Interview with Cheyenne Rush, interior designer at VANROOY, a california-based boutique design firm. 

“Being open to learning and constantly challenging yourself is key. No great project is done alone; it’s always a team effort.”

Cheyenne Rush

About VANROOY: Designing Immersive Experiences

VANROOY, founded by Jerry and Christine van Rooy, is a California-based boutique design firm specializing in hotels and restaurants. With backgrounds in interior design and product design and development, they started their own firm with the desire to travel the world. Their early days were spent working from their laptops on the beaches of Thailand and holding meetings from anywhere in the world! Once they had their first child, they transitioned from entrepreneurial adventures to evolving their brand reputation and creating an established business.

The firm has since expanded its team to include many professionals for various projects, all while maintaining the same level of freedom for their employees that Jerry and Christine valued from the start. They have fostered a culture of creativity and flexibility, encouraging their team to design spaces where people feel truly immersed into the experience.

“We design immersive environments, we design experiences, and that’s the whole point of what we do. We want to evoke emotion and a feeling for our guests.” – Christine van Rooy

Introducing Cheyenne Rush: Navigating the Depths of Design 

With a keen eye for detail and a passion for designing experiences, Cheyenne Rush has made her mark as an interior designer these past nine years, achieving exceptional results in her role at VANROOY since 2021. Cheyenne demonstrates her expertise right from the start of the design process, leveraging her talent for the conceptual and ideation phase. While she guides the logistics and implementation of each project, her responsibilities also extend into procurement, overseeing vendor relationships and various collaborations with management teams. Her super power remains that from start to finish of each project, she ensures the integrity of the designs remain intact while also meeting the reality of budget and material constraints.

In the early stages of Cheyenne’s education, she was unsure of her path until discovering interior design classes at community college. Despite finding school previously dull, the challenges of interior design sparked a desire to conquer and excel in a field where she could creatively thrive. Her career trajectory was influenced by her early work on mainstream hospitality projects, such as her time as one of the “Embassy Suite Girls”, a nickname used to describe the respected designers who dedicated significant time to working on Embassy Suite projects. This experience provided her with a solid foundation in hospitality, including budgeting, overseeing large-scale renovations, and maintaining brand standards, setting the stage for her future success.

“Because of her drive, she has really pushed into a position where she can lead and develop these projects which some people simply don’t have.” – Christine van an Rooy

Recently renovated and installed in 2023, the Romer Waikiki at the Ambassador is what Cheyenne considers one of her favorite projects. This project has had its challenges, proven successes, and provided an opportunity for Cheyenne to explore her creativity in a boutique hotel setting, different from how she would approach design with larger hotel chains. While tapping into her creative side, the project also sparked her passion for diversity, executing a design intended to bring greater cultural awareness of Waikiki, as well as its unique communities and art forms. She describes every project of having its own unique DNA. It could be anything from super funky and colorful to something more modern and clean. No matter the project, Cheyenne dives head first and is dedicated to collaborate with her team in creating truly exceptional spaces.

A Neighborhood Hotel: Romer Waikiki at the Ambassador

The Romer Waikiki at the Ambassador is a neighborhood hotel, with a vast cultural heritage and rich history. Through extensive research and collaboration with local artists, the team was able to build an authentic representation of Waikiki culture while supporting the local economy by providing job opportunities and incorporating natural resources into their designs. Their inclusive approach resulted in an environment that resonates deeply with both visitors and residents, creating a hub where tourists and locals can join together to experience the replication of that neighborhood identity. 

Cheyenne’s ultimate goal was to capture the essence of the modern Waikiki spirit while understanding and respecting the cultural significance surrounding the building and its location. VANROOY embarked on this journey in 2018, evolving the concept through different phases to ensure the authenticity of the local community was represented. Given the company’s vast history on the project, she was mindful of the historical significance of her design choices, striving to honor the local culture rather than impose her interpretations. 

“We’re not Hawaii. We’re not locals. So how do we honor that?” – Cheyenne Rush

Leading into the details of the design, the spaces were reimagined to encourage guests to explore and really connect with the Waikiki neighborhood. Cheyenne transformed the hotel’s 1968 construction, leaning into its quirks, such as turning the intimidating cinder block walls into welcoming spaces with stencil patterns and vibrant shades. The pool deck, a challenging yet celebrated aspect of the project, was revamped into a casual and fun space. The custom umbrellas and cabanas, carefully selected for their colors and scaling, blend seamlessly into the vibrant environment. One of the team’s favorite areas of the hotel are the meeting rooms, where the walls are covered with teal wallpaper, acting as a hidden gem as those areas are only used for certain occasions. The common theme here is that every corner of the hotel reveals a new and exciting pattern, offering guests an adventurous experience within the hotel itself. 

Photographer: Travis Rowan

In contrast with the hustle and bustle of the public areas, the guest rooms provide a peaceful retreat. Decorated in soothing shades of pink and orange that mimic the colors of sunrise and sunset, guests have a relaxing space to come back to after a day of exploration. Cheyenne personalized the guest rooms with custom wallpaper, catering to 52 different layouts to meet the diverse needs and measurements while streamlining a furniture variety for budget and installation efficiency. Throughout the process, the team remained receptive to feedback, continuously making changes and improvements to ensure all elements were stylish, functional, and budget-conscious, creating a cohesive and inviting experience throughout.

With a mix of creative freedom and careful cultural considerations, this project really acts as a testament to Cheyenne’s ability to overcome challenges with innovative solutions. Initially brought in to update the design, VANROOY eventually received approval for a full redesign due to their advocacy for accurate depictions of local culture, which they saw as essential to the design vision. Their openness to learning and taking a collaborative approach were pivotal in truly embracing Waikiki’s authentic story. Cheyenne stressed that Waikiki’s culture was not theirs to reinvent, instead, it required a deep understanding and respect for its historical context. Aware of the cultural sensitivities and the controversial aspects of Hawaii’s history, especially its colonial past, the team made it a priority to approach every detail of the project with careful consideration.

Photographer: Travis Rowan

Inspiration Found: An Industry of Endless Possibilities

Cheyenne’s career has been marked by significant events and achievements that have shaped her professional journey. One particular milestone was her attendance at the Next Gen HD conference two years into her career, where she was exposed to pioneering designers who were revolutionizing the industry. This experience not only expanded her network but also exposed her to groundbreaking ideas, such as the exploration of 3D printed homes. These encounters with industry trailblazers inspired her to push the boundaries of her own work and approach to design, propelling her career forward.

“I have been very fortunate to have great leaders that have given me the platform to expand, grow and learn. I always want to challenge myself and get better. A big part of that though is working with people who let you do that.”  – Cheyenne Rush

Among the hotels she has visited, The Line Hotel in Washington DC stands out as the most memorable. As a former church, the hotel’s conversion into a hospitality space was both striking and innovative. She was particularly impressed by the hotel’s thoughtful marketing and European influence with the incorporation of religious and biblical motifs throughout the hotel. These design features created a unique and unforgettable ambiance for a hotel located in the United States. This experience served as a reminder of the endless possibilities within the realm of design and hospitality, further fueling her passion and drive in her career.

“The longer I am in this industry, the more I still have to learn. You will never know everything and every project brings something new.”  – Cheyenne Rush

In her advice to new professionals entering the field, she emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and growth. With each new project comes a new opportunity to expand one’s knowledge and skills, making it essential to remain eager and open-minded. She highlights the dynamic nature of the industry, where innovation and creativity are constant drivers of change. She also stresses the value of collaboration, noting that no great project is accomplished alone. Working as part of a team allows individuals to draw on each other’s strengths and expertise, leading to more inventive and successful outcomes. She encourages new professionals to always voice their opinions and ideas, regardless of their level of experience, as every perspective is valuable in driving progress and excellence in each project.

Looking Ahead: Designing Memorable Experiences

While Cheyenne has lots of experience in designing hotels, her ultimate dream project involves working on restaurants. As she is an avid cook herself who finds relaxation and joy in preparing meals, she is drawn to the way food brings people together and creates a sense of community, making it a meaningful design endeavor. As she looks forward to an upcoming restaurant project, and is excited to embrace the challenge of creating a different kind of experience for guests.

“I have done a lot of hotels which are so large-scale, so being able to do something on a more intimate level I think is very special.”  – Cheyenne Rush

In reflecting on the most rewarding aspects of her job, she cherishes both the early stages of a project along with the end result. In the beginning stages, where the possibilities are endless and the creative process is at its peak, it’s an exciting feeling to imagine what each space could become. She also finds fulfillment in witnessing the completion of a project and observing how people interact with and enjoy the space she has helped create. As Cheyenne approaches each of her next projects, her passion and gratification of seeing individuals form memories and experiences within these environments will continue to drive her creative vision and dedication to exceptional design.

To learn more about VANROOY design, click here.