- Started out renovating well-known Melbourne restaurants, bars and nightclubs
- Developed appreciation for business aspects of design in Melbourne
- Moved to Asia, working for Marina Bay Sands, Four Seasons Macau and other major projects
In the first of an interview series on Samantha Drummond, one of the minds behind Marina Bay Sands, Four Seasons Resort Macau, and other projects, we explore her roots and how she got into designing some of Asia’s most iconic projects…
“It’s great to hear an Australian accent,” said Samantha Drummond, as we started our video call. Each person was on the other side of the world, she in Denmark, myself, in her native Australia.
Samantha Drummond, the Managing Partner of Habitus Design Group, is a powerhouse that has led some of the world’s largest and most iconic projects, including Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and Solaire Resort & Casino in the Philippines.
From Melbourne to the world
The conversation begins with her humble beginnings in Melbourne where she started out at the Balaclava Hotel.
A job offered to Ms Drummond by her grandfather whilst still in school, the hotel pub was where she first developed a fascination for hospitality.
“I just wanted to learn everything, so I spent time in the kitchen, on the floor, behind the bar, I just learnt everything I could. And then I thought, ‘I really like this, I really like the service side of it.’”
Spending some 15 years in the industry she quickly came rose through the ranks, eventually taking the helm of well-known bars and clubs across Melbourne.
“I loved to also renovate the spaces, I was doing fashion parades and doing really high profile events for people,”
Ms Drummond said she had the opportunity to work with recently-departed Michael Gudinski, doing after-parties for international acts such as Madonna, Sting, and Prince at the Carousel.
“Through that period I learnt how to manage people’s expectations, and how to be innovative, put concepts on. It’s kind of ‘what’s going to draw people in? what’s going to captivate them and keep them here?’ From menu styling to the interior, I kind of fell into it, it wasn’t something I was trained as a discipline to do.”
The path to Asia
Ms Drummond started her own small design firm specialising in restaurant design in Melbourne but outgrew that. With her eye towards designing larger spaces and hotels, an Asia calling seemed right.
She left for a job in Shanghai in the ‘nineties.
“It’s daunting when you go to a different country and culture by yourself when you’re a single female, and I went there because Melbourne is relatively small, and I had renovated most of the restaurants I knew there.”
Ms Drummond said she had a deep fascination with the Asian culture and “left as soon as [she] had the opportunity”.
“Las Vegas Sands discovered me on a building site, asked if I wanted to go to Macau and that was that.”
There are very few people in the world with Ms Drummond’s skill set, she said: “a client asked me to do a lot of the design myself because they couldn’t find a specialist to do these large volume spaces with connectivity and adjacencies which are quite complex, and require a different mindset of thinking.”
Working in Asia was exciting and varied, her Antipodean roots putting her in good stead to walk through building sites in harsh weather.
“It’s hard work when you’re out on these building sites and it’s 45 degrees, and you’re working with project people, and managing these large scale builds, and anything and everything goes wrong every day, you’ve got to be in crisis mode every time, and putting out fires and making quick decisions on the ground.”
Asia has also provided fertile ground for unique design inspiration and unique talent to bring a vision to life, as Samantha Drummond continues in part two of Ex Animo.
‘Ex Animo’ is a new series of interviews and profiles on people in real estate and property.