Interview with Christian Schnyder, the Owner and Founding Principal of Beleco.

“I love creating spaces that are uplifting and allow people to gather, what we like to call the stage set for the drama of life. It’s like a set for people to create their own direction.”

– Christian Schnyder

Inside Beleco: From Vision to Recognition

Beleco, an interior design firm based in LA that specializes in both hospitality design and luxury residential work, has recently been recognized as the Top Interior Designer in 2023. Founded in 2013 by Christian Schnyder, Beleco has received recognition in the industry, thanks to its unique approach to design and dedication to their clientele. Christian reflects on this achievement with a mix of gratitude, humility, and excitement. To have professionals in the same field acknowledging their work gives him and his team a sense of satisfaction. He compares this feeling to receiving an Oscar, where fellow professionals honor each other’s hard work and dedication, but instead in the design world. 

“We work really hard and are dedicated to what we do so being recognized by our peers – people that know what they’re talking about – means a lot.”

Initially, Christian never envisioned starting his own business, but as he gained more experience, he began to realize that it was his true calling. His desire to work directly with clients and align their visions with his own led him to take the reins and become his own boss. This decision was solidified by his belief in the power of collaboration, which he finds to be one of the most rewarding aspects of his job. Christian values the process of working together with his team and clients, believing that it is the best way to build relationships and create the best possible product. He sees collaboration as a way for everyone involved to have a sense of ownership, leading to a final result that everyone can be proud of since they all have a certain level of responsibility. 

The Kimpton Gray Hotel was one of his team’s first big projects. They dove headfirst into every aspect, from operations to architecture, creating an incredible product. The project involved converting an old office building into a hotel, blending modern Chicago architecture with its industrial history. Through the layering of different ideas and stories, they achieved an overall look and feel that resonated with the timeless essence the property desired.

“We created an outstanding product. The feeling was comparable to your first kiss – something you’d never forget.”

Before Beleco: Embracing Unexpected Opportunities

Christian’s journey into the world of design began long before Beleco. Born and raised in Switzerland, his upbringing differed from most of his peers in the design world who commonly grew up in North America. Switzerland offered an upbringing rich in culture and high-quality education. However, Christian noted that the environment was noticeably homogeneous, with the community sharing similar interests in trends, aesthetics, and customs.

The education system in Switzerland seemed to reflect this homogeneity, with a rigid approach to gender norms in career choices. For example, there was a stigma surrounding which programs were deemed suitable for men and women. Interior design was often seen as a field for female students, while architecture was more of a male-dominated domain. Due to these expectations, Christian studied architecture in Switzerland, immersing himself in the works of modernist architects such as Alvar Aalto, Eileen Gray, and Hans Scharoun. 

“They were more interested in how space feels in the rationale of architecture and to this day I still draw on their inspiration of how they approached architecture and design.”

In pursuit of a master’s degree in architecture in the United States, Christian found himself in need of a job to maintain his visa. By chance, a contact offered him a position in interior design, which he took without much thought. However, what started as a temporary solution quickly turned into a passion. Within just a month, Christian realized that the power of interior design and the emotional impact it can elicit was what he had been missing. This unexpected turn of events led him to pivot from architecture to interior design, altering his entire career path.

“It’s not about the ratio of length to width to height which is still important, but about how I want people to feel when they walk in a room.” 

A Unique Discipline: From Switzerland to Los Angeles

Christian’s personal background and experiences shape his approach to design. Raised in Switzerland, with a culture known for its discipline, his work reflects these values through meticulous attention to detail and a focus on delivering high-quality results. His move to Los Angeles introduced him to a world of diversity and creativity, but was initially a culture shock. 

“I was able to explore whole new worlds of aesthetics and possibilities, against the norm of what I saw in Switzerland.”

With a fusion of cultural influences from both Switzerland and Los Angeles, a unique blend of precision and care melded with the idea of freedom is clearly reflected in Beleco’s design philosophy. The diverse team at Beleco, with members from various ethnicities, age groups, and backgrounds, reflects Christian’s appreciation for different cultures and viewpoints. This diversity isn’t just for show; it’s integral to their innovative design approach. Each team member brings a nuanced perspective, enriching the creative process and resulting in more thoughtful, inclusive designs. To him and his team, design signifies continual reinvention and exploration while also committing to the high standards of their clients. 

One of Christian’s early hospitality projects, a French-inspired restaurant, was transformative. It led him to shift from analytical design to emphasizing emotional impact, reflecting the cultural influences from both Switzerland and Los Angeles. This project was groundbreaking, shaping Beleco’s design approach, emphasizing the importance of inducing emotional responses in their work. Despite the challenges of documenting the vision, this project fueled Christian’s excitement for the end result, teaching him that while creativity is crucial, it’s just one part of realizing a vision.

Creating Spatial Experiences: Drawing Inspiration

One of Christian’s most memorable hotel experiences was at Shanghai’s Puli Hotel, an establishment that blends modern luxury with traditional Chinese influences. The hotel’s thoughtfully curated design created an ambiance that was both sophisticated and inviting. He was particularly impressed by the subtle sensory details, such as the integration of corridor lighting into the floorboards, which illuminated the space without overwhelming it. This experience reinforced his belief in the transformative power of space, where every detail can contribute to emotion creation and create unforgettable memories for guests.

Christian’s passion for creating special spatial experiences is echoed through his wish to work on a luxury resort. He envisions them as more than just accommodations but as captivating sanctuaries. Luxury resorts offer a unique design experience with fewer budget constraints, allowing for a focus on enhancing the guest experience. These projects provide designers with the freedom to prioritize guest experience above all else, which is one of the most significant aspects of working in this industry. 

“We can never forget that we are in the service industry. We are part of a team to make something happen, playing a small part and we cannot forget that there is a client depending on us.”

Designing With a Purpose: Sustainability & Service

Stuck in a whirlwind of an industry where waste is a persistent issue, Beleco’s commitment to sustainability is evident in their daily design practices. They actively seek more environmentally conscious solutions, incorporating elements like reengineered veneers, flame-retardant fabrics, and recycled materials. Prioritizing environmental responsibility, they explore alternatives to toxic materials used in plating, such as chrome or nickel. Despite the challenges of waste in their industry, Beleco actively seeks sustainable solutions, no matter how small, demonstrating their dedication to a greener future.

As Beleco continues to thrive and expand, Christian reminds his team and others to remember that compensation for working in this industry comes in many different forms. It’s not just about the money; it’s about the passion, dedication, and satisfaction of creating something truly extraordinary for one’s clients. The joy of seeing a client’s vision come to life and the sense of accomplishment from a job well done are invaluable rewards in themselves. This mindset is what sets Beleco apart, driving them to constantly push boundaries and exceed expectations in luxury residential design and the hospitality industry.

Wanting to learn more about Christian’s design philosophy? Check out Beleco’s website here