Meet the Designer: Dina Caruso

The owner and principal of Caruso Design Group specializes in hospitality, restaurant and high-end residential projects, including coordinating the furnishings for Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2016 Ultimate House.


 

Dina Caruso was studying psychology and marketing in college when she says she realized a different field might require fewer years of post-secondary education and allow for more opportunities to be creative and travel.

“I chose interior design because I thought it sounded fun and easy,” she says. “It’s fun, but it wasn’t at all easy.”

Since then, she has worked all over the world through design positions with Sunterra Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and several design firms, including her own, Caruso Design Group, of which she’s the owner and principal. She specializes in hospitality design but also is well-versed in restaurant and high-end residential projects, including coordinating the furnishings for Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2016 Ultimate House in the Strip District.

“It’s actually quite fun because I’ve never been on a job site where I didn’t design it,” she says of the project, which was open to the public for tours in September as a fundraising event for the Free Care Fund at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

“It’s nice to see somebody else’s design, and it’s gorgeous, and it’s amazing to be a part of it but not be responsible for when the light fixtures arrive and if the wall coverings [all come together].”

Caruso, 44, lives in her hometown of Evans City with her husband, Steven Bicehouse. She has received numerous design awards and serves on the La Roche College Interior Design Advisory Board. She also is the steering committee chairperson for the NEWH/Pittsburgh Region, The Hospitality Industry Network.
 


photo OF PRIVATE RESIDENCE DESIGNED by CARUSO + CUMBERLEDGE BY JEFF GREEN


 

Do you approach a hospitality project differently than a residential project?
Absolutely. They just have different sets of challenges, and the process is completely different. Hospitality projects run a lot more like a commercial architectural project with a very clear distinction between the phases of design and clear milestones and a more critical path or schedule.     

With hotels, we’re working with the owner of the hotel or the developer, we’re dealing with the hotel operator and we’re dealing with the hotel brand … Then within each entity there are many layers, so with an operator we might work with the director of engineering, director of housekeeping [and] the general manager of the hotel. Everything we do has to work for all parties, and it has to be durable and meet certain technical specifications of a hotel. But it has to look residential. It’s a little looser of a process [with a home].

 What’s your favorite part about your job?
 Travel. One hundred percent. And site visits. I absolutely love, love, love, love site visits and solving problems in the field. I absolutely love when I get called to a job site because of an issue and we come up with a solution that looks and functions better than our original design … And the excitement — there’s always kind of a buzz and excitement in the air when something’s being built, and it’s such a team spirit — a camaraderie amongst the designer, the architect, the contractor — all the different trades.
 

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