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Student Profile: Bringing Hospitality Interior Design Back to Work

Restaurant design by Samira Estebari

We’re thrilled to feature Samira Estebari, a Continuing and Professional Education student who recently completed Introduction to Hospitality Interior Design online with Parsons. We caught up with her about what she learned in the course and how she brought it back to her career.  

What is your current role as an interior designer? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional progression?

I come from a background in various disciplines of design. After earning my bachelor's degree from the University of California, Irvine, I started on a journey in hospitality, joining SAMBAZON, the world's largest organic fair trade açai distributor, as a Project Coordinator and Designer. In this role, I oversee the new license and franchise store rollouts, mini kiosks, and tradeshow booths, using my organizational and problem-solving skills to ensure smooth execution. Additionally, I am responsible for designing new spaces, maintaining brand consistency, and bringing the team's vision to life while working closely with the Director of Design and Development.

My experience in hospitality design has provided me with valuable insights about bringing various interior design elements to a business' vision, client requirements, and customer service standards. It’s instilled in me a sense of creative freedom while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of innovation. My journey began at the age of 16, when I worked as an açai bowl barista, leading to a full-circle moment in my current role today which involves rolling out these spaces. My background encompasses various design disciplines, such as urban design, history of architecture, and experience via internships in residential design firms, construction firms, and civil engineering firms. 

How did Intro to Hospitality Interior Design help you develop and hone your perspective on and approach to interior design?

This course further broadened my understanding of designing elements across a spectrum of hospitality spaces. Since this course is primarily focused on restaurants, it emphasizes the importance of planning, guest flow, and purposeful material utilization to enhance brand identity. It also highlights the significance of understanding marketing principles and human behaviors in translating design concepts into successful, real-world spaces. I now recognize that effective design goes beyond aesthetics.

What are some work challenges you face today and are there any takeaways from your CPE experience that might influence how you approach your work?

My experience in CPE has provided a deeper understanding of the relationship between design and operations. My main challenge was in understanding the operational aspects within a hospitality environment while striving to create a perfect space—making sure the innovation was right within the space operationally but also bringing the aesthetic appeal, which is always challenging.

Tell us a little bit about the project you submitted to us, 212 Kitchen & Wine Bar. What were the steps you took to accomplish this?

The journey toward creating 212 Kitchen & Wine Bar began with a thorough understanding of the location. Envisioning the vibrant, artistic neighborhood of SoHo in Manhattan, New York, I aimed to craft a space that would bring aesthetic charm. My vision was to blend ambiance with delectable cuisine and a great selection of wines  including house-made, non-alcoholic options.

Setting up the concept began with curating a mood board and then, with that foundation in place, I went into space planning and trying to understand the requirements of the kitchen and dining areas. In such a stylish and exciting neighborhood, the aim was to create an environment that harmonizes with its vibe and welcoming feel.

Mood Board by Samira Estebari.
Mood board by Samira Estebari.

How has completing this course brought you the confidence you need to produce 2D and 3D models whenever it is required in your career?

Completing the Introduction to Hospitality Interior Design course has boosted my confidence in generating both 2D and 3D models—anytime, anywhere. I use SketchUp for my designs and Enscape for my renderings. The process has instilled in me a sense of patience and trust in the design process. Designing in 2D and 3D models has become an integral part of my daily responsibilities at SAMBAZON!

How were you able to increase your expertise at designing SAMBAZON Açai bowl shops on a national scale after completing the course?

Finishing the Introduction to Hospitality Interior Design course has taught me even more about the connection between operations and design, which I apply while designing SAMBAZON Acai Bowl Shops today. This course has not only given me insights into the operational aspects of a restaurant but also emphasized the significance of creating an exceptional customer experience, which is crucial to hospitality design.

How has your experience working in hospitality design shown you the various aspects involved in crafting the perfect environment for a brand?

Hospitality Design involves not only ensuring functionality but also bringing a brand to life by analyzing its outside surroundings, maintaining consistency via careful selection of materials, and creating an ambiance aligning with its identity. 

Parsons Part-time Lecturer Lilia Levine has guided me through each stage, emphasizing the various factors to consider in this process.

How did this class allow you to express your creativity by conceptualizing and designing your own restaurant while also learning about various design standards?

Completing the Introduction to Hospitality Interior Design course has allowed me to express my creativity by envisioning and designing my own restaurant. I explored various themes, layouts, and elements to bring my vision to life. Through this process, I gained valuable insights and learned how to incorporate the right details into my design—ensuring that I not only showcased my creativity but also met industry standards. 

Creating an all-inclusive environment was important to me, and I discovered that there are numerous considerations beyond what meets the eye. I am grateful to have taken a course that’s provided me with a solid foundation of design knowledge while supporting my creative expression.

Were there any memorable lessons or interactions with your instructors or fellow students you’d like to share? What was something about Intro to Hospitality Interior Design that surprised you most?

Our first group (Zoom) meeting with the professor and classmates was very memorable. Professor Levine not only provided valuable insights into the coursework ahead but also made it an enjoyable and collaborative session.

Do you have any advice for future students of this course?

My advice is to trust the process. Find your focus and seek inspiration while tapping into your creativity, and make sure of functionality.

Will you be pursuing the entire Hospitality Interior Design Certificate with CPE?

I will be pursuing my Hospitality Interior Design Certification with CPE and I am looking forward to continue to learn and grow through my education at Parsons.

Want to check out Introduction to Hospitality Interior Design—and start designing your own restaurant, hotel, or brand? Register for the next available session!

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