1998 – Our First Independent Hotel

The Charles Hotel

Denise Korn was introduced to Dick Friedman and his team at Carpenter and Company in 1997 by her close high school friend Darren Messina. Korn Design owes our first entré into the hospitality industry to Darren who thought it was a good idea to engage Korn Design to support Carpenter & Company’s development projects with creative direction, design and marketing support. Thank you Darren! Dick has always been a real visionary, testing new waters and pushing boundaries in smart ways. He had developed one of the country’s first mixed-use development projects, Charles Square, in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts and in 1997 was thinking it was time for a refresh. It was here, at The Charles Hotel, that Denise thinks of as earning her PHD in hospitality and Korn gained a visionary client and true creative partner.

Denise served as the consulting Creative Director to the property for nearly 10 years. Korn Design collaborated closely with Dick at the helm and the hotel’s management team to craft every aspect of the guest experience from restaurants to rooms to conference spaces to defining what “sense of place” meant here. We reinvented spaces and cut our teeth alongside world-class architects Cambridge Seven Associates and interior designers to lovingly care for this very distinctive place.

This was fertile ground to really “think local” and although this is now a trendy buzz word, Dick made sure that The Charles Hotel was always tied deeply to its community and sourced anything and everything from local New England artisans, growers, furniture makers and chefs. With the paired down purity of the shaker-inspired details contrasted with the warmth of Corbusier seating in the lobby, the hotel has an energy and life of it’s own that has withstood the test of time and continues to shine.

Serving as both a happy place and an intellectual hub, we were constantly inventing new programming that was relevant for the eclectic Cambridge clientele from world leaders and rock stars drawn to this intellectual corner of the globe to a wide swath of young talent and international visitors alike. Famous for it’s jazz club, the Regattabar, its annual Jazz Festival and home to Jody Adams’ Rialto and Chef Peter Davis’s, Henrietta’s Kitchen, two of the best Chefs in the U.S., who inspire daily with their passion and commitment to their guests and the world. Together we were constantly tending to feeding heart and head with meaningful experiences.

We were intimately involved with establishing brand alliances, such as J Crew for the uniforms and commissioning a custom quilt for the guestrooms with Annie Selke of Pine Cone Hill. We curated the hotel’s early American quilt collection and created a walking tour of the hotel’s art collection in partnership with the Cambridge Art Association. Lots of firsts here, from the hand-crafted wooden wayfinding signage to award-winning ad campaigns, we will always hold a special place in our hearts for this place and all that we created there together.

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