How a love of art, science and mentoring brought Matthew Beam to Studio 11

Studio 11 designed the Westin Pasadena (Westin Pasadena)

Dallas-based hospitality interior design firm Studio 11 Design named Matthew Beam as its new studio director in the fall—the latest step in Beam’s lifelong fascination with architecture and design.

Art and Science

When he was in seventh grade, Beam knew that he wanted to be an architect. “I took a drafting class, and we built models in that class, and I fell in love with it,” he said. With the support of his parents, who “always pushed” his creative side, he began studying how art and science can intersect in creating a building. “It seemed to fit well with my personality,” he recalled.

He continued taking classes throughout high school, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati with his BA in architectural engineering in 1998. While studying to get his Master’s Degree in architecture from Boston Architectural College, he worked as an architectural designer at Boston-based architecture and planning firm Arrowstreet, taking classes at night after spending all day in his office. He graduated from BAC in 2003, and after leaving Arrowstreet in 2005, moved to Texas and worked in Dallas-based Carter & Burgess, Collision and Omniplan Architects over the following years—not, he noted, focusing on hotels, although he did find hospitality design intriguing.

Leading and Directing

Matthew Beam
Matthew Beam

After four years at Omniplan, a recruiter contacted Beam about an opportunity to lead Studio 11. “At that point in my career, I wanted a leadership or management position,” he said. As new technology came online and changed the way designers created spaces, he found himself mentoring the next generation through the process rather than designing himself. “I really liked that sort of direction and working with the younger kids,” he said. “It seemed to be a good fit for me for the role they were wanting here, a studio director leading the studio and implementing the design process and ensuring that the design excellence is being finished and strengthening the projects for the portfolio. It was an easy fit for me.”

Studio 11 also appealed, he said, because it was a design-centric office. “In the architecture world, you work for a design firm or a project management firm, where you do more details than the design work,” he said. “It was important to me to be a part of that culture.”

In his new role, Beam will lead the design teams through all phases of the projects—“offering guidance, advising and mentoring on all the projects, helping to develop a design direction, and leading critiques and forms. I’m collaborating with the teams, helping with client needs through conceptual, schematic and design development, helping management with the budgets and schedules for the projects.”

He will not, however, be involved in all of the firm’s projects on a daily basis—“in the trenches,” as he described it. “I’m more leading and directing, orchestrating the design teams.”

New Design Directions

While he is fairly new to working in the field of hospitality design, Beam has already seen several trends that he appreciates. “Right when you walk into a hotel, the lobby spaces that are successful seem to be integrated with the F&B component, so it becomes this seamless experience. It’s the entry to hotel, it’s the restaurant, bar and lobby—everything is together.”  

That integration, he predicted, will only grow from here, and will expand into other elements of design. For example, the Studio 11 team has built a niche of curating vintage elements into a design narrative. “The things that are placed into the design that help narrate that story, they can be found items, books, art—anything to create a unique experience,” he said. “Mixing those in with the overall FF&E, furniture pieces—anything—starts to tie the story together and create memories for the guests as well. It creates a unique experience.”

As an architect, Beam likes seeing a project grow from an original concept that creates a true narrative for the design. “Otherwise it’s just arbitrary,” he said. “I always felt that the stronger projects, sometimes the form can’t follow exactly what the concept wants, but there are ways to get the design to follow that narrative. Successful architecture has to follow the narrative.”