Defining Hospitality Podcast

Today’s guest is a 2022 Inductee into Interior Design Hall Of Fame,and he approaches design with 5 key elements; sustainability, technology, the client, timelessness and innovation. He pushes beyond the familiar to create buildings and interiors that are distinctive, imaginative and site specific. Please welcome to the show, Gray Davis! Gray is the Co-Owner & Co-Founder of Meyer Davis, Designer. Gray joins the host Dan Ryan to share his inspirations from the hospitality world and how he journeyed his way through this beautiful industry.

  • Hospitality is all about the experiences for the guest. It allows the owner or operator of the hotel to be a storyteller and provide the guest with a unique experience that they won’t be able to receive elsewhere.
  • When you are designing a hotel, you want to make sure that it is a welcoming environment to the guest, and the best way to do this is by being a good listener. Think about the goals the brand or the client wants to achieve and use it as a guide. 
  • Typically, design firms are focused on one area but you can learn from every project you work on. This prevents people from being pigeonholed and allows a designer to see all the perspectives on different projects. 
  • If Gray could go back and see his younger self, the biggest piece of advice he would offer is to follow your passion. Through all the struggles that he faced, he wouldn’t change anything for the outcome he got.
  • At the end of the day, the design for a hotel should be something that puts a smile on someone’s face  or shines a light on something that they never knew or thought before. 
  • A great idea can come from anywhere and anyone on the team. It doesn’t matter what role they play, whoever has the best idea is the one that you should run with.

Quote of the Show:

3:24 “There's nothing more rewarding than completing a project, a hotel or resort, somewhere and then seeing how people experience it and react to it.”


Shout Outs:

1:21 Will Meyer
1:26 Cindy Allen
1:27 Interior Design Magazine
7:41 Dream Hotel in Nashville
9:34 W Hotels
10:25 Marriott
15:18 Randy Gerber 
15:20 Cindy Crawford
21:11 Rich, Brilliant and Willing
28:53 Stacy Shoemaker
28:59 Nick Jones
29:01 SoHo House
33:56 David Brawley
34:40 John Saladino
35:03 Four Seasons
35:43 Guacame Siegel
35:50 Aero
35:50 Bill Sofield
35:51 Thomas O’Brien
36:34 Raul’s in SoHo
41:53 Red Sea Development Company

Ways to Tune In: 

Creators & Guests

Dan Ryan
Host of Defining Hospitality

What is Defining Hospitality Podcast?

How do you define hospitality?

Dan Ryan has been working in the hospitality industry for nearly 30 years, and he‘s just as fascinated by it as he was on day one. Join him in this weekly podcast as he invites industry thought leaders to discuss what hospitality means to them - in the built environment, in business, and in our daily lives.

DH gray smaller file - Stitched audio and DH Dan for Gray 2


Dan Ryan: Today's guest is pushing beyond the familiar to create buildings and interiors that are distinctive, imaginative, and site specific. He's a 2022 inductee into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. He approaches design with five key elements, sustainability, technology, the client.

Timelessness and innovation. His personal interior design style is more eclectic and quirky compared to his more professional style, which is more tailored and edited. He's the co-owner and co-founder of Meyer Davis. [00:01:00] Ladies and gentlemen, gray Davis. Welcome Gray.

Gray Davis: Thanks for having me. No, I'm excited about, uh, today's talk.

Dan Ryan: Well, I think I'm more excited than you because. Um, all of these conversations have just been so wonderful and I think what, what I've known forever, but this whole podcast journey has really helped me identify and connect with in a different way, is that it's not just about people who are designing, building, owning, operating hotels, hospitality touches everyone, right?

It's in all of our lives.


But what's really cool about speaking to you today is that you guys were just inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame, which is like, that's a huge deal.

Gray Davis: It was a, it was a real honor. Will, will Meyer, my business partner and I were really honored when we got the news from Cindy

Mm-hmm. Interior and,

and uh, it's something that we had always kind of had on this pedestal and. [00:02:00] It was very unexpected when, uh, we're actually sitting in this conference room, um, when she told us.

And, uh, we were just blown away. And, uh, they had the event, um, late last year. And, um, it was incredible because, uh, during Covid we weren't able to, um, have them for the last few


Yeah. And so this was the first time. Everyone was able to get together and it was so great to see all of our colleagues in one space.

Um, and just to be together is one.

Dan Ryan: Well, I want to get into the surprise of that cuz in a way I'm actually surprised you were surprised, but I don't want to get there yet.

So what's interesting is you guys started off in residential, right? And, and then you've evolved and grown and grown and worked on amazing projects everywhere. But going back to what I said [00:03:00] originally, It's wonderful talking to people who are owning, operating, designing, building hotels. I really believe, and all these conversations have helped me figure out and or just really I, I not figure out, cause I always knew it, but helped me kind of connect the dots in a more certain way that hospitality touches everything.

And so with that lead up, you know, how do you define hospitality?

Gray Davis: it's Dan. It's about experiences. Mm-hmm. , um, you know, it's storytelling. Um, you know, we feel very lucky, in our studio that we get to be involved in such unique projects, all over the world. But, um, you know, there's nothing more rewarding than, completing a project, a hotel or resort, somewhere and then seeing how people experience it and react to it. [00:04:00] And sometimes it's as you had planned, and sometimes there's these unexpected moments, but it's incredibly rewarding. And I think, um, what has been successful for us as, as you mentioned earlier, um, we started out doing, um, high-end residential work.

Mm-hmm. , um, with. A little bit of hospitality, more on one of our first projects was a, a, a nightclub, um, out in Las Vegas. And, uh, and it sort of opened the floodgates. But, I think what people appreciate in the hospitality world is that residential quality that we bring to hospitality. Um, there's certain things that, that people.

Um, how they like to live. Um, you want to create these spaces that are very warm [00:05:00] and inviting and welcoming, but they also have to stand the test of time. Yeah. Um, at the same moment though, they often, they also have to kind of wow you and create these unique experiences.

Dan Ryan: So something that struck me and I, I've heard, I read, I read that you said this, but I've also heard you say, I've heard will say it. you love, and you just said it a few minutes ago, but as far as creating spaces are that are welcoming, like when you think about that and you're, you're kicking off a project, how do you figure out like based on where the project is, who all the stakeholders are, like, what's your mode of thinking about how do we make this experience the most welcoming?


Gray Davis: Um, I

think first and foremost is probably being good listeners, listening to the client, the brand. Um, [00:06:00] we put a lot of energy into creating a narrative that really is very site specific for that particular project. Um, we do a lot of research on the.


um, any kind of unusual characteristics, um, goals that the, the brand or the client has to achieve.

Um, and, and, um, kind of we put that all together and that starts, that becomes our guide as we design these places. Um, and it, it keeps us, um, focused. Mm-hmm. . And I feel like we always, if we start to drift, we always will. And I will always say, let's get that narrative out and let's go back and look at that narrative.

And it'll usually inform us and guide us [00:07:00] on to get us back refocused.

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm. . Um, so I've heard you say narrative a handful of times. Storytelling. Um, oftentimes when I walk into a. , I can sense the story being told almost. It's like, it's almost like too obvious in a way. It, it's like hitting me in the face.

Wh Whereas when I've walked into projects that you've done, it's, I get it, but it's like a bit more muted and um, uh, it's more of a feeling of the story. So like how do you guys kind of narrow that gap between Okay, here, It's in Nashville and we're gonna do like belt buckles and honky tonk and blah, blah.

But like, instead you're, you know, I just feel that there's a way that you guys kind of mute it.

Gray Davis: How do you do that in a, in a unique way? Yeah. Um, you know, our aesthetic tends to be, um, a bit [00:08:00] more edited and modern and, um, the, the Dream Hotel is a great example in n.

um, where, you know, you would typically think, okay, Nashville, it's country music. Um, you know, it's, it's cowboy boots and uh, cowboy hats and all of that kind of stuff. And Nashville's a very sophisticated city. Um, it's got a great music scene and so how do we, how do we dive into that and, um, reinterpret it


in a way that will, will resonate.

with people, but um, in a unique


that kind of

also challenges them. I think people, um, want to

to be wowed

and, um, you know, they're particularly at a hotel or resort. Um, [00:09:00] you know, you want these to. memorable experiences. And so it's our job to, to do that in a way. And, and you, we try to do it in a, in a subtle way, um, that's not obvious.

Mm-hmm. . And I think that's what a lot of our clients have appreciated. And, you know, again, it's, it's, it's, it's approaching it in a way that, that is welcom.


in the obvious way.

Dan Ryan: Yeah. And I'd. Um, obviously Las Vegas, Nashville, two very like intense cities with really intense perspectives. And then you go across the Atlantic to Rome, which is like one of my favorite c actually, I just started doing a 10,000 piece Lego with my son of the Coliseum. Um, so I'm really, I'm really excited

Gray Davis: that. Oh, that's cool.

Dan Ryan: I remember when W Hotels [00:10:00] first opened in like the late nineties, it was so exciting.



Gray Davis: it was a real, it was a real game changer. You know, it was, those were the properties, those were the hotels that you wanted to go to, cuz they always had the coolest crowd.

There was this great energy and um, you know, they were really, they were unique in forward thinking and um, really, uh, Targeted, um, a very specific demographic. And And you just felt like that was the place to, to be.

Dan Ryan: Yeah. And they had this idea where like anything was possible. They had that whatever whenever line, right. The w everything was a www Right. But you know, getting back on that Alitalia flight to go back over to Rome, as W's grown and then me has bringing, brought in all of these other brands, you know, it, they're really trying to differentiate it and I feel as if, just from the things that [00:11:00] I've.

What I've heard and what I've seen that your W Rome project has really been almost, um, it's been a really important part of that. Hey, where, where is, where is w going? I don't think that that was intentional, but like, as, as, but I, but they've really, but it's, people have really grabbed onto that particular project and it's like kind of bending an arc of a brand right now.


that's amazing. And that doesn't happen very often. So tell us about that.

Gray Davis: It was, um, when we first, um, when they first reached out and said that they wanted us to be involved with the W Rome, we were super excited. Um, and, um, thinking about you, you, you know,

Dan Ryan: that Rome, there's

Gray Davis: so much history, you know, with the architecture and fashion and food and culture, and there's just, there's so [00:12:00] much to, to pull from there.

We're like, this is gonna be really exciting. And, um, ownership and brand, we're wanting to kind of, um, push the envelope and, and, um, we felt like it was almost kind of a, a re.

Dan Ryan: rebirth brand.

Gray Davis: And, um, they were all very encouraging and we really spent, again, developing that, that narrative and looking at, um, the elements there.

And one of the, the, the taglines that we came up with is Lipital and they use that today. And, um, And, you know, and it's very different

Dan Ryan: than

Gray Davis: our typically edited style when we were designing. It's two beautiful old [00:13:00] historic buildings, um, that we did this little modern gasket that connects the two. Um, and the interiors are more maximal. as opposed to kind of, kind of more reserved and edited. And it was really exciting to, to do something like that and, um, look at it in a, in a different perspective. And I think, you know, our team, um, here at Meyer Davis is really, um, focused on

Dan Ryan: creating something that goes back that's

Gray Davis: very site specific.

Dan Ryan: and

Gray Davis: not only for the W in Rome, w Rome, but also, um, what that experience is like. Um, thinking about the detailing, um, how approachable it is. Um, what [00:14:00] the, what the, uh, the elements, the living room, those kind of key areas. The, the, uh, um, the, the, the guest rooms.

Dan Ryan: With W Rome,

Gray Davis: the experience is more about maximalism.

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm. . And

Gray Davis: from the moment you walk in the door,

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: you feel that and sense that.

Dan Ryan: And, the night

Gray Davis: they had their big opening party, um, it was packed. There were probably a thousand people.

Um, they had invited about 400 and about a thousand people showed up. Um, it was a great evening. Um, and

Dan Ryan: the Romans

Gray Davis: have really embraced the property. And,

Dan Ryan: you know,

Gray Davis: one of the things that we noticed is when we've been back there a few times, is that you see them hanging.

Dan Ryan: out, in

Gray Davis: the restaurants, in the, in the, um, [00:15:00] outdoor courtyard, um, in, in the bar.

Um, and it's, it's become a real social hub for Rome. And so we felt like, okay, you know, it's working because we, we wanted to create a place that not only

Dan Ryan: visitors

Gray Davis: go, but also the locals would go too. And so it was really.

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: Exciting for us to, to see that happening.

Dan Ryan: Yeah. And I didn't realize there were a thousand people at the party. that actually maybe that nerve that goes back. That brings me back to the late nineties, early two thousands when, you know, you'd hear these stories of the W Mexico City opening in like Randy Gerber and Cindy Crawford are there and all of the uh, awesome, uh, residents of Mexico City who wanted to go for the party.

And I just feel like maybe that's what's so exciting about it is.

Gray Davis: it,

Dan Ryan: that hotel in particular had a huge opening [00:16:00] party, and I think that might have been a cap on maybe why that is gonna, that property in particular is gonna be so important as w charts its path forward.

So I wanna go back to, I love where you were talking about the two buildings at W Rome. Yes. Um, and again, I know we've talked about w ro a bunch here, so I'm gonna use that idea of the modern gasket that you said, bridging the two buildings together.

Um, because as I, as I was watching you and listening to you share, kind of, that moment at the, at the project, it makes me think about Meyer Davis as a firm and your origins of residential and hospitality. Your under your muted, understated, refined narrative that you guys do on the hospitality side, but then also your personal kind of, I forgot what I said.

Like a, a quirky Yes. Um, different side. So like in all of these, Projects, and I [00:17:00] guess with all designers, it's really about finding that gasket between all of the stakeholders to opening a successful hotel. And did you call that moment be the connector between the buildings a gasket when you were first doing it, or has it evolved into that gasket idea?

And how does that apply to projects in general that you, that you work on?

Gray Davis: We, we, that's a great

Dan Ryan: question.

Gray Davis: And, um, we, for Rome, It worked because there were these two separate buildings and we needed to be able to tie them

Dan Ryan: together. Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: And so there, this modern glass gasket became that element, um, that became the kind of living room, the c b scene space.

Dan Ryan: Um, but we like,

Gray Davis: um, you know, in our work,

Dan Ryan: we

Gray Davis: always are focused

Dan Ryan: on.

Gray Davis: um, whether we're working on a residential [00:18:00] project and bringing in some of our knowledge from hospitality. or the other way around, we're always kind of, um, feeding one from the other. And

Dan Ryan: And I think our,

Gray Davis: our, our studio, um, you know, with, we've got just under a hundred people,

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: here in New York,

Dan Ryan: Miami.


Gray Davis: London, um, and a few people kind of scattered across the world.


Dan Ryan: one in Nashville

Gray Davis: and one in Nashville. Yes. . Yes. Most importantly Yes. One in Nashville. Um, you know, is, is that diverse

Dan Ryan: body of work? Mm.

Gray Davis: Um, you know, I think typically firms, um, are focused on one area and we really like [00:19:00] to.

Dan Ryan: it

Gray Davis: Fairly broad and I think,

Dan Ryan: um, you

Gray Davis: we, we learn from every project that we work

Dan Ryan: mm-hmm. and, um,

Gray Davis: you know, we always have, um, members of our teams, like, I'd love to work on a residential project, or I'd love to work on a hospitality project and, and we like to keep it fresh.

Dan Ryan: It's almost like a cross-training, right?

You're, they get to experience both in the details and the execution of both. That's gotta be really refreshing, where oftentimes people are, are pigeonholed.

Gray Davis: Exactly. And I think that's one of the things that we really strive here is, you know, residential projects tend to move a bit

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: um, whereas, uh, a hotel or a resort takes several years. And so it's, it's nice to, to be able to switch around, um, you know, and, and, and try,

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: you know, your hand at, at.

Dan Ryan: different,

Gray Davis: different things. You know, we also are [00:20:00] involved in a,

Dan Ryan: a lot of, um,

Gray Davis: restaurant work, restaurants and bars, which are great and exciting, and I think

Dan Ryan: think there

Gray Davis: you're able to really experiment with some design elements. Um, and then we've also, um, we've gotten very much involved with a lot

Dan Ryan: of

Gray Davis: branded residences in, in really luxury condo.

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: recently, and we feel like, um, will and I were talking the other day that we feel like we've really become kind of the master of these really high-end,

Dan Ryan: uh, branded residences,

Gray Davis: Um, kind of across the world. We're working on some stuff in, in Australia, um, Europe,

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: Latin America, the Caribbean.

Dan Ryan: and the us. And

Gray Davis: it's just interesting how I think with Covid, um, [00:21:00] it's allowed people, people now realize that they can

Dan Ryan: kind of work anywhere. Totally. And

Gray Davis: it's opened up a whole new kind of,

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: uh, real estate

Dan Ryan: arm.


Gray Davis: So to say.

Dan Ryan: So I know I've heard you talk about the residential side and the hospitality side, but there's another trend that I'm noticing with some of the biggest and best, um, interior design firms out there of product design. Um, one of which. three people who I'm huge fan fans of are rich, brilliant, and willing.

And you came up, you developed a lighting line with them. I used to share an off, I used to have an office like right across from or Right. We shared a wall on Christie Street when they were first starting, and they're just the coolest, the coolest guys I would say. Kids, they're, they are so awesome and, and so forward looking and so strategic in how they're doing it. I am curious, like as you're looking [00:22:00] at product design and, and you're getting your products out there into the marketplace, let's use Rich, brilliant, willing as an example, because I'm just huge fans of them. Like there's a million lighting companies out there. Like how did you pick them to develop this line

Gray Davis: with.

Dan Ryan: um, , um,

Gray Davis: R b w

Dan Ryan: Those guys

Gray Davis: with them was such a great experience. They're incredibly talented. And um, and we worked on several products with them. One of them is our host fixture that's been hugely successful. And, um, in, and again, it was kind of sitting down with them and, and talking to them about what they felt like was kind of missing in the market.

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm. we

Gray Davis: talked about one of the things that we felt like was needing, and that's how this hoist fixture came about, that it allows

Dan Ryan: you, how do you.

Gray Davis: spell that? Hoist? Yeah. H I'm the worst feller. H [00:23:00] O I S T.

Dan Ryan: Okay. So I will, we'll put that in the notes. Okay. Good. Great. Keep going.

Gray Davis: Um, and. It's a, a fixture that can be hung from the ceiling, from the wall.

It can be a sconce, but, um, it, what it does is it's got its own clip system where you can secure it, um, and it can plug directly into an outlet. So for a lot of residential project, it gives you a lot of flexibility for hospitality. It, um, it gave you a lot of flexibility. And also we felt like it kind of, we wanted something that.

Dan Ryan: empowered

Gray Davis: The, the user, the designer, whoever was using it. And it's a very simple fixture, but just beautifully designed. I mean, we did hundreds of sketches

Dan Ryan: of

Gray Davis: it and, um, you can get it in all different kind of custom, different colors. Um, but working with them was just a, a, a, a really rewarding [00:24:00] kind of experience.

And I think now they've recently relocated to really incredible.

Dan Ryan: uh,

Gray Davis: facility up, I think in

Dan Ryan: Kingston. Yep.

Gray Davis: And are just kind of killing it Totally. With what they're doing.

Dan Ryan: doing. So to kind of flip the script a little bit, I think one of the things you said that makes you really successful is your ability to listen to all the stakeholders. So I'm really curious, like when you become the client to someone like R B W, how did they, how did, um, how did they listen to.

Right, right. Was there a similar, can you tie a thread between how they would listen to you through those hundreds of sketches to how you would listen to your clients?

Gray Davis: we, we sat down with them and we, they said, here's kind of what we're thinking.

And they would love, Theo said, I'd love to have, you know, maybe 10 or 15

Dan Ryan: ideas mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: from you,

Dan Ryan: um,

Gray Davis: on these kind of items and things that, you know, these are things that we feel like we're missing. And so we kind of elaborated on that. And so we [00:25:00] went away, kind of came.

Dan Ryan: back,

Gray Davis: Collaborated and thought about it, developed it, and, um, it was, it was a true collaboration.

And, um, sitting down and thinking about, um, they were very much involved in how it would be made, the protection

Dan Ryan: cost.

Mm-hmm. , the packaging, um,

Gray Davis: the type of, you know, it obviously it needed to be di. We're very specific about our warm light, you know, getting those. Now the l e d lights at that time were a bit brighter, and so we're like, guys, we gotta, we gotta warm this

Dan Ryan: up. Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: And, um, there was some back and forth. There were some details that we were very, uh, focused on and we had kind of some, some rounds with that.

Dan Ryan: Um, it was,

Gray Davis: it was, it was. , it was a true collaboration in taking things that, that we felt were important[00:26:00]

Dan Ryan: and how can we

Gray Davis: deliver it that's in an affordable way.

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: but truly unique and serves a purpose. And,

Dan Ryan: and just for the record, everyone, I, I have no relationship with Rich, brilliant. Willing, other than I'm just huge fans of them, but like, they're just such great guys and I'm so glad you that you had collaborated and. for sharing that.

Gray Davis: love, we love working with them.

Yeah. And um, you know, we would love, you know, we'd love to do more, more stuff with them.

Dan Ryan: Um, a few minutes ago you mentioned that you're the worst speller. Have you always been a bad speller? Terrible. Always. Always. Is it like reading also? I'm

Gray Davis: dyslexic. Okay.

Dan Ryan: I wanted to go there without asking you, because what's so crazy to me in all of these convers, or not all in many of these conversations, people that have chosen.

a design, a design route, or a, um, a more visual career path. Many, many of them, surprisingly many, [00:27:00] have some sort of dyslexia or, or, um, neurodiversity that draws them to this place where they can develop a, a space. Like how did you, how did that do you, how did that mild dyslexia, if you will, shape your journey towards be being who you are?

Gray Davis: I never. thought about it that much. Mm-hmm. , um, you know, it's just, it's just the way I, from, from a young kid, I always kind of struggled with that, but I always was very creative and, um,

Dan Ryan: you know,

Gray Davis: when I was in school, people used to laugh at my

Dan Ryan: my spelling you know, I'd get, you know,

Gray Davis: was and saw backwards and, you know, all of those kind of things.

And, um, you know, I just tried. you know,

Dan Ryan: move forward. And it's

Gray Davis: that you mention

Dan Ryan: it even today. I

Gray Davis: had sent a, a little post to somebody's birthday yesterday and of [00:28:00] course misspelled something. They're like, well, at least I can spell . I was like, great. I never can win. Yeah. But, uh, it's, you know, it's, I, it hasn't held me back and.

Dan Ryan: You know,

Gray Davis: just, it's, it's one of those, everybody in the office knows that they need to spell check anything that gray has worked on. And, uh,

Dan Ryan: well, I, I think about it a lot cuz it's a theme that's come up a few times and, and thank you for sharing. Like, sorry, sorry, I don't, that wasn't planned , but I think what's, what's, um, inspiring but also troublesome.

It's inspiring that of the people who have shared that, you know, they've found this. of design, right? Where it's really visual visualizing spaces, being able to see things backwards, forwards, inside out. Um, and that's like a real superpower that many people don't have, right? Um, but there's so many people that are out there that may be struggling with [00:29:00] that, not really have a name for it, and not even know that design is a path.

Gray Davis: Well, um, when we were, um,

Dan Ryan: inducted

Gray Davis: the Platinum Circle, um,

Dan Ryan: so many awards. How do you keep

Gray Davis: with Stacy Schumacher at Hospitality Design. Several years ago

Dan Ryan: we were

Gray Davis: inducted at the same time that, um, Nick Jones was, that started so house

Dan Ryan: and

Gray Davis: in his speech he said that, you know, he had similar issues and you know, he just.

Dan Ryan: he loved.

Gray Davis: um, creating these really great restaurants and you know, what are now, you know, so house, which is huge. But he said he really struggled with it. But he, you

Dan Ryan: you know,

Gray Davis: in his creative field and cooking and in creating these, these beautiful, um,

Dan Ryan: clubs,

Gray Davis: you know, it, [00:30:00] that's what really kept him going. Mm-hmm.

And so I think it, it, for some reason, it, it does affect.

Dan Ryan: A lot

Gray Davis: people that are in the creative world,

Dan Ryan: strangely, totally. And I wish, I wish there was a channel open to those kids that don't even know that this creative world is out there. And you know, I get a lot of feedback, all, all different kinds. But a, a lot of it is from students, interns, people who were kind of starting their journey and they're like, oh my God, I love that they shared that because like, I knew I was on the right path.


Gray Davis: Thank you. It's just about, it's about doing what you, my father always said, he said, gray, it's doing what? You gotta be happy with what you're doing.

Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, they just, they were huge. My mother and father were huge supporters and said, you know, whatever we need to do to get you there, we'll, we're behind you. And I've never let it affect me, and I've just always tried to stay focused on what I love doing.

Dan Ryan: Well, in a way it has affected you [00:31:00] because it drew you to what you, what you

Gray Davis: you loved.

Dan Ryan: Right? Right, right. So back to, let's say you're in high school, right? You're, you're, you're spelling challenged, if you will, How did you then decide to go to Auburn?

Like how did that all happen and how did you decide to go on that?

Gray Davis: I had always, as a child,

Dan Ryan: loved to

Gray Davis: draw and sketch in.

Dan Ryan: you know, travel with

Gray Davis: family. We would go to places and I was looking at the architecture and, and studying the history.

Dan Ryan: Um,

Gray Davis: and in our neighborhood in, in Tennessee,

Dan Ryan: Where in Tennessee was it?

Gray Davis: Uh, Murfreesboro. Murfreesboro. Um,

Dan Ryan: is that east, west,

Gray Davis: middle. That's Middle Tennessee actually. It's the exact geographical center of

Dan Ryan: Tennessee. Oh, wow.

Gray Davis: Um, and uh, you either went to Vanderbilt, university of [00:32:00] Tennessee or

Dan Ryan: Auburn. Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: And, um,

Dan Ryan: and so

Gray Davis: in our neighborhood, um, there were kids

Dan Ryan: that, that went

Gray Davis: all three of those schools. And I originally thought, well, I'll go to the University of Tennessee. They've got a great architecture school there.

Dan Ryan: Um,

Gray Davis: went there and just felt like it was a little, it was larger. Than what I was anticipating.

Dan Ryan: It's huge.

Gray Davis: And, uh, and so,

Dan Ryan: and do you like orange?

Gray Davis: Um, of course I do.

Dan Ryan: Okay. , um,

Gray Davis: uh, and my brother went to school there. Mm-hmm. . So there was a connection. And then, um, some neighbors of mine, um, their, all of their kids went to Auburn and. , you know, and I'd done some research. I knew Auburn had a great architecture school there.

And so I went down

Dan Ryan: and I was like,

Gray Davis: I just felt like this is it, you know? And it was a great school, [00:33:00] um, connected with,

Dan Ryan: um, students there, the professors.


Gray Davis: and it was just an incredible experience. You know, it's kind of in the middle of nowhere, but, uh, you know, there's a lot of talent, uh, with the faculty there.

Dan Ryan: Um,

Gray Davis: just incredible. And, um, a lot of, a lot of

Dan Ryan: good kids,

Gray Davis: um, that we have hired have come from there. And,

Dan Ryan: um, you know, we still

Gray Davis: in touch with the dean and the faculty both on the architecture and the interior. In the interior design department and they always reach out and let us know, um, when they're gonna be in New York.

And we always get together and, um, you know, we just, it's, it was, it. We, we feel like it was a, a really, I feel like it was a, a great experience for me.

Dan Ryan: And you And Will met there, correct?

Gray Davis: I knew [00:34:00] Will. There I was a few years, um, older than, Um, I was graduating and I think he was either in first or second

Dan Ryan: year. Mm-hmm. architecture there.

Gray Davis: Um, we knew who each each other, but we really got to know each other in New York, um, through one of our professors there, David Brawley. And when he would be in New York, he would say, um, let's get together Will and Gray and Da David, the three of us would always get together and go out and have dinner.

and hang out together. And,

Dan Ryan: and how many years working were you then?

Gray Davis: I was, I came up here. I had never been to New York before, um, and thought, well,

Dan Ryan: that would be

Gray Davis: of an interesting place to live. And so bought a one way ticket up. Wow. Um, and on my second day here,

Dan Ryan: walked

Gray Davis: to an

Dan Ryan: apartment

Gray Davis: on 60th and. [00:35:00] signed a lease on that apartment and walked around the corner

Dan Ryan: to work at

Gray Davis: John Salk's office or to an interview there. My first job interview.

Dan Ryan: Got that. So

Gray Davis: within the second day, everything was kind of done. I had a place to live and a job that's

Dan Ryan: unheard

Gray Davis: stayed there for, uh, about four years, I guess, at Saladino.

Great experience.

Dan Ryan: My first project

Gray Davis: working on what is now. The Four Seasons on 57th Street, we were doing the interiors, IM pay was doing the

Dan Ryan: architecture. Yeah,

Gray Davis: It was mind

Dan Ryan: blowing. That's an amazing property. It's still closed.

Gray Davis: It's still closed, which is unfortunate.

Dan Ryan: Hopefully you guys can be involved when they reopen.


Gray Davis: would be amazing.

Dan Ryan: are you listening?

Gray Davis: Um, but Will and I, um, whenever David Braley was in the city, we'd always get together and, and one day David said, you know, the two of you. should start a firm together. No way. And we had not really ever, [00:36:00] we had never thought about it. And,

Dan Ryan: um, will and I both

Gray Davis: of looked at each other and he's like, you know, he's right.

Will was working at Gu me Siegel very prominent, very well respected architectural firm. And at that time I was working at Aero with Bill SoFi and Thomas O'Brien. And, uh, and we were doing some, we just, we said, okay, let's, let's we. A couple of residential projects and, um, this, this, this

Dan Ryan: club in Las Vegas and

Gray Davis: what kind of launched it all.

Dan Ryan: Wow. That's unbelievable. So, going back to where you just maybe at that moment where David Brawley your, he was your professor, correct. Professor, professor. Um, he said You're at dinner. He's like, you know, you two should start a firm.

Gray Davis: At,

Dan Ryan: where were you eating?

Gray Davis: We were, I think we were at Raul's over

Dan Ryan: [00:37:00] in Soho.

Oh my God. So another

Gray Davis: kind of classic place

Dan Ryan: I first moved to New York City with my wife, um, we lived right on Thompson, just north of Prince, right next to that place. It's like such a special memory

Gray Davis: an institution. So you're

Dan Ryan: I'm like lighting up listening. So keep, so you're there

Gray Davis: So

Dan Ryan: like little in the booth

Gray Davis: we're, we were sitting in a booth and I think we were all drinking wine.

Probably probably had a little too much

Dan Ryan: wine. Mm-hmm. and, you know, we were just,

Gray Davis: we always kind of talked about design and, um, you know, we were, we were, we were.

Dan Ryan: both

Gray Davis: working on some, some,

Dan Ryan: uh,

Gray Davis: we just felt like it was getting to be, I was at a point where I felt like, okay, I needed to,

Dan Ryan: what's my next move?


Gray Davis: And so, you know, when David said that,

Dan Ryan: it just kind

Gray Davis: clicked and Will and I started talking and we were working on a, we started working on a little freelance project together, and it just, it was

Dan Ryan: so much [00:38:00] fun

Gray Davis: and we're like, okay, it, it's time. And, uh, And took that leap.

Dan Ryan: So going back to Raul's at that nice little warm, cozy booth, if there was a crystal ball placed on the table and David said, I gotta meet this guy by the way.

But, uh, if he said, look into this crystal ball, and that crystal ball told you that you'd have a hundred employees in five different offices around the world, would you believe him?

Gray Davis: I would've said, you're absolutely

Dan Ryan: crazy

Gray Davis: I mean, it's, it feels like it just happened

Dan Ryan: yesterday.

Gray Davis: Um, it's been incredibly

Dan Ryan: fast rewarding.

Gray Davis: but never would I have thought

Dan Ryan: that, you know,

Gray Davis: this is where we would be today.

Will and I still look at each other, you know, we, we sit across from each other. We've always sat across from us, from each other. And, uh, you know, we, I, he is

Dan Ryan: [00:39:00] best partner

Gray Davis: and we have more fun working together and, uh, we get to travel the world. And I get excited about coming into the office every day.

Dan Ryan: Yeah. And in speaking to him, he says the same thing about you. I forget exactly the conversation or the question I asked him, but like as far

Gray Davis: as

Dan Ryan: maybe it was some sort of conflict resolution between the two of you. He's like, ah, we don't, I don't think we really get into arguments.

And then it seemed like there was like a yin and yang kind of thing, right? Or

Gray Davis: was he, or was he lying? We're, we're from the South and so we don't like confrontation. Yeah. So we, um, we, you know what? We are very diplomatic and we try to keep the office in the studio that way.

Dan Ryan: And, um, you know,

Gray Davis: that's important. It's important to. A really beautiful environment to work in and, um, surrounded by really unique people.

[00:40:00] Um, our team here is, um, very

Dan Ryan: diverse. Mm-hmm. , and,

Gray Davis: you know, we will, and I have a saying that whoever has the best idea is the idea that we run with.

Dan Ryan: I remember him saying that.

Gray Davis: we, we still live by that today.

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm. . Um, so going back to that dinner with David and thinking to where you are now, if I were

Gray Davis: to

Dan Ryan: to ask, well, I'll ask you right now. It's a two-part question. Like, what are you most proud. In that time from that meeting with, with Will and David to now and then actually answer, ask that one, answer that one first and then I'll hit you with the second one.

Gray Davis: what am I most proud of? Is I think the incredible team that we have,

Dan Ryan: um, that, um,

Gray Davis: creates all of this beautiful [00:41:00] stuff that we get to be involved with, that we get to kind of share with the world.

Dan Ryan: Yeah. That's amazing. And the team is amazing. And I, I didn't realize that you had an office in London yet. I don't know how I missed that memo, but I apologize for not doing my homework. So I've heard what, you're so proud of your team to this point, but as you look to the future with that team and with your partner will, like, what's exciting you most into the future looking into the.

Gray Davis: I, I would say these new projects that we're currently working on and, um,

Dan Ryan: that are, um, all of our

Gray Davis: are about, you know, anything that we get involved with now is about sustainability and stuff like that, but in how we do it in a way that's,

Dan Ryan: that's, that's understated.

Gray Davis: But, um,

Dan Ryan: creating places. [00:42:00] Um,

Gray Davis: inspire people and, um, make people

Dan Ryan: think about

Gray Davis: where they are and what they're doing.

Um, you know, we're, we're working on, uh, a huge project that's

Dan Ryan: part of, uh,

Gray Davis: the Red Sea development.

Dan Ryan: Company in Saudi

Gray Davis: Arabia

Dan Ryan: Isn't that big? Mirrored

Gray Davis: It's not the line. It is. It's, it's on the, uh, it's on the coast and,

Dan Ryan: um, it's about 12

Gray Davis: uh, resorts, uh, on the mainland and on this, these small

Dan Ryan: islands.

Gray Davis: And, um, we're working.

Dan Ryan: on a,

Gray Davis: A new one there that's, that's, um, very light touch. It's on this small island that's right on the point, and all the, the guest rooms or the little villas or all these little tinted structures. Right on the coast, [00:43:00] um, that it's gonna be just remarkable. And, uh, it's, uh, they're getting ready to break ground on that and will be done probably in a couple of years.

Dan Ryan: Mm.

Gray Davis: And we've been working on that for a few years.

Dan Ryan: but that's very

Gray Davis: exciting because it's all about sustainability and light touch and that part of the world, the Red Sea, um, is beautiful in that coast there.

Dan Ryan: and, those kind of

Gray Davis: get us excited.

Dan Ryan: Cool. You know, um, before you talked about that, you said the projects that you work on and I, I wrote it down a little bit differently cuz I like alliteration, but I heard you say, Impact the projects you like to work on.

You want them to inspire others to impact others, and kind of having, leaving them with a lasting memory and maybe changing the directory, but then it was also introspection that causes them to look inward.

Gray Davis: Well, I think, you know, we're, when we[00:44:00]

Dan Ryan: design, um, not so much residential. Residential

Gray Davis: a, a big impact. But I think particularly

Dan Ryan: in these public, um, in the public, , um, hotels,

Gray Davis: resorts and stuff, where people

Dan Ryan: are going and what that is.

And, and to us it's, it's about getting it right. Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: And

Dan Ryan: so many times

Gray Davis: when we

Dan Ryan: work on places, um,

Gray Davis: it's really important to us, and I'll use a couple of

Dan Ryan: examples, is, uh,

Gray Davis: little Dick's Bay down in the British Virgin Islands that we completed, uh, a couple of years ago.

Dan Ryan: Um,

Gray Davis: beautiful place, very forward thinking that the, uh, Rockefeller.

Dan Ryan: started

Gray Davis: About 55 years

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm. , and it was all about sustainability.

Gray Davis: Beautiful, crescent shaped beach,

Dan Ryan: uh, all these little bungalows right along the coast. [00:45:00] And um, and

Gray Davis: there was a

Dan Ryan: a side of people

Gray Davis: that didn't want

Dan Ryan: anything changed, was another.

Gray Davis: uh, side that

Dan Ryan: they knew

Gray Davis: they needed to,

Dan Ryan: um, update the, the resort. Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: And so how do you do that in a way?

Dan Ryan: that

Gray Davis: Doesn't alienate the people that love to go there and they have a history there. Um,

Dan Ryan: but at the same time,

Gray Davis: satisfying the people that have never gotten to experience a place like that. And we find that a lot of

Dan Ryan: of

Gray Davis: and, and we try to do it in a sensitive kind of way,

Dan Ryan: Um, and, uh,

Gray Davis: that's key. Another one is a project in, um, in, in, just outside of Athens, Greece, the, the Four Seasons Austere

Dan Ryan: Palace.


Gray Davis: And it has a huge, um, history,

Dan Ryan: [00:46:00] um, with people

Gray Davis: in Europe and a lot of celebrities and, um, people getting married there or special events and, and such happening. And when we were working on that,

Dan Ryan: so many times people said, well,

Gray Davis: please don't, you know, I had a relative that got married there, or I was at this really beautiful event with all these dignitaries and stuff.

And um, you know, and that, that, um,

Dan Ryan: that weighs heavily

Gray Davis: on you. You want to get it

Dan Ryan: right mm-hmm. . And so you. You really search

Gray Davis: and constantly going back and question. You know, is this the right move? Is this the right move? And so when these places open and people are like, oh my God, it's even better than we would have ever imagined, then you feel like, okay, that's a good sign.

And so I feel like we, we constantly, um, think about those things and what,

Dan Ryan: you know,[00:47:00]

Gray Davis: average person, you love it when

Dan Ryan: people come in and,

Gray Davis: at something in a

Dan Ryan: new way, um, puts a smile on their face or, or

Gray Davis: makes them think about

Dan Ryan: something. Mm-hmm. , um, that, that challenges them. And I think that's what design should be.

Totally. I completely agree. Um, going back to when you were in high school, in middle,

Gray Davis: Murphy's

Dan Ryan: Murphysboro. Murphysboro, right in the Mi I, it's right in the middle of

Gray Davis: Just say Outside of

Dan Ryan: Nashville. Outside of Nashville. But you said it's the geographic center?

Gray Davis: Yes. Right. Going back

Dan Ryan: to Murphysborough, um, let's pretend you're there.

The younger version of you and the gray I'm speaking to right now walks up to the younger gray. What advice do you have for yourself?

Gray Davis: I would say

Dan Ryan: Follow your passion.

Gray Davis: Um, you know, I think at a young age I [00:48:00] was lucky enough

Dan Ryan: to kind of

Gray Davis: always know.

Dan Ryan: that

Gray Davis: I enjoyed design

Dan Ryan: and, and wanted to, to do

Gray Davis: what I'm doing.

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm. , um,

Gray Davis: it was a little bit more of a struggle for me to, to get there,

Dan Ryan: but,

Gray Davis: um, it was worth it and I don't think I would change anything.

Dan Ryan: Awesome. Maybe meeting will sooner or having that dinner sooner. , right?

Gray Davis: Yes. Yes, yes. I.

Dan Ryan: this has just been such an incredible conversation for me, just to learn about you and your journey a little bit more.

Um, and I thank you for your time. If people wanted to learn more about you or Meyer Davis, like how can they get in

Gray Davis: They should, um, they should go to our, our website, which is meyer

Dan Ryan: Mm-hmm.

Gray Davis: And, um, you know, if, if we're happy to, [00:49:00] to.

Dan Ryan: uh, we always have kids coming through

Gray Davis: and talking to

Dan Ryan: them, um, if there's somebody

Gray Davis: that's

Dan Ryan: ready to graduate and

Gray Davis: is interested in residential design or hospitality billing, get in touch with, if we'd love to talk to you,

Dan Ryan: Buy that one way ticket to New York. Try to find a job and an apartment in three days or two days. Was it two days?

Gray Davis: Uh, two days. That's right. Yeah. That's crazy. That's right.

Dan Ryan: Wow. Um, so I just wanna say thank you for your time. I know how busy you are with your a hundred employees and all of your offices all over the world.

Thank you,

Gray Davis: Dan. Thank you. This has really been a pleasure

Dan Ryan: Yeah. And, uh, enjoyed it. Yes. Um, and to you guys, the listeners, thank you. Without you, um, tuning in and the audience growing every week, we wouldn't be sitting here right now. And if this has changed your idea on how to design or deliver hospitality, please pass it along because we've all grown by word of mouth.

So thank you very much and we'll catch you [00:50:00] next time. .