Designing for hotel chains vs. private hoteliers

I am often asked, even by those who ought to know better, what degree of autonomy we have when designing for international hotel operators since these companies compile enormous files of standards and specifications about how to design for their brands. Of course, the subtext of the question is, “Is any actual design involved in these projects, or are you simply picking things from a shelf of products that meet a brand’s standards?”

From my own experience, I can only assume brand managers employ interior designers because they understand creating an internationally branded hotel is much more involved than selecting items from a catalog.

On the other hand, people outside the industry — and sometimes even private hotel owners and operators — often mistakenly presume an interior designer has complete freedom in terms of creativity and budget. Sadly, 99.9% of the time this is not the case, but I dream of the day when I might work with a client such as this!

Private hoteliers are occasionally willing to openly discuss their property’s design and budget, although this tends to be schemes that reflect their personal tastes and quite limited finances. And of course there are those who don’t actually need a designer —naturally, we don’t get to meet those people.

I enjoy the professionalism of large operators and generally (though not always) like their brands’ marketing concepts, which we bring to life. It is so helpful to know what kinds of people we are designing for — the specific clientele a brand is targeting. Private operators don’t often have such a defined group of potential guests.

So while I love working with the global operators to develop concepts that fit their brand messages, a unique location and its local market, working with private clients can also turn out be a highlight in a designer’s career — particularly if they’re open-minded and not overly cost-sensitive. In both instances it becomes a question of the individuals we’re dealing with. We have been fortunate to find both scenarios hold the potential to be not only exciting and professionally fulfilling, but also — as seen with the projects depicted below — award-winning.

Le Clervaux Luxembourg
Le Clervaux Luxembourg
Hilton Frankfurt Airport The Squaire
Hilton Frankfurt Airport The Squaire