It’s hard to believe that HD Expo was nearly a month ago. While in Las Vegas, I moderated the “Design on a Dime” panel, focusing on well-executed design on smaller budgets. Panelists included Libby Patrick, president of Sims Patrick Studio; Lionel Sussman, vice president of global design at Marriott International; Lisa Zangerle, principal at SERA Architects; and Tom Horwitz, executive vice president for FRCH Design Worldwide. Each discussed innovative design solutions when cost is a factor.
Here are six key takeaways from the session on making design a top priority, no matter the budget.
1. For hotels, weekend business is often driven by the pool bringing in families with children. However, some locations are finding a cost-effective alternative: transforming meeting rooms into kids’ play areas. “It about a fourth of the cost of a pool,” says Horwitz.
2. Opposed to traditional market research that may give consumers false information, Marriott has developed an innovation lab where it tests “again and again until we have the right product,” Sussman says. “We learn faster and use [what we learn] to create more relevant products.” Recently, Marriott partnered with West Elm and the Container Store to furnish rooms. “By leveraging resources, we’re able to reduce costs of goods but create a better guest experience,” he says.
3. Sussman points to Marriott’s Moxy brand as an example of a small but high-quality product. Marketed to Millennials, Moxy minimizes guestroom sizes while creating an engaging public space. “We can build Moxy for a lower cost per key but use much higher quality products,” he adds. “The space and the room will be limited but still very thoughtful.”
4. The formula for success, says Patrick, is value-driven design. She starts the process by coming up with a meaningful design story that connects to the guest. Her team looks to the history and folklore of the area, local food, artists, music, nature, etc. “It’s creating a culture in three dimensions,” she says.
5. The most important part of any project is having a great attitude, Patrick adds. “When you know you have a great concept, you can make a project work all the way to the end with great design choices, no matter what the budget. Remember, it’s not how you start but how you finish the project that makes a difference.”
6. While working on a SpringHill Suites location, Zangerle says one of the challenges was working with a number of stakeholders, especially ones who have the authority to change the look of the space. A piece of advice: Designers should not fall in love too early because things are going to change. “It ultimately ended up being a better project because of it, but it was difficult in the beginning to let go of the design,” she explains. “You have to learn to be flexible.”