Designer Carlton DeWoody Has Good Taste in His Blood—But His Creative Journey Was Sparked by a Sweet 'N Low Packet


As a child, Carlton DeWoody would sit at restaurants and stare at the Sweet ’N Low packets in the center of the table. While many kids idly stacked the ubiquitous pastel paper packets while waiting for food to arrive, DeWoody, even as a child, was thinking like a designer. He wondered, Where did their bubblegum color scheme come from? At antique fairs with his family, he found himself asking similar questions about design and construction while examining decorative door knobs and watches. The search for these “mini miracles,” he recalls, made him feel like “Indiana Jones looking for the Holy Grail.”

Now 42, DeWoody channels that passion for craftsmanship into his work as co-founder and creative director of Reunion Goods & Services, an interior design and brand studio in New York and Los Angeles. His passion for aesthetics may be genetic: His father is artist James DeWoody and his mother is collector and patron Beth Rudin DeWoody. But while his parents focused their attention on contemporary painting and sculpture, DeWoody has always been drawn to the objects and experiences that make up the fabric of daily life.


His Los Angeles home is filled to the brim with mementos from various projects—a pennant he designed for UNICEF is nestled among other small wonders, like the polished geode that sits on his desk. Marie Kondo’s decluttering method doesn’t work for him, he admits. Quite the opposite: “Everything in here brings me joy.” His natural keepsakes in particular offer perspective during the creative process. “Mother Nature is the best designer there is,” he says. “It takes a little bit of the pressure off.”

Back when he was in college studying poetry and philosophy, DeWoody started redesigning the business cards of family friends with new typefaces, graphics, and logos. Only after his “business card business” began building momentum did he realize that he had in effect been offering complete brand overhauls for the paltry price of a three-by-two-inch piece of cardstock.


In 2008, the first project by what would become Reunion, which DeWoody co-founded with Eric Adolfsen and Laura Flam, was to set up the Wooly bar in New York’s Woolworth Building. The invitation-only space, owned by Adolfsen, received a lush makeover that looked “a little bit haunted, a little bit sexy,” DeWoody says.

Then came the Wildwood Snowmass hotel in Colorado, where the trio conceived everything from the retro ski lodge interiors to the custom plaid of the workers’ uniforms. Since then, the studio has added two architect partners and a full staff to the team, and have designed and branded more than 20 hotels and restaurants across the country.


DeWoody is now focusing on a handful of solo projects and working on a litany of collaborations, like a forthcoming wristwatch for Rowing Blazers with Maurice De Mauriac and recently released jacket with Spring/Break Art Fair. His focus is wide-ranging: “A very important part of my life right now is doing work for nonprofits—using this talent and narrative storytelling and experiential design for good causes, to help them communicate or reach new audiences,” DeWoody notes. He has worked with UNICEF for the past 11 years, and helped develop the name and logo for West Coast art biennial Desert X. Narrative building, says the designer, is what unites his sprawling oeuvre.

“I’m always looking for those Buddhist moments to lose your ego ... collaborating with other people that open your eyes and realizing that other people’s ideas can make yours stronger,” he says. “I love those growth moments, of humility and nonattachment.”