Smart Talk

What your clients aren’t telling you (but really want you to know)

By Howard Wolff

On behalf of those providing hospitality design services, I asked 20 clients what they want designers to know that they aren’t telling them directly. Six big themes emerged.

1. “I’ve got a pretty good bullsh-t detector.”

At the marketing stage, don’t show too much un-built work; clients know that anyone can produce an impressive rendering. They want to see built work and relevant projects.

Several clients mentioned that they have seen the same project in multiple presentations … with credit taken by the firm of record, by the lead designer who worked on the job (and since started his/her own company), and by the project manager who now works for a competitor. Explain your role precisely and honestly.

Your reputation as a firm founder and/or design leader may have gotten you to the shortlist, but don’t tell clients you’re going to be intimately involved in their project when you’re not.

Ted Brumleve, responsible for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ managed brands, advises, “Bring the ‘kids’ [from the staff] and/or let me know when I can meet them. I want the opportunity to build rapport with the people who will be doing the actual work on my project.”

2. “Don’t suck up. Speak up.”

Despite the adage that the customer is always right, clients want you to tell them when they’re veering off course, according to Raul Leal, ceo at Virgin Hotels. “My advice to designers, when they don’t agree with where we we’re headed: They should say, ‘We’ll do what you want us to do, but we think you’re on the wrong track and here’s why.’ Then, document that conversation.”

And Brumleve adds this observation and advice. “Don’t try to hide bad news, and don’t let it fester. Bad news does not improve with age. Tell us if something is wrong and get it out on the table early; otherwise, it will only get worse.”

Adherence to schedules is also a priority for your clients. Be honest and upfront about what’s possible. As Shawn McGowan, senior director of global food and beverage brand dervices at Hilton Worldwide, notes, “My concern is about meeting deadlines. If it’s going to take longer, tell me. I’d rather get it right than have to go back and fix things later.”

3. “Show me.”

Demonstrate that you can think on your feet. Several clients lament that the ability to sketch by hand is becoming increasingly rare. How ironic is it that the client is the one who pulls out a pen in a meeting and sketches some ideas?

Carl Kernodle, vice president planning and design at Hyatt, wants to see “sketches and models that make it clear where we’re headed.” He thinks it’s a shame that architects no longer draw by hand and a mistake not to provide physical three-dimensional scaled models. “A tangible model that a hotel executive can pick up and look at is worth the money and effort.” Kernodle’s pet peeve: “Don’t tell me you can’t do something. Find a way to do it. The art of problem solving and design thinking are getting lost.”

Several hospitality clients commented, as well, on the diminished quality of construction documents. A more detailed set of drawings means fewer questions on how to build the job and fewer problems for the owner and operator once the project is built.

With a good set of documents, you get a clear sense of what the building will look like, how it will be constructed and how much it will cost. Asking if he sounded old by saying so, Kernodle opines, “Remember the day that a working drawing had enough information on it that you could actually understand how the building is to be built?”

4. “It’s your job to know what I need.”

It’s not about building a monument to yourself or winning a design award. Dana Kalczak, vice president of design at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, puts it bluntly: “I dislike it when architects design to gratify their egos rather than creating thoughtful buildings that accommodate users in functional yet inspiring spaces.”

“And, more specifically,” says Kalczak, “I do not have much patience for design that values form over function. Beauty should be the goal, no question, but the user’s comfort, wellbeing and productivity should always be the starting point.”

“Let clients know that you understand the market they are trying to serve,” advises Barry Wallace, executive vice president of hospitality services, Outrigger Enterprises Group. “You need to demonstrate that you know how length of stay and mix of visitors affect design. For instance, geographic origin and purpose of visit impact size and layout of guest rooms as well as selection of furnishings and amenities.”

As architects and designers, you also need to demonstrate how you can meet the client’s financial and operational goals. “Owners want to know that their designers share responsibility for making the budget,” says Brumleve. “The client wants to see increasing detail on scope and spend alignment. Designers should validate budget conformance from the start and through all phases of a project.”

And when it comes to value engineering, offer cost-containment alternatives that don’t lobotomize the project. When there is a need to cut, make sure that the concept and design intent don’t suffer.

5. “Get your act together and hold on to your good people.”

Staff turnover is not only costly to you; it has an impact on your clients and their projects.

One client noted, “The lack of continuity and coordination amongst team members is a problem. It wastes a lot of time and money.”

Several observed that while it’s commonplace for designers to change firms, they feel that there is more that you can do to keep your key people.

On a positive note that indicates clients know more about what goes on inside your firm than you think they do. Some offered this unsolicited advice:

“Groom your people. Invest in them. Equip them with the right support. Help them grow with the company, and you’ll reduce turnover.”

“My advice would be to continue to foster the creative atmosphere while adding a little order to the chaos. Manage clients, engage the staff, and provide clear career paths and opportunities for advancement.”

6. “Don’t take us for granted.”

Your clients understand the shiny-object syndrome and the enticement of the next job. But they want to know that you value them.

One, who prefers to remain anonymous, shares this story: “We had a good relationship with a firm and gave them a lot of repeat business. We never even had them compete for our work. They screwed up big by taking us for granted and have lost over $1 million in design fees so far this year that we’ve given to another firm. They lost our business but never came and talked to me. How crazy is that?”

And while it’s important to ensure strong communication with existing clients on current projects, it’s also up to you to stay top-of-mind and relevant between projects.

Here’s some advice from one client: “Architects and designers could do a better job marketing by staying in touch with us, perhaps through a newsletter, providing updates on what they’re doing (via LinkedIn and email) and offering content that’s of value. For example, new approaches, tips, ideas, free advice … all based on their experience.”

And an executive from Starwood has this suggestion: “Keep me current on what you are thinking and doing. Find a creative way to stay in touch and let me know what’s new. (I’m not getting that from any other firm.)”

Today, it’s all about schedule and budget. Both are always tight. Clients’ operating margins are slim, but they still want inspired design. And they want to work with big-idea people who “get it.” They hire architects and designers who understand the overarching project goals and deliver. They expect you to listen on their frequency, to think like an owner, and to tell them the truth.

The message is clear. If you’re not sure what your clients want, ask—or ask an expert to ask for you. Design firm owners are often reluctant to ask for feedback directly. When they’ve engaged Full-Height Advice, as an objective third-party, to ask about the perception of their firms, I’ve gotten these reactions from their clients:

“I think that it’s great that the firm is doing this. I’m glad that they think enough of themselves to invest in their future and to be introspective, and I appreciate that they are interested in my opinion.”

“I love that they are doing this. It sends a strong signal about their own business acumen, brand awareness, and interest in growth.”

“I applaud them for considering how their firm is perceived and how they can improve.”

“Thanks for doing this survey for them. They’re good people and deserve to be successful.”

“The fact that they hired you to conduct this survey speaks well of them. They’re proactive. That’s smart.”

Howard Wolff, is the founder and most senior person of the strategic marketing consultancy Full-Height Advice.

2017 Gold Key Finalists Unveiled


Finalists have been announced for HX: The Hotel Experience’s 37th annual Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design, the industry’s oldest and most prestigious awards program, which is sponsored by Boutique Design magazine.

Photo above: Finalists in the 2017 Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design include the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Courtesy of 1 Hotels

Winners in 21 categories will be announced at the Gold Key Awards Gala, to be held Nov. 13 at Gotham Hall, New York. The Designer of the Year will also be honored during this special evening. The gala is presented in conjunction with co-located trade fairs Boutique Design New York (BDNY) and HX: The Hotel Experience (formerly IHMRS), Nov. 12-13, at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Finalists for the 2017 Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design include:


INC Architecture & Design, New York; Marvel Architects, New York; 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Client: SH Group, New York

Soneva, Bangkok; Habita Architects, Bangkok; Soneva Jani, Noonu Atoll, Maldives
Client: Soneva, Bangkok


DesignAgency, Toronto; Generator Rome
Client: Generator Hostels, London

Dialogue 38, Toronto; Walper Hotel, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Client: Perimeter Development Corp., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design, Burlington, Vermont; Mountain Modern Motel, Jackson, Wyoming
Clients: Crystal Creek Capital, Jackson Hole, Wyoming (owner); Yarrow Group (operator), Jackson Hotel, Wyoming

Spacedge Designs, Singapore; Hotel Mono, Singapore
Client: Eighteen M Pte Ltd., Singapore


Anda Andrei Design LLC, New York; Bonetti Kozerski Studio, New York; Stonehill & Taylor, New York; The Asbury Hotel, New Jersey
Clients: iStar, New York (owner); Salt Hotels LLC, Asbury Park (operator)

Arcsine, Oakland, California; Dream Inn, Santa Cruz, California
Clients: Ensemble Real Estate Solutions and Investments, Long Beach, California (owner); Woodside Hotels, Menlo Park, California (operator)

Stonehill & Taylor, New York; MOXY New Orleans
Client: Noble Investment Group, Atlanta (owner)

Travis Walton Architecture, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia; Tribe Hotel- Perth, West Perth, Australia
Client: Tribe Hotel Group, Perth, Australia


Beleco, Los Angeles; Gensler, Morristown, New Jersey; Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago
Clients: KHP Capital Partners, San Francisco (owner); Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (operator)

Bill Rooney Studio, Inc., New York; St. Gregory Hotel, Independent Collection, Washington, D.C.
Client: Hersha Hospitality Trust, Philadelphia

JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE, Denver; The Perry Key West, Florida
Clients: SIMV Hotel 1, LLC. (owner), Coral Gables, Florida; Hostmark Hospitality (operator), Schaumburg, Illinois

Simeone Deary Design Group, Chicago; Detroit Foundation Hotel
Client: Aparium Hotel Group, Chicago


Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) Pte Ltd., Singapore; Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
Client: Berjaya Land Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, New York; The Beekman, New York
Clients: GFI Development Co., New York (owner); Thompson Hotels, New York (operator)

Wilson Associates, Dallas; Fairmont Quasar Istanbul
Client: Fairmont ​Hotels & Resorts, Toronto


Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, Toronto; Jill Greaves Design Inc.; Walper Hotel, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Client: Perimeter Development Corp., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design, Burlington, Vermont; Mountain Modern Motel, Jackson, Wyoming
Clients: Crystal Creek Capital, Jackson Hole, Wyoming (owner); Yarrow Group (operator), Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Spacedge Designs, Singapore; Hotel Mono, Singapore
Client: Eighteen M Pte Ltd., Singapore


Anda Andrei Design LLC, New York; Bonetti Kozerski Studio, New York; Stonehill & Taylor, New York; The Asbury Hotel, New Jersey
Clients: iStar, New York (owner); Salt Hotels LLC, Asbury Park (operator)

JN+A/HVS Design, Rockville, Maryland; Hotel Zero Degrees Danbury, Connecticut
Clients: RMS Companies, Stamford, Connecticut (owner/operator); Greenwich Hospitality Group, Greenwich, Connecticut (operator)

Travis Walton Architecture, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia; Tribe Hotel- Perth, West Perth, Australia
Client: Tribe Hotel Group, Perth, Australia


DESIGN360unlimited, Santa Monica, California; Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach, Honolulu
Client: The Chartres Lodging Group/Kokua Hospitality, San Francisco, California

Michaelis Boyd Associates, London; The Principal Manchester, England
Client: Starwood Capital Group, Greenwich, Connecticut (owner); Principal Hotel Company, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England (operator)

Rockwell Group, New York; EMC2, Autograph Collection, Chicago
Client: SMASHotels, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Simeone Deary Design Group, Chicago; Detroit Foundation Hotel
Client: Aparium Hotel Group, Chicago

Wimberly Interiors, New York; Hotel 50 Bowery, a Joie de Vivre Hotel, New York
Client: Two Roads Hospitality, New York


Champalimaud, New York; Four Seasons Jakarta
Client: Four Seasons Jakarta

Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) Pte Ltd., Singapore; Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
Client: Berjaya Land Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

INC Architecture & Design, New York; 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Client: SH Group, New York

Universal Design Studio, London; At Six, Stockholm
Client: Nordic PM, Naska, Sweden


II BY IV DESIGN, Toronto; Crystal Mozart, Los Angeles
Client: Genting Hong Kong (owner); Crystal Cruises, Los Angeles (operator)

Busta Studio, Tappan, New York; W South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida
Client: Tristar Capital, Los Angeles

Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) Pte Ltd., Singapore; Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
Client: Berjaya Land Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


blocHaus, Chicago; Apogee Lounge at Dana Hotel & Spa, Chicago
Client: ACME Hotel Company/Rebel Hospitality, Chicago

FFD Inc., Miami, Florida; Ora Nightclub, Miami Beach, Florida
Client: Ora Hospitality, Miami

Rockwell Group, New York; Avenue at Dream Hollywood, Los Angeles
Client: Dream Hotel Group, New York

Rockwell Group, New York; Nightingale Plaza, West Hollywood, California
Client: sbe, Los Angeles

Studio Munge, Toronto; Rebel, Toronto
Client: INK Entertainment, Toronto


Quadrum Global, New York; Arlo Hotels, New York
Designer for inaugural property: AvroKO, New York

Hilton, McLean, Virginia; TRU by Hilton, McLean, Virginia
Designer for inaugural property: FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati, Ohio

Tribe Hotel Group; Tribe Hotels, West Perth, Australia
Designer for inaugural property: Travis Walton Architecture, South Yarra, Victoria, Australia


Paulina Morán Design, Cancún, Mexico, Jorge Borja / Grupo BV, Cancún, Mexico; Chablé, Chocholá, Mexico
Clients: Consorcio Altavista S.A. de C.V., Mexico City (owner); Hamak Hotels, Cancún (operator)

Avenue Interior Design, Los Angeles; SUBU Design Architecture, Los Angeles; La Serena Villas, Palm Springs, California
Client: Lars Viklund and Kelly Viklund, Manhattan Beach, California

EDG Interior Architecture + Design, Novato, California; Delawie, San Diego, California; Andaz Scottsdale, Arizona
Client: Chelsea Hospitality Partners LLC, San Diego, California


BCV Architects, San Francisco, California; Elite Café, San Francisco, California
Client: Sidecar Hospitality, San Francisco, California

Bergmeyer Associates, Inc., Boston; Ruka Restobar at The Godfrey Hotel, Boston
Client: COJE Management Group, Corp., North Reading, Massachusetts

Conran and Partners, London; Rüya at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Dubai
Clients: Umut Özkanca, Istanbul (owner); d.ream Group, Istanbul (operator)

EoA, Inc., Coral Gables, Florida; Bird & Bone at The Confidante Miami Beach, Florida
Clients: Geolo Capital, San Francisco, California (owner); The Confidante Miami Beach, Florida (operator)


AvroKO, New York; SingleThread at SingleThread Farms, Healdsburg, California
Client: UPVentures LLC, New York

Dawson Design Associates, Seattle; Dirty Habit at Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington D.C.
Client: Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, Bethesda, Maryland

Parts and Labor Design, New York; Steadfast at Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago
Clients: KHP Capital Partners, San Francisco, California (owner); The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, Chicago (operator)

Rockwell Group, New York; The Albert at EMC2, Autograph Collection, Chicago
Client: SMASHotels, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Steve Hermann Design, Montecito, California; Somerset, Santa Barbara, California
Client: Somerset, Santa Barbara, California


Stonehill & Taylor, New York; Ooh-La-La!, New York
Client: HMG LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio

Studio Munge, Toronto; The Vale Garden Residence at The William Vale, New York
Client: Espresso Hospitality Group, New York

+tongtong Inc., Toronto; The Drake Commissary at The Drake Hotel, Toronto
Client: Drake Hotel Properties, Toronto

Virserius Studio, New York/Paris; The Experience Floor at Hotel BLOOM!, Brussels
Client: Pandox Hotels, Stockholm


Clodagh Design, New York; Public Restroom at EAST, Miami
Client: Swire Hotels, Hong Kong

ESG Architecture & Design, Minneapolis; Renaissance Marriott Minneapolis–The Depot, Minnesota
Client: CSM Corp., Minneapolis, Minnesota

J. Banks Design, Hilton Head, South Carolina; 4240, Denver; Lake Flato, San Antonio, Texas; Moreland Village, Bluffton, South Carolina
Client: Montage Hotels & Resorts, Laguna Beach, California

Muza Lab, London; Palacio Arquitectos, Lima, Peru; Belmond Andean Explorer, Cuzco, Peru
Client: Belmond Ltd., London


DesignAgency, Toronto; Generator Rome
Client: Generator Hostels, London

Dubbeldam Architecture + Design, Toronto; Jill Greaves Design Inc., Toronto; Dialogue 38, Toronto; Walper Hotel, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Client: Perimeter Development Corp., Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Studio HBA (Hirsch Bedner Associates) Santa Monica, California; Gwynne Pugh Urban Studio, Santa Monica, California; AXIS/GFA Architecture + Design, Los Angeles; Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Monica, California
Client: OTO Development, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Spacedge Designs, Singapore; Hotel Mono, Singapore
Client: Eighteen M Pte Ltd., Singapore


Bunkhouse Group, Austin; Gensler, Austin; Hotel San Cristóbal Baja, Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
Client: Mira Companies

concrete, Amsterdam; Sheppard Robson, London (in collaboration with concrete); citizenM Tower of London
Client: citizenM, Amsterdam

KKAD, Chester, New Jersey; Hotel Phillips Kansas City, Curio Collection by Hilton, Missouri
Client: Arbor Lodging Partners, Chicago

Aparium Hotel Group, Chicago; Plume, Cincinnati; Hotel Covington, Kentucky
Clients: The Salyers Group, Covington, Kentucky (owner); Aparium Hotel Group, Chicago (operator)

SERA Architects, Portland; AC Hotel Portland Downtown, Oregon
Clients: McWINNEY, Denver (owner); Sage Hospitality, Denver (owner/operator)


Beleco, Los Angeles; Gensler, Morristown, New Jersey; Kimpton Gray Hotel, Chicago
Clients: KHP Capital Partners, San Francisco (owner); Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (operator)

Michaelis Boyd Associates, London; 3DReid, Manchester, England; The Principal Manchester, England
Clients: Starwood Capital Group, Greenwich, Connecticut (owner); Principal Hotel Company, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England (operator)

Rockwell Group, New York; Killefer Flammang Architects, Los Angeles; Dream Hollywood, Los Angeles
Client: Dream Hotel Group, New York

Simeone Deary Design Group, Chicago; McIntosh Poris Associates, Detroit; Detroit Foundation Hotel
Client: Aparium Hotel Group, Chicago


Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) Pte Ltd., Singapore; Kume Sekkei, Hanoi/Tokyo; Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
Client: Berjaya Land Berhad, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, Inc., Miami; Richard Meier & Partners Architects LLP, New York; Joseph Dirand, Paris; Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Surfside, Florida
Client: Fort Partners, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Patrick Sutton, Baltimore, Maryland; Beatty Harvey Coco, Baltimore, Maryland; Sagamore Pendry, Baltimore, Maryland
Client: Sagamore Development, Baltimore, Maryland
Additional project details can be found on .

The Gold Key Awards program recognizes the most influential and innovative design work in the hospitality industry. To be eligible, new construction, conversion or renovation work must have been completed from May 1, 2016 to July 6, 2017. Finalists and winners are determined by a jury of industry leaders from the design, operations, development and investment sectors of hospitality.

Judges for this year’s Gold Key Awards include: Maki Bara, The Chartres Lodging Group, LLC; Gary Dollens, Hyatt Hotels Corp.; Timothy Griffin, The Hoxton & Ennismore; Nigel Hatcher, Marriott Intl.; Diana Kessler, Kessler Collection Design Studio; Guy Lindsey, Park Hotels & Resorts; Michael Medzigian, Watermark Capital Partners, LLC; Jonathan Nehmer, Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, Inc.; Jay Pecotte, Hard Rock Intl.; Sangeetha Ramkumar, InterContinental Hotels Group; Jeanne Lynne Starling, MGM Resorts Intl. – Design; Larry Traxler, Hilton; Thomas Trout, Dream Hotel Group, LLC.

“Each of the nearly 400 submissions entered in the 2017 Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality had something unique and thought-provoking to say about what makes for a great guest experience,” said Mary Scoviak, executive editor, Boutique Design. “That led to a great discussion by this year’s expert judges about how much that’s raising the bar in all sectors of hospitality design. The best-in-class work they voted to showcase in this year’s list of finalists demonstrates that any style, any concept, and any project can be a game changer.”

Ten BDNY Sessions Net CEUS


Ten seminars for the upcoming Boutique Design New York (BDNY) have been certified as eligible for CEU credits from the Interior Design Continuing Education Council Inc. (IDCEC). These same sessions are also seeking CEU accreditation from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Photo above: The CEU-accredited “Up-and-Coming Hoteliers” session at BDNY 2016. That panel was moderated by Boutique Design’s Mary Scoviak and included speakers Mark Keiser of Baccarat Hotels and 1 Hotels; Jay Stein of Dream Hotel Group; and Jason Pomeranc (not shown) of SIXTY Hotels. Photo; Richard Cadan

The IDCEC-approved CEU sessions at this year’s hospitality/leisure design trade fair and conference, to be held Nov. 12-13 at the Jacob K. Javits Center, are:

Hotel Renovations: Bridging the Gap Between the Designer’s Vision and Asset Manager’s Expectations
Mastering Spec Writing
Marijuana: Its Effect on the Hotel Industry
New Markets and New Niches in Upscale and Luxury Hospitality
Making Waves: Takeaways from Cruise Ship Design Trends
Secret Sauces: Recipes for Star-Turn Restaurants
How to Build a New Hotel: Putting Together a Team
Keep it Real: Design and Copyright Challenges
What Your Clients are not Telling You (But Really Want You to Know)
Stunning Second Acts: Adaptive Reuse

View the Agenda Here

Boutique 18 Call for Nominations



Boutique Design is seeking to recognize the rising design stars who are creating today’s (and tomorrow’s) most buzzed-about hospitality venues. If you know someone who is changing the game for hotel, restaurant, spa, cruise ship, pop-up, hostel and casino design, nominate them for the 2018 Boutique 18.

Eligible interior designers must be working in the hospitality industry and either employed by an interior design, purchasing, architectural firm or hotel company/ownership group. Candidates will be evaluated on their accomplishments in the following categories: impact on recent projects; influence on and contributions to the industry; business design management and design process contributions to their company or firm; and outstanding individual qualities.

The 13th annual class of Boutique 18 honorees will be chosen based on those criteria by the Boutique Design editorial team; the number of nominations an individual receives has no bearing on the selection process.

The 2018 Boutique 18 honorees will be revealed at this fall’s Boutique Design New York (BDNY), Nov. 12-13, and then celebrated at an induction ceremony at next spring’s BDwest in Los Angeles, April 4-5.


Nominate a designer here


The Boutique Design (BD) brand is broadening its reach within the tech side of hospitality and expanding its international impact via a pair of high-profile partnerships with InfoComm International and IIDEXCanada, respectively.

Here are details on both of these new initiatives:

ST Media Group Intl.’s hospitality and retail brands, which include Boutique Design and VMSD magazines, the Boutique Design New York (BDNY) and BDwest trade fairs and the International Retail Design Conference (IRDC), have formed a strategic partnership with InfoComm, a trade association for the commercial audiovisual (AV) industry, to demonstrate how integrated AV experiences can generate improved business outcomes for brands in those two markets.
Aspects of the partnership will include speaking engagements, editorial roundtables, trend reports, end-user spotlights, the presenting sponsorship of the 2017 BDNY trade fair tech session and the presenting sponsorship of the 2017 IRDC conference—all of which are designed to share best practices for maximizing AV’s impact on the bottom line. Editors from Boutique Design and VMSD will also participate in design-centric seminars at future InfoComm events.
“Integrated audiovisual experiences are being used by more and more forward-looking retail and hospitality companies to create new brand experiences that foster stronger levels of customer engagement that lead directly to increased sales, repeat business and a greater sense of customer loyalty,” says InfoComm executive director and ceo David Labuskes. “Working with ST Media Group, we will highlight what specific companies are already doing and enlighten non-technical retail and hospitality decision-makers about the business-building benefits that can be derived from integrating AV experiences into their store and hospitality designs.”

BD and its trade fairs are partnering with IIDEXCanada to bring a wow-inducing hospitality focus to that design/architecture exposition and conference slated for Nov. 29-30 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Leveraging the success of its BDNY and BDwest events, ranked as two of the fastest growing trade fairs in the United States, BD will produce a special pavilion for IIDEXCanada, featuring an immersive design experience and inventive furnishings, lighting, fabrics, wallcoverings, flooring and other FF&E for hotels, restaurants, spas, clubs and cruise ships. Through this new venture, BD and its sister division, Hospitality Media Group LLC (HMG LLC), which launches, develops and manages hospitality-related trade fairs and events, will also contribute to the conference programming for IIDEXCanada’s 33rd annual fair. The event is part of The Buildings Show, North America’s largest exposition, networking and educational event for design, construction and real estate.
“We see the Canadian market as a growth area for Boutique Design’s brands,” says Michelle Finn, president of HMG LLC and senior vice president of ST Media Group Intl., the co-owners of BD. “A pavilion at IIDEXCanada, Canada’s premier commercial design show, is the perfect opportunity to launch and develop a strategic alliance.”

IIDEXCanada vice president Tracy Bowie says, “We see this strategic alliance as an important evolution in IIDEXCanada’s ability to connect with our industry and serve as an important mediator between manufacturers and designers. Creating the Boutique Design pavilion at IIDEXCanada 2017 will only intensify our strength to showcase new trends in the hospitality sector.”

BDNY/BDwest Designed Space an Award Finalist

BDNY/BDwest Designed Space an Award Finalist

Stonehill & Taylor’s design of Ooh-La-La!, a Parisian-inspired lounge concept created for the Boutique Design New York (BDNY) and Boutique Design West (BDwest) trade fairs, has been named a finalist in the 2017 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards’ International and U.K. pop-up category.

BDNY 2016 Designed Space | Ooh-La-La! by Stonehill & Taylor
Ooh-La-La! at BDNY 2016. Photo: Richard Cadan

The New York-based interior design/architecture firm’s fashion-forward concept for the space, which was located on the trade fairs’ exhibit floors, takes cues French architecture. The design team for the pop-up project consisted of Michael Suomi, principal and vice president, design; Sara Duffy, senior interiors associate; and Anastasia Berestova, interior designer.

Central to the concept is the Louvre’s fusion of graceful architecture and intrusive modernism, Suomi said during an interview for Boutique Design’s April edition. That notion informs the structure’s glass profile, as well as the incursion of its triangular bar.

BDwest Designed Space | Ooh-La-La! by Stonehill & Taylor
Ooh-La-La! at BDwest 2017. Photo: Harriet Lewis Pallette Photography

Manufacturers/suppliers that sponsored the space at both BDNY 2016 and BDwest 2017 included HB Lighting, HG Arts, Montague, P/Kaufmann Contract, Signature Hospitality Carpets and Shelby Williams, with audiovisual provided by Pioneer Pro Audio. Additional sponsors for the BDNY space included Séura and Trellage-Ferrill Studio, while other sponsors for the BDwest space included Maya Romanoff, Moen and Trunk Archive.

Last year, Stonehill & Taylor won an award in the same category of the competition for Kino, a Designed Space it created for the BDNY 2015 and BDwest 2016 trade fairs.

Now in its ninth year, the 2017 competition is being judged by a panel of 33 high-profile design, hospitality and lifestyle professionals and received 943 submissions from the U.K. and 70 other countries. The shortlist includes 265 projects across 33 categories. Winners will be unveiled at an awards ceremony at London’s King’s Cross mixed-use development on Oct. 5.

BDNY Registration Opens!

Hospitality design professionals can now register to attend this year’s Boutique Design New York (BDNY) trade fair and conference. The event will be held Nov. 12-13 at the Javits Center, and is expanding to 120,000 net sq. ft. for its eighth run.

Expected to draw a record 7,000-plus interior designers, architects, purchasing executives, hotel owners and operators this fall, BDNY has seen double-digit growth each year since its 2010 debut, charting a 19 percent increase in attendance year-over-year in 2016. More than 6,900 hospitality design professionals attended last year’s trade fair.

BDNY showcases creative elements for hospitality interiors and Designed Spaces created by leading design firms, as well as offers educational and social events, and a conference program spearheaded by Boutique Design executive editor and HMG conference director Mary Scoviak. The annual two-day fair is co-located with HX: The Hotel Experience—Rooms to Restaurants and held in conjunction with the Gold Key Award for Excellence in Hospitality Design gala, which will take place Nov. 13.

Attendee registration and trade fair details are available at

BDNY is produced by HMG (Hospitality Media Group) in association with the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA), the International Society of Hospitality Purchasers (ISHP), the International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC), and NEWH (The Hospitality Industry Network), and in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), the Hotel Association of New York City and the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association.



Miami, Florida-based exhibitor Via Motif receives Best in Show Award for its hand-cast resin tiles, one of 24 new product designs honored at the seventh annual Boutique Design New York trade fair and conference, Nov. 13-14 at the Javits Center

Two dozen manufacturers/marketers of inventive design elements for hospitality interiors received Best of BDNY Product Design Awards at Boutique Design New York (BDNY), held November 13-14, 2016, at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Twelve of BDNY’s 615 exhibitors received Best Exhibit honors.

The Best of BDNY Product Design Awards recognize designers and manufacturers of products introduced to the hospitality design market in the past year that demonstrate functional and aesthetic progress and, above all, innovation in their respective category. Winners in 10 product categories are selected by a jury of design professionals; trade fair attendees vote on-site to determine the Best in Show Award winner.

The 2016 Best of BDNY Product Design Award winners are:

Best in ShowVia Motif for Hand-Cast Resin Tiles

Architectural Materials
Winner – Ultraglas, Inc. for PurpleRainGlas
Finalist – MOZ Designs, Inc. for Laser Cut Metals

Art & Accessories
Winner – Kalisher for “The Chief”
Finalist – Atares Mosaics for Angled Natural Marble Mosaic

Winner – Brasstech for Ginger – Lineal Valet Hook
Finalist – MTI Baths for Continuum
Finalist – Native Trails for Nipomo

Winner – Justin David Textiles for Nimbus
Finalist – Brentano for Solstice

Winner – Fameed Khalique for Alumalux
Finalist – Durkan for Arielle Collection

Winner – D’style Hospitality Furnishings for Eli Lounge Chair
Finalist – Marquis Seating for Colette Side Chair
Finalist – Artone for Viaggio

Winner – SONNEMAN—A Way of Light for Suspenders
Finalist – Littman Brands Contract for Archetto
Finalist – Hennepin Made for Vela Pendant

Winner – Metro Light & Power for Cloc Bloc
Finalist – HearthCabinet Ventless Fireplaces for Horizon

Winner – Sandler Seating for Riverside
Finalist – IN2GREEN for Indoor/Outdoor Collection

Winner – Fameed Khalique for Embroidered Raffia Wallcovering
Finalist – Garrett Leather for Alpine Tiles, Cast Panels, and Pitched Panels

The Best of BDNY Product Design competition was judged by Kelly Gaddes, director, interior design, CR architecture + design; Monica Meade, interior design manager, Marriott International; and Angela M. Denney, vice president – interior design, FRCH Design Worldwide.

“This was by far our largest competition yet for excellence in hospitality product design, and our judges were impressed with this year’s entrants demonstrating innovativeness in design, adaptability to changing market demands and design execution,” said Michelle Finn, president of Hospitality Media Group (HMG), which produces BDNY and sister trade fair BDwest, held each spring in Los Angeles. “We congratulate the winners and finalists who’ve been recognized as the “best new products” for hospitality, at BDNY.”


Twelve BDNY exhibitors received Best Exhibit honors at this year’s trade fair. Displays were judged on creativity in design, visual impact, effective and efficient use of materials and the outstanding use of space, color, texture, lighting and graphics.

The 2016 Best Exhibit at BDNY Award winners are: In2Green, Jaclo, LDF Silk and Moore + Giles.

Finalists include Cut Maps, Decolav, Mexa, Philip Jefferies, Ren Wil, Sapphire Chandelier, Tri-kes and Uhuru.

Exhibit judges included Meagan Hurst, senior designer, STUDIO McCORMACK; Steve Rugo, principal, RUGO / RAFF LTD. ARCHITECTS; and David Shove-Brown, partner, //3877.

Both awards programs will resume during the fifth annual BDwest, April 5-6, 2017, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Information about exhibitors, social events, conference sessions, speakers and attendee registration will be available at as details are confirmed.


Boutique Design’s annual East Coast trade fair and conference draws 6,900+ hospitality design professionals and 615 exhibitors to New York’s Javits Center, November 13-14, shattering previous records for attendance and exhibit square footage

More than 6,900 hospitality design professionals from the eastern United States, Canada and Europe took part in the seventh Boutique Design New York (BDNY) trade fair and conference, held Nov. 13-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The event charted a 19 percent increase in attendance over the 2015 fair, continuing a pattern of double-digit, year-over-year growth since its inception.

Exhibit space grew by 37 percent, to 112,000 net square feet, showcasing 615 manufacturers and marketers of furniture, fixtures, lighting, seating, wall coverings, accessories and other design elements for hospitality interiors. The mix included more than 77 international exhibitors/sponsors from 12 countries, including Canada, China, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan and the UK.

“We were thrilled with this year’s attendance, particularly the increase in notable hospitality ownership groups and brands headquartered in the region,” said Michelle Finn, president of Hospitality Media Group (HMG), which produces BDNY and sister trade fair BDwest, held each spring in Los Angeles. “The hospitality design community—local and national—supported BDNY in a meaningful way, and our customers reaped the benefits.”

Exhibitor Tyler Jones, senior director of sales at Boca Raton, Florida-based Decolav, said BDNY is becoming the preeminent hospitality trade fair. “It seems every year is busier and better for exhibitors and attendees alike. We can credit countless projects and relationships coming from this show, and we plan to continue to be a part of it,” he said.

Finn attributes BDNY’s dramatic growth to its elevated atmosphere, product displays, conference programming and unique features. “This year’s trade fair was our most interactive yet, with guest artists Chor Boogie and Bruce Rosenbaum inviting attendees to ask questions, even join in, as they developed large-scale works on the exhibit floor,” she said. “And the new Incubator space gave attendees a chance to try out the very latest VR/AR and 3D printing applications for hospitality designers and their clients.”

The Incubator featured hands-on demos by presenters from Chicago-based design communication agency SONNY+ASH (formerly Studio Rendering, Inc.); Warren, New Jersey-based integrated design and engineering firm PS&S; Brooklyn, New York-based 3D printing service Make Mode; and SoCal-based design firm CarrierJohnson + CULTURE.

“BDNY is my favorite trade fair,” said repeat attendee Monica Meade, interior design manager, Marriott International. “The size of the booths and intimacy of the spaces allow you to see all of the unique products that are offered. I will definitely attend next year.”


An expanded 2016 conference program kicked off Sunday morning, Nov. 13, with a keynote address from internationally renowned designer Karim Rashid, who challenged hospitality to stop thinking about style and focus on the human experience—from avoiding the usual low table-and-sofa arrangement which makes it hard to snack, work or connect to creating smart guest rooms that are customized literally with a tap of an app. Rashid’s remake of Temptation Resort & Spa Cancun was featured in Boutique Design’s July/August 2016 issue.

Following Rashid’s breakfast presentation, Boutique Design executive editor and HMG conference director Mary Scoviak moderated a discussion with CEOs of leading lifestyle brands on the trends, challenges and skills that win commissions in their dynamic segment of the hospitality market. Panelists for “Living the Lifestyle: A View From the C-Suite” included Scott Gerber, principal and chief executive officer, Gerber Group; Ingo Schweder, chief executive officer and founder, GOCO Hospitality; and Josh Wyatt, president, Equinox Hotels.

“Design has evolved from decoration to marketing and now to a guest service. The Lifestyle Leaders’ panel underscored the need to create interiors that organically deliver what guests want, when and how they want it. A cool look is essential, but it has to work within the priorities of each guest’s lifestyle,” said Scoviak.

The session lineup featured more than 35 interactive discussions with 100+ hospitality owners, developers, designers and purchasers, including leaders at AKA, Cachet Hotel Group, Champalimaud, Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties, Ennismore, FRCH Design Worldwide, Gensler, Gettys Group, Hilton Worldwide, HOK Hospitality, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, KHP Capital Partners, Lark Hotels, Marriott International, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, Purchasing Management International, Rockwell Group, sbe, Studio Munge, TRU by Hilton, Vision Hospitality Group, WATG | Wimberly Interiors, Yabu Pushelberg and more.

Eight sessions offered continuing education credits with the AIA and IDCEC, including “Latin America: Opportunities, Challenges, Design and Development,” moderated by Liliane Moura, managing director, Benjamin West, and featuring executives with deep experience and expertise in the Latin American hospitality market.

Panelists included Alinio Azevedo, vice president acquisitions, Loews Enterprises; Sandy Benitez, principal, Design Atelier; and Richard Katzman, managing director, HVS Mexico City.

Other conference sessions addressed topics such as biophilia in hospitality design; reimagining the hotel bar; how art defines a hotel; crafting the perfect selfie spot; completing renovation projects in less time; and maximizing the appeal, efficiency and success of F&B concepts.


The two-day event also featured the unveiling of five new Designed Spaces for attendee education and networking on the BDNY exhibit floor, each created by a leading hospitality design firm using a curated mix of exhibitor/sponsor product.

Designed Spaces for 2016 included “The Bar Archipelago,” designed by Santa Monica, CA-based DESIGN360 unlimited; “Ooh-La-La!,” designed by New York-based Stonehill & Taylor; “Runway,” designed by Philadelphia, PA-based Floss Barber; “Midnight Garden,” by Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott Intl. Global Design; and “Darling Nikki,” designed by San Francisco-based P3 Design Collective.


BDNY attendees took part in multiple sold-out social events held in conjunction with BDNY, beginning with an afternoon design tour of the recently opened Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown, led by designers from Yabu Pushelberg, on Saturday, Nov. 12. That evening, the industry came together at the ISHP Annual Fundraiser and the BDNY Opening Reception, both held at the 583 Park Avenue building.

On Sunday, Nov. 13, social events included the Opening Keynote and Lifestyle CEOs Panel Discussion at the Javits Center and the NEWH NY Product Runway Accessory Edition fundraiser held at Marquee New York.

Networking opportunities continued on Monday, Nov. 14, with the signature Boutique Design Power Players: Women Leaders in Hospitality Breakfast & Panel Discussion, featuring IIDA executive vice president/chief executive officer Cheryl Durst keynoting and seven additional industry visionaries joining Durst on the panel. NEWH presented its $5,000 NEWH Women Leaders Scholarship, sponsored by HMG, at the breakfast, to Washington State University Student, Breanna Hendrickson.

The Gettys Group Tea, a discussion with industry insiders on the future of the luxury hospitality market, followed in the afternoon. The BDNY weekend culminated with the 36th Gold Key Awards Gala held Monday evening at the Waldorf Astoria, New York.

BDNY 2017

Boutique Design returns to New York City’s Javits Center for its eighth annual East Coast trade fair, November 12-13, 2017, and will again be co-located with HX: The Hotel Experience (formerly IHMRS). Details about exhibitors, sessions, speakers and social events—as well as attendee registration and exhibitor/sponsor information—will be available at

To learn more about exhibiting at BDNY or sister trade fair BDwest, contact Nicole Panzeca, 513-263-9307,



Learn from the tech experts how to use the latest virtual reality and 3D printing breakthroughs to amp up the impact of your presentations and designs, and get clients not only on the same page but visually “in the room.” Strap on the headset and immerse yourself in next-gen design in Boutique Design New York’s new Incubator space at the Boutique Design Booth, Display #349, Nov. 13 and 14 at the Javits Center.

Leading developers of virtual and artificial reality (VR/AR) technologies for the hospitality design industry will provide interactive demonstrations for attendees in the new Incubator space at the Boutique Design Booth, Display #349 at the Boutique Design New York (BDNY) trade fair and conference, Nov. 13-14, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Boutique Design executive editor and HMG conference director Mary Scoviak said the new demo space allows attendees to play with, and learn about, the next generation of tech tools for designing, rendering, presenting and revising interiors for hospitality spaces.

“These new tech tools are game changers in the dialogue between designers and clients. They take out the guesswork of sample boards and concept drawings, and make it easier for owners and operators to not only see, but experience—and comment on—design concepts. They’re not just nice-to-haves; they’re becoming as necessary as a CAD system,” Scoviak said.

Four tech demos are planned during the two-day fair, beginning Sunday, Nov. 13, with “Get (Virtually) Real,” featuring two presenters from Chicago-based design communication agency SONNY+ASH, formerly Studio Rendering, Inc.

Ash, chief creative officer, and Mike Gajdorus, director of client experience, will join Brian Thornton, design director, principal, Brian G Thornton Designs, LLC, and moderator Michelle Acevedo, principal/owner, MAD Hospitality Studio, in this hands-on session, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM on the BDNY exhibit floor.

Later Sunday afternoon from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, the Incubator will feature Mark Chmielewski, senior project manager at integrated design and engineering firm PS&S, showing designers how their ideas can now be presented—and experienced virtually by clients—using 2D, 3D, even 4D and 5D technologies, in the one-hour demo “Visualization Nation.”

On Monday, Nov. 14, the Incubator focus is 3D printing. Presenter Austin Robey, co-founder of Brooklyn, NY-based 3D printing service Make Mode, will offer a primer on the use of 3D printing throughout the design process, from concept to modeling to fabrication, in “360 Degrees of 3D,” 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

The final demo, “Dimension Shift—3D Printing for the Next Generation” on Monday afternoon, 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM, will show attendees how 3D models are being translated into 3D environments that can be explored—and altered in real time, using gestural control—without removing the VR headset. Architect Casey Mahon, design technology director at SoCal-based CarrierJohnson + CULTURE, will demonstrate multiple applications developed by the firm’s Design Technology Group, a unit he launched five years ago to integrate new building information modeling (BIM) methods and advanced visualization techniques into client presentations.