Designers Talk Trends in Hospitality Design at Penn1 in Manhattan

What does it take to be a standout in hospitality design? INTERIOR DESIGN editor in chief Cindy Allen recently brought together four lauded designers to weigh in during a lively “Wonder Women in Hospitality” talk at Penn1 in Manhattan. From infusing spaces with work by local artists to coloring interiors with textures and hues from surrounding landscapes, panelists shared the various approaches they take to achieve the primary goal—creating an unforgettable guest experience.

And a hospitality background is not a must-have to create impact, they agreed. “We didn’t typically do hospitality; our spaces tend to be austere,” shared Dana Tang, partner at Gluckman Tang Architects, who collaborated with Jennifer Johanson, CEO of EDG Design, on Mii amo spa in Sedona, Arizona, INTERIOR DESIGN’s October cover story. But Tang’s approach to what she calls “reductive simplicity” fit right in, bringing to life to a serene space that exudes warmth, and a touch of luxury.

A Behind-The-Scenes Look at Striking Hospitality Designs

Cindy Allen with women designers at Penn1 in Manhattan
Panelists from left: Dana Tang, Jennifer Johanson, Cindy Allen, Larah Moravek, and Lauren Rottet at Penn1 in Manhattan.

Refreshing a Spa Design to Best Reflect Its Surroundings 

At the center of Mii amo, a sunken lounge seems to envelope those within it with the glow of the desert sun. “It was Dana’s idea to make the sunken lounge area from the former swimming pool site,” adds Johanson, who noted that she often leans toward a maximalist, layered aesthetic given her extensive experience designing hospitality projects. Part of that approach involves surveying the local landscape and, in this case, incorporating elements of the striking red rocks in the spa interiors. Utilizing local found wood and materials, as well as a bold color palette, the locale seems to meld with its desert scape.

sunken seating at Mii amo, a resort spa in Sedona
At Mii amo, a resort spa in Sedona, Arizona, originally designed in 2001 by Gluckman Tang Architects and recently renovated and enlarged by the firm and EDG Interior Architecture + Design, an indoor pool has been transformed into a living room, with custom sunken seating surrounded by Stalattite onyx. Photography by Douglas Friedman.

“We wanted to get people out and into the landscape,” adds Tang, “which is the goal of hospitality.” The property, which opened in 2001 when destination spas were not commonplace, also offers a roadmap for ways to make what’s old, new. “Much of what we did was try to down frame the building and frame the landscape,” Tang shares, who worked on the initial build. “We still had that in mind for the renovation.” The refreshed space, which now features 23 guest rooms rather than just 16, offers guests a roadmap for relaxation, evident in the artwork, which invites inward focus.

Adaptive Reuse at Its Best: Inside Hotel Marcel 

On the East Coast, Hotel Marcel in New Haven, Connecticut, marks another hospitality project that takes advantage of an established structure with good bones. “It was a gift for this project to come to use,” says Larah Moravek, partner at Dutch East Design. “But making a former office building into a hotel and have it be welcoming was a challenge.” The brutalist building, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1970 as the headquarters for Armstrong Rubber Company, now stands one of fewer than a dozen LEED Platinum–certified hotels in the country thanks to a skillful reinterpretation by Dutch East Design and architect-developer Bruce Becker of Becker + Becker.

Selma stools by Origins 1971 line the quartz-topped bar at BLDG, the hotel’s restaurant.
Selma stools by Origins 1971 line the quartz-topped bar at BLDG, the hotel’s restaurant. Photography by Seamus Payne.

“I was intimidated by the building,” admits Tang, noting its distinct Brutalist build. To balance the striking wafflelike exterior, the design team referenced Bauhaus aesthetics. Playful patterns and soft textures enliven the space, which features well considered lighting and shades, enabling guests to retreat from the bustle of the city. The property is driven by contrasts: The lobby features a dark cavity space with an upper level bar backed by perforated metal while the bright guest rooms include Anni Albers–inspired art by Brooklyn artisans, which makes for a welcoming combination.

Why Understanding Place is Important to Lauren Rottet 

Lauren Rottet, founder of her namesake studio, is no stranger to striking hospitality designs. Not long ago, she helmed a renovation project in the original La Colombe d’Or in Houston, Texas, a 1923 private residence-turned-boutique hotel, enlivening the interiors with a go-to restaurant. In the expanded Bar No. 3, Rottet Studio turned to the building’s existing woodwork to create moments of surprise, painting a carved-wood entry archway a dark green, for instance. With a gallery on the ground floor and a reflecting pool at the top level of the building, La Colombe d’Or offers endless moments of exploration that feel distinctly of its place.

Bar No 3 in Hotel Colombe d'Or by Rottet Studio
A Tom Dixon chandelier and custom wall covering patterned with Lyubov Popova artwork outfit Bar No. 3. Photography by Eric Laignel.

“Some of the things we think are important to hospitality are natural light, exposure to views, and understanding the place where you are,” says Rottet. The studio’s diverse range of noteworthy projects reflect these ideals, offering guests what they came for—a truly unique experience.

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