November 06, 2012
This is the second in a series of articles that will cover the main issues discussed at the recent principals roundtable held by Interior Design and IIDA at NeoCon East in Baltimore, MD.
One of the major challenges—and some say opportunity—is the growing influence of hospitality in almost every facet of the design process. Many of the 20 or so top executives of design and architectural firms who attended Interior Design and IIDA’s principal’s roundtable said the focus on extensive services, luxury amenities and technology is fast becoming standard features for many clients across all market segments.
“In a corporate Class A office, years ago you had two-by-two tiles and a big mirror,” said an executive from a large global design firm. (To ensure a frank and open conversation about the high priority issues impacting the design industry, Interior Design and IIDA agreed not to identify attendees.)
“Today, these bathrooms look like spas," said the same executive. "Tenants want a certain level of amenities and when they renew leases they look for an upgrade in certain areas, whether it’s the bathroom, kitchen or common area.”
Question: Do you feel that the hospitality mindset has crossed over into all market segments, creating demand for more luxury services and amenities in even the smallest projects? Respond here.
Nowhere is this Hospitality influence more apparent than in higher education, which many noted is booming with the build out and updating of student housing and other campus areas. As one design executive noted: “These are not like the dorm rooms we grew up with… the cinder blocks and traipse down the hall to the shower with your bucket of shampoo.”
Even the cafeterias are no longer the drab and dreary places of yesteryear, but designed more like high-end restaurants with made-to-order food from executive chefs. Even though much of this is to attract and satisfy the parents of students, one design executive pointed out, the fact of the matter remains that this is what students are coming to expect.
This also translates to housing where college graduates and young singles are looking for places with fantastic amenities such as fully wired common areas with printers and scanners, fire pits and more. “It’s the ‘we work, I work’ areas,” said a design executive, explaining that people working from home want to get out of their apartment and work in group spaces.
This shift offers maximum opportunity for design professionals. “We become more important,” said the owner of small design firm, adding that no broker or client can design multi-use spaces that have to answer so many hi-tech and living needs. “We have to be more involved up front, though. Our business is solving design problems.”
Question: Does the trend toward more customized and complicated spaces give you traction when asking for higher fees for certain projects? Respond here.
And this, many of the design executives agreed, is also the solution when trying to reboot the upward trend in fees. “One way to argue in favor of increased fees is that everything is more customized. It takes a certain amount of time to customize,” said one design executive. “You know it’s a hard thing for our community because we are selling an intangible. Some clients get it and some don’t… they want the size 8 shoe.”
As another design principal noted, many young architects come into the process initially thinking that interiors are easy and, yes, even generic. They don't get how complicated spaces have become, especially when many clients are trying to do more with less space. “It’s harder than they think,” she said, laughing. “It’s been a transition for them to make.”
In fact, many agreed that it's been a transition in the design process that they hope will be to their benefit.
Next week: How finding and maintaining hard-working, dedicated staff is becoming a difficult task, especially among those in their early to mid 20s.
Last week: Principals Roundtable: Tighter Fees a Huge Challenge