Ian Saude took the long way around. He left San Luis Obispo County for schooling at UC Berkley and 14 years in Nepal, before returning home in 2007 with a mind for design and the craftsmanship experience to create it.
For the last eight years he has watched as his jewelry has shown up on red carpets and made appearances at award show podiums, and even picked up a number of Jewelers’ Choice Awards along the way.
More recently Saude has been burning the midnight oil on his latest project, designing the complete interiors for Hotel Serra, San Luis Obispo.
After a couple months of planning and scheduling, Saude found a couple moments to put aside the concept drawings and talk about “do-overs,” jewelry and what his vision is for one of downtown SLO’s newest hotels.
If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?
When I was in college, we weren’t allowed to declare a major until junior year. So, I started out in business but then gravitated toward studying English literature and classical texts in Latin and Greek. This course of study was valuable to me as a person, but it certainly wasn’t very helpful in terms of getting a job out in the real world. Subsequently, I ended up moving to Nepal to study Tibetan Buddhism and starting a small import-export business to earn an income. The business I have now grew out of a few pieces of silver jewelry that I made from materials that I charged on my credit card and brought back with me in my hand-carry.
The most valuable things I have learned in this life and the people who have had the greatest positive impact on me, I met during the almost 14 years I lived there. So, I don’t regret a single minute of that. Nevertheless, if I had it to do over again, I would have probably spent a bit more time in school before leaving for parts unknown. I would have probably tried to study more architecture and applied arts, and maybe would have gone on to get an MBA. I’m sure those skills would have helped me to build my business faster and more easily. Also, with Nepal in ruins after the recent earthquakes, architecture is a much needed skill there now.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Well, there are a few, but I’ve always wished I was fluent in many languages. I think it would be great to be able to communicate with lots of different people the world over. Also, the way a language is structured often says a lot about the people, how they view the world — what they place value on, etc.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Everything we do, say and think — everything we have ever experienced, are experiencing now or will ever experience in the future — are all simply mental perceptions. This is an incontrovertible fact. Nothing can be experienced outside of mind, and without cognizance —the ability to know — nothing can be experienced. The most important lesson I have ever been taught is how to stop searching for truth in external phenomena and to, instead, to look inward and examine the nature of my own mind.
Where would you rather be right now?
That’s hard to say. There are a lot of places I’d like to be — I love to travel and see how other people live — but this place isn’t so bad either! Maybe a nice beach somewhere in the tropics.
You started with a focus on jewelry design and have since added luxury home goods. How did you make that connection between precious stones and cashmere throws?
I have always had a love of things that are well-made as well as helping to preserve the traditions that create them. I started with jewelry, but I like to bring the same awareness and appreciation of quality workmanship and materials to other objects as well. Really good design is essentially the same, no matter what you are designing — I am taking beauty that is already present in nature and enhancing or showcasing it in new ways that hopefully delight, inspire and foster a deeper sense of appreciation.
What is your vision for Hotel Serra?
My vision for the hotel is to take the core values of the brand (factors such as authenticity, creating a unique sense of place, sustainable luxury, etc.) and to manifest them in every aspect of the hotel interior from spatial considerations and finish materials to colors and lighting.
I would like Hotel Serra to have that subtle, magical quality that certain great places the world over, have. If you look at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore or the Angkor Wat, they each seem to have unearthed some special quality that is essential and unique to that place, and made it come to life. They are also centers of culture and outposts of civilization. They have tapped into the DNA of the place, distilled it, refined it, taken it to new heights and expressed it in a thousand different and unexpected ways. That is passion!
I think that the Central Coast is such a beautiful and relaxed place to live, that sometimes we can become kind of complacent and neglect the true potential for excellence that we can achieve here, both individually and collectively, when working to create something bigger and more perfect than ourselves. I hope that Hotel Serra can be fun and invigorating, while also being restful. I want it to inspire even the most sophisticated world travelers to take a careful look at San Luis Obispo, and help them realize that there is much more to this place and to its people than meets the eye.
Filling the world with inspiring spaces and objects of enduring beauty is something that is fundamentally important to me. Truly beautiful things are usually born out of noble qualities like intelligence, empathy, dedication, love and care. Appreciating them has a beneficial impact on the mind. Sometimes, those places or objects have the capacity to transport us out of our day-to-day troubles and help us to see, not the person we are right now, but the person we are destined to be, the person we want and need to become. When people set foot in Hotel Serra, I’d like them to feel that way.