert Star Construction really brought out the fact that you can’t achieve great design without collaboration. I could do the design, but it took Team DSC®, Walter Spitz at Creative Designs in Lighting, and an incredible group of trades and vendors to mock everything up, demonstrate how it was all going to work and install it till we got it right. Together we were able to say, “We can do it. We can make this happen for our clients.”