Kate Rohrer ’05 can’t help herself when she stays at a hotel or eats in a new restaurant. The hospitality space designer has to turn on all the lights and even upend some furniture.
“I’m always taking in every aspect: the menu design, the lighting,” she said. “And I think everyone does, but maybe they’re not flipping over chairs to see where they’re made, or looking at stitch details.”
Rohrer celebrated the fifth anniversary of her company, Rohe Creative, in July, and earlier this year she was featured in Philadelphia Magazine as one of the city’s “New Philly Power” people. She’s the designer behind some of Philadelphia’s coolest-looking restaurants, including Bud & Marilyn’s, Louie Louie and Cheu Fishtown.
While Rohrer studied interior design at Moore, she was also studying the design of restaurant and bar spaces while she worked as a server and bartender at Stephen Starr’s first restaurant in Philadelphia, The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar at 138 Market Street.
“Those years were so formative for me, from learning how a guest is coming into the restaurant and experiencing it, and also how there’s an entire staff and team of people that rely on the design of that space,” she said.
Rohrer also learned not to be afraid of hard work when she got her dream job with Moore alum Karen Daroff ’70 at her firm Daroff Design—and folded fabric samples in the materials library.
“Just prepare yourself for those moments,” she advised current Moore students. “If you work hard, it gets recognized and you can create your own path. Five years ago, when I established Rohe, it was really that first time where I got to create something on my own terms and create my own family, and create my own studio and work space. So, there was a good 10 years of lots and lots of hard work and sleepless nights before all that happened.”
Rohrer gets a lot of requests for home interior design, and so she’s branching off on a new venture: Rohe Home. Housed in a warm and inviting industrial space showroom in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, it’s full of her eclectic finds of vintage pieces and antiques.
“It’s going to be a collection of furniture, rugs, lighting, accessories…things that just inspire us,” she said. “It’s an approachable option for people who are fans of our work. And the goal is to be able to introduce our own custom line of things, like pillow and wallpaper designs, and smaller, manageable products that people can buy.”