Event Designer Billy Butchkavitz Shares His Favorite Places Around the World

The Los Angeles-based designer, known for his opulent work for clients such as HBO, discusses the venues and cities that inspire his work.

By Claire Hoffman February 11, 2019, 7:16 AM EST

"I am obsessed with grand temples, churches, mosques, castles, and ancient ruins," says Butchkavitz, pictured here at the Taj Mahal in India. "[It] really motivates me to step it up and think outside the box when it comes to my design work."

Photo: Courtesy of Billy Butchkavitz

Event designer Billy Butchkavitz is most known for the highly produced events he has created with HBO for more than two decades, such as the network’s annual Golden Globes and Emmy bashes. The Los Angeles-based head of Billy Butchkavitz Design describes his aesthetic as “bold pattern, texture, and color,” and he takes inspiration from architecture, fashion, gardens, art, vintage movies, and international marketplaces and fairs.

To See Art and Culture
One of the reasons that I travel abroad so much is to be inspired and educated by the art and culture of others. Whether it be a small village in Ethiopia or a grand museum in the heart of London, I look, listen, and learn. Some of my favorite stomping grounds: the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the historic center of Mexico City; the temples of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos; and Rajasthan, India.

For My Favorite Meal
I've been a vegetarian since 1990 and I quit drinking alcohol on my 21st birthday. But when it comes to dessert, my friends all listen to me. If I were going to take someone on a dessert-eating adventure, here's how it would go: Dutch apple pie at Alcove in Los Angeles; coconut layer cake at the Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki; carrot cake at Fortnum & Mason in London; chocolate chip cookies from my buddy, pastry chef Sherry Yard; and for my friends who really know me—Linda's Fudge Cake from any Cheesecake Factory.

To Recharge
I escape to my favorite places as often as possible, like Chiang Mai, Thailand; Jaipur, India; Mexico City, Mexico; a river cruise in Asia or Europe; or the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii.

“For me, inspiration comes from art, architecture, fashion, and people.”

To Get Inspired
For me, inspiration comes from art, architecture, fashion, and people. Nothing beats going to a market or bazaar in a faraway land to really awaken my creative flow, like the Khan el-Khalili in Cairo, the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, the San Telmo Sunday Fair in Buenos Aries, the Chandni Chowk Market in Old Dehli, or the Hippie Fair Crafts Market in Rio de Janeiro. 

I am also obsessed with grand temples, churches, mosques, castles, and ancient ruins; walking through a grand cathedral and seeing how the sunlight illuminates an ornate dome, or crawling inside a pyramid and being blown away by such an architectural wonder, really motivates me to step it up and think outside the box when it comes to my design work.

To Spend Time Outdoors
The best decision I’ve made since living in Los Angeles was moving to Pasadena five years ago. I walk everywhere—to movies, to restaurants, to the market. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens and the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center are two of my favorite outdoor escapes. 

The same holds true when I'm on one of my international adventures—I walk as much as possible exploring and absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of the environment.

To Entertain Out-of-Towners
If they are looking for a relaxing time, I take them to the beautiful Huntington Library, the Norton Simon Museum, and then a short drive to the charming little city of Sierra Madre for dinner. If they are looking for adventure, we hit the beach towns up and down the coast anywhere from Laguna to Carmel—one of my favorite stops is Pismo Beach, where you can find sand dollars. If they are hardcore shoppers like me, we hit everywhere from the malls in Orange County to the outlets near Palm Springs and some of downtown L.A.’s hidden shopping treasures.

To Get Work Done On the Road
I travel a lot and I travel heavy, with an iPad, computer, sketch pads, pencils, hard copies of files for projects that I am working on, adapters, a real camera, waterproof pouches, backup batteries, and sometimes even a mini printer. My travel and my work blend together so I have to be prepared for everything.

A version of this story appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of BizBash.

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