On July 24, 2018, Interior Design hosted its first Hospitality Roundtable, a spirited discussion on some of the biggest concerns in the industry. In a gathering at the magazine’s New York City headquarters, 25 designers, manufacturers, and end-users analyzed and debated the opportunities and challenges of designing hotels, restaurants, and cruises. Topics covered were designing for the Millennial generation, the struggles of controlling the specification process, and how to foster better relationships with vendors. Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen moderated the conversation and was joined by contributing editor Jen Renzi and publisher Carol Cisco.
The evening kicked off with Cindy asking: What is hospitality? As the participants introduced themselves, their remarks emphasized several key words and phrases, including: “experience,” “empathy,” “excitement,” “authenticity,” “blurred boundaries,” and “Millennial.” That last term sparked an enthusiastic debate about the purpose of the hospitality sector. Is it to be a champion of inclusivity, as suggested by Shay Lam Nakashiki of TPG Architecture? Or, is the ultimate goal to provide sociable experiences that actively counteract the isolation caused by smartphone dependence? Toni Stoeckl of Marriott International said he considered the “Instagram-worthy shot” to be an essential design element; George Fleck of Le Méridien, Renaissance, and Westin said that conglomeration focused more on “fabricating nostalgia” and “channeling glamorous essence." The comments highlighted how both methods find appreciators in today’s hospitality business. Siobhan Barry of Gensler pointed out that no matter the specific style, the entire approach to projects has taken on new meaning. "It used to be that our primary concern was designing for functionality,” she said. “Today we're designing for experience."
The topic of specification largely dealt with the issue of knockoffs and protecting intellectual property. There were two rather revolutionary ideas voiced during the segment. One was presented by Adam Rolston of INC Architecture & Design, who suggested doing away with the concept of intellectual property all together and instead refocusing on a designer’s expertise as the protected product. Matthew Berman of Workshop/APD said that any contract a client signs has a stipulation that the firm owns all IP developed for the client, including furnishings and design objects.
Finally, with regards to having better relationships with vendors, the room agreed that honesty was the best policy. This meant better communication about the inherently reciprocal nature of this commercial relationship—vendors need designers as much as designers need vendors. The room called for a curtailment of cultural practices that could lead to bribery and favor-asking behavior.
By the end of the two-hour event, it felt like the conversation was just getting started. Cindy promised even more incisive topics at the next Hospitality Roundtable. Judging by the exuberance of the participants, the second edition will be even more thrilling.
A special thanks to the event sponsors: