If, as the saying goes, having a little good luck is sometimes the most brilliant planning, then Samuel Amoia must be one of the greatest planners on the design scene today. In his teens, Amoia worked as a bellboy at Ian Schrager’s Delano Hotel in Miami Beach. Continuing on the hospitality path, he landed a consulting gig for a boutique hotel in Buenos Aires at 24 years old. A year later, he doubled back to the States to work with hotelier André Balazs at the Boom Boom Room at the Standard in New York. Not bad for a kid who started out lugging bags and pushing room-service trolleys.
Now firmly established in New York with his own design company, the 32-year-old Amoia still seems propelled by a mixture of improvisation and good fortune. The fact that he has little formal training besides a three-year apprenticeship with decorator Stephen Sills hasn’t impeded his enviable portfolio of interiors and furniture projects for high-end clients. “I used to paint a lot when I was a kid,” Amoia says, “and my grandfather used to build a lot of stuff, just find junk and manipulate it.” The same improvisatory sensibility informs Amoia’s own work, which is infused with a rough glamour that recalls the urban resorts where he got his start. His firm, Samuel Amoia Associates, is working on a new residential interior in Miami featuring walls made from compacted sand, sourced locally and shaped into a ridged, undulating surface; in Belize, a project for the Aman Resorts group includes an original line of fixtures and furnishings with what Amoia calls “a Central American feel, but also with French 1920s elements,” all of it manufactured in the region by small-scale artisans.
Craft is key to the designer’s approach, and with the launch last year of his new enterprise, AMMA Studio, Amoia now has the resources to produce unique pieces on a commercial scale. Hewn from simple materials like cement, salt, and sand (“The same materials we use in ashtrays,” notes Amoia), the studio’s cylindrical drum stools have quickly become a signature creation, attracting the attention of clients such as fashion designer Stella McCartney and New York’s DeLorenzo Gallery. In fact, Amoia’s new interior for DeLorenzo Gallery’s Upper East Side location has grown into an additional commission for an upcoming furniture line, a first for the art deco specialists, who have never before represented original work by a living designer. It’s just another instance of Amoia’s uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time—though as another old saying goes, luck is the residue of design. “I’m a hustler,” says Amoia. “I work seven days a week.”