Telling a Unique Story Through Interior Design

By Tammy S. Miller President, Alternate Resources | November 13, 2016

Every town, village, community, and city has its own character, its own vibe, and its own history. Each location has a story to tell about what makes it unique. Isn't it important to tell that story through the practice of interior design? Shouldn't designers be called to task to bring the story to life in a unique way for each and every project, especially hotel projects where people stay? Doesn't the guest travelling on vacation or on business want to understand the locale, and what makes it unique? Won't this lead to better experiences for guests? Wouldn't it be fun to educate the client about the town they are staying in? Won't that add to the intrigue of the space and the authenticity of the guest experience?

Hotels are huge business, from buying and selling them to developing and renovating them to operating them. It is much easier to set a single standard and name it a brand and make every single detail remain the same regardless of locale. There are those brands that enforce this singularity and then there are other hotels who want to stand above the rest. As a designer, my hats off to those that dare to be different, who want people to remember the unique experience and the location and who want to share it with their friends, to come back for the experience. That makes better business.

The "buzzword" in the hotel industry today is authentic. By definition the word authentic means genuine; real; not false or copied. Guests are seeking these authentic and original experiences by choosing hotels that are unique and interesting. This desire opens the world of design to the talented who seek to learn something of the locale and represent it in the interiors and exteriors of the hotel space. This can be achieved in material choices like using various species of reclaimed lumber in Aberdeen, Washington or Bangor, Maine which both claim to be the lumber capital of the world or to focus on the beautiful reefs and tropical waters when designing a hotel in Grand Cayman.

Designers are retained for a project to bring the space to life. We have vision, and we lend our vision to every project with the hopes of making it unique and special. We are also business people, and we are called upon to tailor that vision to budget parameters, usage, clientele, interests and specialties. Our goal in hotel design is to create an experience for the guest and our success lies in creating a welcoming and memorable experience.

Recently I was working on a project in Springfield, Massachusetts and I learned all about the things that are unique to Springfield: the first game of basketball with a peach basket, and now home to the Basketball Hall of Fame; home of Dr. Seuss, who has a museum in Springfield; home of the first public wading pool, and there are many others. My goal with this project is to represent some of the historical building blocks of Springfield and weave it in to the hotel. In this specific property, a branded hotel with both a leisure and business focused guest, the approach is to bring the history in through the artwork.

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Lobby of the Sheraton Springfield, MA hotel with changing leaves in framed photography
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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.