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Making it Great

We share some techniques and products that can help your next hospitality project stand out from the crowd

By Adam Moore

We share some techniques and products that can help your next hospitality project stand out from the crowd.

It’s an exciting time to be a hospitality designer, but that certainly doesn’t it make it any easier. Like their colleagues in other fields, hospitality designers are being asked to prove that they are a smart investment—but they’re also being tasked with capturing the hearts and minds of consumers who already have too many entertainment options to choose from. Suddenly, convincing people to fill up booths and belly up to the bar doesn’t seem so simple.

So what’s an enterprising designer to do? We asked a few professionals in the field, and as it turns out, there are some emerging trends and tricks that you can take advantage of to create hospitality spaces that stir up buzz, create their own word-of-mouth marketing and keep customers coming back for more.

Make a Splash

“You capture the person in the first 10 seconds,” says designer Meg Sharpe, who has worked with the Crown Hospitality Group on projects including The Lion and The Windsor in New York City. “It’s like a good book—in that first sentence, your reader is either captured or not, so I find it really important to make that first face. That’s where I always tend to put a bit more money and detail into, because that’s what going to keep people coming back.”

The specific design approach will differ depending on the objective—hotel clients are often looking for a singular impact point that will capture customers at first glance, while dining establishments are now requesting smaller spaces like vestibules, antechambers and foyers before revealing the full restaurant space—but the tools can be the same.

Sharpe says that line of sight is critical, and encourages designers to find a specific viewpoint or wall in a space that can be specially treated. The possibilities include custom artworks, uniquely patterned fabrics or striking antique pieces.

Bold surfaces are also an option, and give designers a solid foundation to build upon. Some new options include porcelain panels from Laminam by Crossville, which blend texture and color with a metallic sheen; Cosmos from Móz Designs, a series of aluminum panels featuring dramatic color gradients; and the Ornamental Surfaces Collection from Architectural Systems, with more than 80 patterns, including quilted leathers and hammered metals.

“It’s all about depth, because you want people to think there’s more to see,” says Sharpe.

Standout lighting features can also help set the mood while making a big impact. The options include AIR from 3M Architectural Markets, a flexible hoop fixture that can be used singularly or combined into clusters; Metronome from Delta Lighting, available in a tailor-made XXL version; the beautifully crafted Totem from LZF Lamps; or any of the inventive ceiling fixtures from Yellow Goat Design (you’ll likely have a hard time picking just one).


Make it Like Home
“The younger, more youthful [brands] are looking for the organic, the minimal; if it’s an older, established brand catering to business people, they’re looking for something very residential,” says Keith Rushbrook, partner with II BY IV Design Associates in Toronto.

There are obviously myriad residential seating and table options on the market, but it’s essential to choose pieces that can also stand up to the abuse dished out by customers. Some notable introductions include the Horizon seating and table collection from Cumberland, inspired by the open terrain of the southwest; the 126-inch long Abyss lounge from Naula, which features deep tufting and rich, dark textiles; the Jekyll chair from Lounge 22, part of a modernist duo; and Bento from Cabot Wrenn, a Japanese-inspired table featuring a Corian insert.

Designers looking to create friendly café and dining spaces may also want to consider Coalesse’s swiveling, stylish Lox Chair; the New Brandy line of armchairs from Andreu World; or the sleek Bistro chair from Loewenstein. Blu Dot’s Copper Real Good Chair (“as skinny as a supermodel yet far more sturdy,” according to the company’s website) is guaranteed to impress, and fits right into the latest color and material trends.

“I’m having a lot of people tend towards gray tonal items, like poured concrete and raw wood, and I’m finding that I’m showing a lot ochres and rust colors—colors that maybe aren’t ‘real’ colors, but that feel great and can last forever,” Sharpe says.PageBreak

Make it Fun
“I tell the people I work with, ‘We’re not saving lives, we’re making something beautiful,’ so you have to add a playful twist or a little quirk,” says Sharpe. “You have to have fun with it, otherwise it’s too serious—and people know when something is trying too hard.”

For some spaces, creating that sense of fun may come from revisiting a particular story, character or graphic throughout a space, while other spaces may benefit from reflecting the local flavors or customs of an area—an effective technique recommended by both Sharp and Rushbrook. This is often done through the use of historic pieces, period-appropriate artifacts or regional artworks.

Whimsical furnishings can also inspire patrons to let their hair down; examples include the curved Sorri chair by WEWOOD, inspired by a wide smile, and the Tea chair from Sancal, featuring a playful hexagonal quilt. Likewise, the Four Seasons lamp from Jordi Mila features four different faces (changeable by patrons or staff), each of which allow light through in a different way. For spaces demanding a high-tech touch, check out the Digital Dreams lamp from Brand Van Egmond, which features between one and six digital picture frames embedded into its black matte body.

Restrooms also provide opportunities to make an impactful design statement (“They need to have a big wow,” says Rushbrook), while adding some levity. For example, designer Elia Felices’ Holotech Crystals—essentially miniature LED dots—can now be specified on a series of five mirrors, creating distinctive, Turkish-inspired lighting when turned on. Similarly, the Ebb Concept sink from Neo-Metro promises to wow users with a variety of colored resin decks, all of which can be combined with lighting to create a deep ambient glow.