On the heels of BDNY, Interior Design invited designers and manufacturers to its New York City headquarters yesterday for a roundtable discussion, which focused on the increasing demand for hospitality design across multiple sectors, including healthcare, retail, and the service industry. Armed with avocado toast and coffee, 23 designers, manufacturers, and end users shared insights about designing multi-generational spaces, integrating the latest technology into hotels, and working with developers. Interior Design’s Editor in Chief Cindy Allen moderated the discussion.
“We’re lucky because we get to talk to you, but we constantly forget you don’t get to talk to each other,” Allen began, stressing the importance of meeting and engaging. The conversation kicked off with an exchange about adaptive reuse, spotlighting the new TWA Hotel, which attendee Lea Ciavarra worked on with her team at Lubrano Ciavarra Architects. “We couldn’t talk when we were there; we were actually speechless," Patrick Thompson, founder and principal of Patrick Thompson Design, said of the hotel. "We thought it was probably the coolest, most beautiful building we’d ever been inside."
So how did a boutique firm like Lubrano Ciavarra Architects land such a monumental project? Carefully honed industry connections and a commitment to go above and beyond helped, especially as a contract employee in the project's early stages. "We earned our place on the team and then we were involved in bringing in the rest of the team," says Ciavarra. "One of the things about being small that helped us is being nimble. If [the developer] needed something, we jumped on it."
From there, the discussion turned to the changing nature of hospitality design, including the push to make healthcare and workplaces look and feel more like hospitality settings as well as the challenge of creating multi-generational spaces. As younger generations crave experiential travel, which enables them to interact with and be part of a given neighborhood, designers are tasked with reimagining public spaces in hotels, such as dining areas, to better integrate these with the local community.
At the same time, designers in the hospitality realm must strike a balance between generational desires—some business travelers still expect a desk in their hotel room, while others find this furnishing obsolete, preferring to answer emails on their phones rather than a laptop. “As soon as you take some things out that you think the demographic doesn’t use anyone, you wonder: where did the desk go?" says Barry Sullivan, director of luxury and lifestyle at Hilton Worldwide.
While flexible furnishings, such as small tables that function as a breakfast or work area, offer one solution, attendees agreed it's important to consider the demands of all clients, rather than focusing on one subgroup. "If there’s a whole demographic you're not targeting, what is really the point?” posits Joel Robare, new business and marketing director at Gabellini Sheppard Associates.
Ultimately, there are many parallels between designing for younger generations and those in senior living facilities, and just as many opportunities to create innovative spaces. "When thinking about senior living, we're trying to figure out: how do you bring the outside community in?" says David Ashen, founder of Dash Design. "Senior living is where luxury hotels were about 30 years ago, so there’s a lot of need for change, but there’s similarities at both ends of the age spectrum."
As the roundtable came to a close, Allen questioned the evolving role of technology in hospitality spaces and its impact on specification. While attendees agreed there is no universal solution for integrating certain conveniences such as phone chargers into hotel rooms, given the rapid evolution of such devices, it's clear they are seeking out more intuitive elements, such as smart lighting, as they look toward the future of hospitality design.
Check out video highlights from the event:
A special thanks to our sponsors who made this event possible: