The hotel industry is a striking example of the variance between the earnings of the majority employed by the industry and the wealthy hotel owners and their guests, especially at the luxury end. It’s a similar tale for interior designers working in this sector, often serving demanding clients while earning in a month what guests might easily spend on an overnight stay.
Our design team works on some of the most luxurious hotel projects around the world, yet it’s not unusual for a newly graduated recruit to have never stepped inside a luxury hotel. (I recall one young designer enquiring what a luggage rack was.) And even after years on the job, a designer’s salary doesn’t stretch to affording a night’s stay in the hotels they design or even the furniture they specify.
Of course, relative to other parts of the industry (not to mention many other regions in the world) we earn a good living here in Germany — as I’m sometimes reminded by clients who remark that our fees are too high! But we do expect a lot from our team, not least that they communicate confidently with clients and give professional design and lifestyle advice appropriate to the hotels they’re working on. Naturally we want them to enjoy coming to work, to love their jobs and be passionate in what they do. So, while we are not able to offer inflated salaries, we invest in ways we hope engenders a professional, collaborative and social atmosphere in the studio.
An important part of an interior designer’s professional development is getting exposure to the types of spaces they design. Our reference library is kept up to date with design magazines and books that we encourage staff to use to thoroughly research projects as well as Pinterest and the multitude of online design platforms. As the library is also part of our canteen, staff can browse at leisure over a coffee or lunch break. But there’s no comparison to seeing the real thing, so whenever possible we take the design team that has worked on a hotel to experience it after opening — sometimes even to stay a night.
Supplier relationships and product knowledge are also critical to the job, so regular “lunch and learn” dates take place where a supplier hosts a lunch and makes a presentation on its latest products, an ideal opportunity for the designers to learn about the technical aspects and applications in an intimate, informal setting.
We also believe it’s important for our team to attend trade events, and we always cover their costs and give them extra time off work to do so.
But as important as knowledge of hospitality is, so is having a great team atmosphere, because it brings real value to the company in terms of loyalty and commitment. Our canteen is the social hub of the office. It has a huge communal table and an adjacent kitchen where one of us (often me) will prepare a shared lunchtime meal for the office; it’s also where we gather to celebrate birthdays, welcome new colleagues and say farewell to those moving on — as well as for regular Friday afternoon drinks. To compensate for all this eating and drinking, fortnightly sports sessions and massages are offered with everybody welcome to participate, though they are not compulsory!
At the end of each year, for the staff Christmas party, we say a big “thank you” to the entire office with a celebratory overnight stay at one of the hotels we’ve recently worked on. So while the salary level for an interior designer remains modest, I am proud to have an enthusiastic, knowledgeable team that enjoys being part of JOI-Design.