Robert McKinley, principal of Robert McKinley Creative Services (RMCS), and co-owner of GoldBar in New York’s Little Italy and The Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York, has become an industry leader in hospitality design and branding.
With a career that began within the fashion houses of Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Karan, and most notably Giorgio Armani, McKinley’s affinity for sophisticated environments was cemented early on with projects including retail store layouts, event design, concepts, and production, eventually leading to branding events for such high-profile clients such as Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Ermengildo Zegna, Boucheron, and more.
Expanding his repertoire with the interior design for late-night lounge P.M. in 2003, McKinley received kudos from the New York Times, L’Officiel, VOGUE, and others. The nightclub instantly became the destination, in then un-trendy meatpacking district, for New York’s hippest socialites, celebrities, and international scenesters. Industry insiders immediately took notice and McKinley went on to design interiors for leading venues such as CAIN, Table 50, CAIN Southhampton Club, Felice, GoldBar, The Surf Lodge, and most recently Cain Luxe.
With his design for GoldBar, McKinley was able to take his fantastical dream of a fictional Italian Count whose obsession with all things gold and an over-the-top lifestyle, and turn it into the lush lounge. The back-story was intrinsic to the creation of this hidden downtown hotspot. Along with the seminal vocabulary specific to the venue, McKinley created collateral materials explicit to the Count’s standard of living, including lush oil paintings of the fictional characters’ extended family and love letters imprinted in surfaces of the bard and cocktail tables. That dichotomy, juxtaposed with stately chandeliers, 2,400 gold leafed human skulls, and Italian street graffiti are what makes this a visceral destination.
His concept for the Surf Lodge in Montauk, New York was a total departure from the decadent formalities of GoldBar. It’s meant as a reprieve from the beat of the City and pays homage to surfing, a sport and lifestyle that McKinley loves. The property emits a warm, beachy vibe with its white washed interior and open-rafted ceilings, reclaimed barn planked walls, and colorful sunken living room in the lobby.
McKinley prides himself on creating cohesive concepts that reinforce his initial vision and that people find unique while remaining comfortable. His work translates the best when he has complete control of all creative aspects from interior and exterior design, lighting design, music direction, uniform design, signage and graphic design.
His work, noted for its whimsy, sophistication, and attention to detail, has been featured in publications like VOGUE, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Elle, Interior Design, People, Travel & Leisure and many others.
McKinley lives between homes in NYC’s West Village and Amagansett, Long Island.
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Can’t wait to finally get my Short John from Matuse! Been waiting 5 summers for that piece!