Another grand development getting underway in DTLA

The 1,100-foot, $1.2 billion Wilshire Grand Center that opened last year in L.A.’s Financial District wasn’t the only mega-project on the DTLA development table. According to multiple sources, the $950 million, Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue Project originally intended for a 2007 groundbreaking (but stalled by the recession, design changes and financing delays) is expected to finally move forward this year.

Designed to complement Gehry’s landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall sitting directly across the street—and essentially create a neighborhood around it—the mixed-use development on Grand Ave. entered the building permit phase in August last year, signaling a 2018 construction start.

New renderings of the project, now known simply as The Grand, were released in January by Gehry Partners and developer Related Cos., showing a 314-room Equinox Hotel nestled among restaurants, retail and a cinema in one tower, and condos and apartments occupying another. An art installation by Gehry highlights the ground-level space between the towers.

We may learn more about the development’s hotel component at BDwest, where Sam Suleman, executive vice president, Equinox Hospitality, will participate as a panelist for the conference session “Hard Brands, High Designs: Innovating the Look and Feel of Global Flags,” on Wednesday, April 5. In the meantime, check out the detailed renderings of The Grand—and of the clever projection trick Gehry has in store for its occupants and guests—in this January 21 L.A. Times article.

Q+A: NEWH’s Scholarship Winner

CULINARY SUSTAINABILITY AND HOSPITALITY STUDENT CHERYSE CARTER TO BE HONORED AT BDWEST


 
Cheryse Carter, winner of the this year’s $5,000 NEWH Women’s Leaders Scholarship, touches on a variety of topics including her hopes of opening an environmentally sustainable bed and breakfast; social issues such as gendered pay inequality; and her impressions of the hospitality industry abroad in an interview with Boutique Design assistant editor Sarah Chaplin.
 
A Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality major at Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Carter will be honored during the “Boutique Design Power Players: Women Leaders in Hospitality Breakfast and Panel Discussion,” Thursday, April 5, at the Los Angeles Convention Center during the Boutique Design West (BDwest) trade fair.

 

When did you first decide you wanted to study hospitality and what drew you to the industry?

I enrolled in college at the age of 25 and am the first member of my family to hold a collegiate degree. I had been a waitress for 10 years and found myself wondering what else I wanted to do with my life. Ironically, I enrolled in school thinking that I was going to be entering an entirely new industry only to later discover the truly vast array of career opportunities that the hospitality industry has to offer. I enjoy working with and around people. There’s never a dull moment in this industry, it’s ever-changing, fast-paced and there is abundant room for personal and professional growth.

You’re juggling a Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality major. Why is taking such a multidisciplinary approach important to you, and how do you see this impacting your management style and on-property skill set?

I secured two associate degrees prior to my transfer into the Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality program at Kennesaw. It was the multidisciplinary structure of the program that piqued my interest, as it truly covers the most relevant facets of such an expansive industry. This is especially important to me because I have a deep passion for exquisite food, the environment and exemplary customer service. By creating a bridge of knowledge that both encompasses and connects these disciplines, I’m setting myself up for success in terms of enhancing my ability to effectively communicate with different departments, understanding the intricacies of various operations and ensuring a cohesive work environment within my organization.

How did you first become involved with NEWH? What prompted you to apply for the scholarship? What was your reaction when you were notified you’d won?

I learned of NEWH through my program and was encouraged to apply for this scholarship by my program director, Dr. Christian Hardigree. When I received the phone call, I was in complete shock. It was a cloudy day, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the clouds literally parted. Words can’t possibly express the depths of my gratitude for being bestowed with such an honor.

Tell us about your career plans. What companies would you like to work for and why?

Currently, I’m considering attending graduate school where I would earn a master’s degree in Hospitality Management from Georgia State University. I’ve also considered applying for Ritz- Carlton’s Voyage Global Leadership Development Program. In addition, I have a newly deepened interest in becoming a master sommelier. I’m taking a course on Exploring the World of Wines during my last semester in college and upon learning that the Master Sommelier exam is considered the hardest in the world, I’m compelled to take the challenge. I enjoy traveling, botany, geography, sustainability and wine, and thus believe that it’d be a perfect career path to pursue. Becoming the 25th woman to ever hold the most exclusive job title in the world is extremely appealing because I know I could do it.

You mention in your essay for the scholarship that it’s your dream to open an eco-friendly bed and breakfast. How do you plan to make your future B&B environmentally sustainable, and why is that mission important to you?

Indeed, my dream is to own and operate bed and breakfast that offers the luxuries of an upscale lodging facility but with a unique and sustainable design. I envision a property in the mountains, close to a body of water. If I were to build the establishment from the ground-up, I’d procure all building materials from sustainable sources, including recycled and upcycled material, while simultaneously keeping in mind quality, visual appeal and longevity.

If I were to purchase an already existing property, I’d invest in renovating the building to meet LEED and Green Globe certification standards. I’d utilize energy-efficient lighting; large and small appliances; water heaters; and shower, sink, and toilet fixtures. I’d also implement gray-water irrigation and the use of rain barrels. I would be mindful of window and foliage placement, establish an organic edible garden and design a vegetative parking lot and driveway. I’d be sure that every room has a recycling receptacle in addition to a trash can and I would have an intricate composting system on the property. Menu items would be as locally sourced as possible so as to support nearby businesses as well as lessen the facility’s ecological footprint.

The hospitality industry is a huge contributor to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and to the astronomical amount of waste that is buried in landfills and polluting our waterways. I want to help change that. I want to show people that you can still have luxury without it being at the expense of the environment.

How has the time you’ve spent abroad in Italy and Iceland changed the way you view the industry? In your view, what could U.S. hoteliers learn from their European counterparts and vice versa?

Sustainability seems to be an underlying theme in the Old World, while American culture seems to focus more on mass production and profitability. In the Icelandic ecovillage, Solheimar, where I completed my internship, the water is heated by geothermal energy, which was an entirely foreign concept to me. There were also water and wind turbines that helped to generate the village’s electricity and all of their vegetables are organically grown in a greenhouse. Sugar is used less in their recipes and meat is not the staple of every dish.

I learned how to make bread and pizza dough from scratch, how to make my own marmalade and spaghetti sauce, and even how to make almond milk. Experimenting in the kitchen became a therapeutic outlet for me and I learned a lot about different cuisines and culture from my housemates, as well. I lived with people from Belgium, Scotland, Denmark, France, Poland, Romania, Germany, Iceland, Chile and even different regions of the U.S. (Washington D.C., California and Chicago). It was wonderful to get to experience such a wide array of customs and rituals across so many boundaries all under one roof!

Italy, too, was incredible beyond words. I traveled to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Sorrento, Capri, Siena and Perugia, while living in the hills of Tuscany in a town called Montepulciano. I floated through the canals of Venice on a gondola and got to attend the World Art Expo. I walked through the cobblestone alleys down to the local grocery every other day and cooked regularly, growing a deeper appreciation for the authenticity and freshness of the Italian cuisine.

What do you think are the biggest challenges ahead for the hospitality industry? What are you on a mission to change in your career?

I believe that some of the biggest challenges that lie ahead for the hospitality industry include breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling in terms of gender equality and finding solutions for environmental sustainability, specifically in terms of food waste, water pollution and trash disposal. I have an acute interest in making an environmental difference.

What do you think the hospitality industry could do to give back? Are there any specific causes you feel strongly about?

Corporate social responsibility is at the heart of the hospitality industry; people are our business. From collaborating with local communities and encouraging volunteerism, to advocating for special interests and engaging in philanthropic endeavors, the hospitality industry is a business titan that has the ability to make life-changing impacts on a global scale. I encourage our industry to continue to give back as much as possible. This could include education incentives and workshops for both employees and community members, charitable donations and conservation efforts.

What’s the first thing you want to see at the BDwest trade fair in April?

NEWH!!!!!!!!!!

Is there anything else you hope to see or do while you’re in Los Angeles?

I actually have family throughout California and Oregon, many of whom I have never met before but have long been connected with through social media. Three of my cousins are flying down from Oregon and I am very excited to finally get to meet them. I am so incredibly blessed and am very much looking forward to exploring a little bit of the West Coast for the first time in my life; I have a feeling that my southern accent will be magnified immensely in Southern California!

Schooled in Design

ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGN STUDENTS TO DISPLAY HOSPITALITY CREATIONS AT BDWEST.


 
Want to see the future of hospitality design? Then be sure check out the restaurants and hotels envisioned by five students from the Art Center College of Design (ACCD) at Boutique Design West (BDwest), April 4-5 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
 
Two sixth-term students in the Experience Design–Thematic Dining course explored small-scale fine dining in Los Angeles. They were tasked with creating restaurant designs that addressed the complete dining experience from arrival at the site to tipping the valet.

In addition, three third-term students who completed the Environmental Design 3 course explored issues related to small-scale hotels in the context of branding and LA’s urban fabric. They were asked to design a boutique hotel, proposed in conjunction with a non-hospitality lifestyle brand, within an existing building.

Below are the students’ final presentations, representing a culmination of their work in the respective courses at the Pasadena, California-based school. Their work will also be displayed at the ACCD booth (No. 1453) on the BDwest trade fair floor.

THEMATIC DINING

RAE CHYE – IKKOAN

Inspired by the moments of seasons, Ikkoan invites guests to experience moments of tranquility and harmony from wagashi and nature.


 
Inspiration: Chikara Mizukami
“I am always in pursuit of ways to express those undetected moments.”

Unlike other wagashi masters, Mizukami draws inspiration from more than the four seasons –– moments that are more delicate and subtle. The four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter are divided among the 12 months. In Japan, there are also 24 intervals (sekki). These 24 intervals are divided by 3 into 72 ephemeral seasonal moments (ko).

Chef Mizukami feels and senses the seasonal fluctuations as he makes wagashi. By expressing the elusive moments in the calendar year, the perception of daily changes, or an understanding of 72 seasons, he aspires to remind us of the unacknowledged beauty that surrounds us each and every day.

First Floor Lounge Dining
Guests are welcomed at the reception as they enter. Guests with reservations proceed to the second floor, while walk-in guests will be seated in the lounge dining. The wagashi may be purchased at the first floor behind the reception.

Guests may casually seat in the lounge garden by flipping the built in mats. Wagashis and teas may be purchased at the retail area. The sky light invites guests to mediate and appreciate every moment the sky changes.

Guests who are seated at the second floor may watch the nature play each moment. The shadows cast from the facade change slowly every moment. Guests may enjoy the sunset while different dishes of wagashi are served at the specific time from golden hour to night.

In Bushido, there is a saying that one cannot be loyal to two masters. “While Western confectionery is itself the main item in a dessert, wagashi on the other hand, plays a minor role in supporting Japanese tea. In other words, wagashi’s sole purpose is to enhance the taste and enjoyment of Japanese tea,” said Chikara Mizukami. Using his philosophy, the space acts as the supporting role, while the moments in time becomes the main role.

Materials
Hinoki Wood
Board Formed Concrete
Precast Concrete
Glass
Washi Paper
Fumed Chestnut
Tatami
Gravel

BRETT SU – MASKINEN

A Night in Future Scandinavia
A scientific sensorial culinary journey that transports guests forward in time. Inspired by the idea of a pod situated in a Scandinavian forest, the experience encourages an existential self-realization in our roles as humans in the future. As guests indulge in nuances in layers of flavors, they are no longer where they physically and mentally expected to be.


 
Inspiration: Jordan Kahn
Experimenting and challenging restaurant culture, Jordan Kahn is a chef based in Los Angeles who specializes in gastronomic cuisine. With chemist approaches, Jordan creates a theme for each restaurant and meticulously curates the dining experience with his involvement in cooking, plating, ceramics, and architecture.
 
Machine Forest
A cerebral sci-fi approach to Scandinavian food where the visionary becomes reality. Inspired by Scandinavian birch forests, guests are greeted by preserved birch tree trunks. The dining area is situated in a raised platform inspired by a future pod, surrounded by trees represented by LED fluorescent pillars. A large atrium allows longer pillars to extend to the second floor, creating an open atmosphere.

Materials
As guests approach, the restaurant is clad in ceramic panels in combination with a subtle glow through frosted channel glass. The entrance features a light installation with birch trunks to symbolize the Scandinavian environment. The elevator that takes guests up to the bar is surrounded by smoke encased in glass, making it feel alive. Along the way to their table, walls are cladded in black basalt stone and ceramic tile panels. A dropped ceiling in a powder coated perforated steel adds contrast to the roughness of the stone. Combinations of metal and stone bring the natural qualities of Scandinavia with the futuristic theme to the dining experience.

Mutina Rombini Triangle (Red/Grey)
Mutina Rombini Small Triangle (White)
Black Granite
White Oak
Powdercoated Perforated Aluminum
Provenza Provoak (Bianco Sabbiato)
Brushed Steel
Black Lava Rocks

BOUTIQUE HOTEL

MELISSA NGUYEN – COMME DES GARÇONS BOUTIQUE HOTEL


 
The hotel aims to capture the various styles within the COMME des GARÇONS brand. The brand is known for its outlandish designs, as well as its more minimal lines. Through different media we were able to create a juxtaposition between the two classes. The overall tone of the hotel is driven by the minimalistic nature of the brand. Big moves of black, whites, and greys captures the brand’s simplicity. It also acts as a neutral palette to only then be adorned with bold colors and bright brass which takes after the more avant-garde side of the brand.

To accentuate the brand’s more provocative side, we made use of interesting materials, like felt made with copper and dog hair, to symbolize the quirkiness of the brand. The steel cold-rolled patina, and the WINCOS film (a film that becomes more translucent depending where you stand) plays on the eeriness of the brand. The composition of simple to wild materials is what makes this a COMME des GARÇONS hotel.

XIN YAN – SISLEY PARIS BOUTIQUE HOTEL


 
Sisley Paris is famous for combining high technology and the best part of plants to provide the best products. They believe even the smell of the products make people feel youthful. So in Sisley Paris Boutique Hotel, the experience is designed to make people feel youthful.

Blooming flowers are the inspiration for the form language to express growing. Using natural materials and real plants and also blooming flowers as a visual metaphor for designing furnishings and space.

The guest room is a “growing” space where guests enter from a very low and narrow ceiling then jump to a bright and spacious living area. The space opens up. It combines Sisley’s laboratory aesthetic and the feeling of nature. The materials also transition from marble and polished concrete to wood flooring and carpet.

Materials
Wood Veneer
Wool Carpet
White Oak Flooring
Bamboo
Flowers
Calacatta Marble
Translucent Resin Panels
Polished Aluminum
Arstyl Wall Tiles

ADRIANA AVENDANO – HERMÉS BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Embark on a journey to Oasis.


 
Brand
Hermés is a luxury French brand that holds traditional standards for high quality craftsmanship combined with the strengths of today’s techniques. This combination of traditional values and modernity is what has kept this luxury brand so successful for the past 200 years. Hermés pursues a commitment to the creative men and women whose work helps them to see our world in a new light, challenging and consolidating the foundations of our shared culture. The creators at the company believe their products to be desirable because they reconnect people to their humanity. They want their customers to feel the presence of the person who crafted the object, while at the same time the object brings them back to their own sensitivity, because it gives them pleasure through the senses. What Hermés is always searching for is this ideal of beauty, of perfect shape. The right thing, the good thing and the beautiful thing. Hermés’ love for all things beautiful is translated in their brand as well as the importance of theme and imaginative story telling.

Spatial Concept
One of Hermés’ popular luxury item is their exquisite hand crafted silk scarves. The story behind the Hermés Hotel Experience is a journey of a scarf through the desert and into an oasis. It’s an abstract concept that is played within the form language of every spatial experience. From the entrance to the guest room, each visitor will go through a guided check-in experience, through each hotel space, transitioning them from desert to oasis. Guests will be handed their personal room key right outside their room, the “destination.” The design language of the guest room mimics the form of a scarf wrapped around a woman’s neck. It creates a focal point in the space towards the bed, the ultimate destination. The warm oranges and cool blues in the space complement each other as sand does to water. It is open, organic, luxurious, light and close to nature; expressing the essence of Hermes.

Lobby
Guests will be greeted by an Hermés check-in tour guide. This is where guests begin their journey through oasis, in a rocky environment that mimics the mood, textures and atmosphere of a rocky terrain.

The lounge captures the essence of the flora nature in a desert oasis. The wooden structures mimic the sun’s rays shining down on the guests and plants beneath it. Each pod holds comfortable seating and food service for private/public guests. The reflecting pool beneath the pods introduces the element of water to the journey.

Pool
The grand oasis waterfall is a key moment in this outdoor pool area. Guests can go for a swim while enjoying the soothing sounds of the waterfall. This space mixes a contemporary architectural atmosphere with the natural elements of an oasis.

Hallway to Guestroom
Here is where guests reach the end of their journey and reach the beginning of their “destination” experience. The guests will be given their room key right outside their door by their personal tour guide and left to experience the end of their journey privately in their rooms.

BDwest Closeup: Steve Rugo, Rugo/Raff Architects

Q&A with session moderator STEVE RUGO, RUGO/RAFF ARCHITECTS

The principal of this Chicago-based multidisciplinary firm serves up food for thought on the new menu for restaurant design, why there’s a great divide between what makes for a hot-list dining experience on the East vs. West Coast, and a taste of the topic he’ll be addressing as the moderator of the Food & Design panel, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM, Wednesday, April 4 at BDwest in the Los Angeles Convention Center.

YOUR FIRM JUST WRAPPED UP THE AVIARY NYC AND THE OFFICE NYC AT THE MANDARIN ORIENTAL NEW YORK AS WELL AS CHEF DAVID BERAN’S DIALOGUE RESTAURANT IN SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA.

WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THE DINING SCENES IN THE BIG APPLE VS. LA? HOW DOES THAT INFLUENCE YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGN?

There are big differences. Each city’s dining scene has its own vibe—and that’s not just about what’s happening inside the restaurant world. It’s a manifestation of the local lifestyle and culture. It’s also tied to the weather. Whether locals or visitors, people in LA are outside more; they’re unencumbered; they dress more casually. If a man does wear a suit to events like the BDwest Opening Reception or the B18 & Up-and-Coming Hoteliers Celebration, it’s typically with a tee shirt—something he most likely wouldn’t do in New York. If a man puts a tie on in Los Angeles, people look at him and probably wonder what’s wrong.

Local culture also inspires what kinds of restaurant, and dining design, resonate. Since 80% of U.S. fruit and vegetables are grown in the area, locals have been raised with the idea of “farm to table” food so it’s not a trend, it’s just a given. So, that changes the materials, color palettes and lighting that complement the fare. The California food scene is very much about the food and service, not design for its own sake.

Culturally, LA’s vibrant multicultural makeup means that “mom and pop” casual dining has become one of the city’s foodie highlights. From food trucks to unassuming strip mall venues, some of the most memorable meals are hidden in unlikely places. BDwest attendees can walk to unforgettable eats in DTLA. If they don’t mind a long walk or a short subway or a taxi trip, it’s well worth going to the Arts District, where we’re opening a bistro concept, Jolie, and that’s also home to some of the best food trucks. In the opposite direction is Koreatown, which even iconic chef David Chang points out as one of the best food scenes in the world.

That’s partly why I saw potential in the space that became Dialogue. It was in a renovated strip mall in Santa Monica, and while co-owner Michael Simkin wasn’t initially convinced, it was clear to me and to chef Dave (Beran) that we could transform this former fast food restaurant into an immersive fine dining experience. LA is ready for the idea of a 21-course tasting menu in a space like that (Dialogue was named Best New Restaurant by Los Angeles Magazine). We made some major changes to the layout and transformed the space into an intimate 18-seat venue with formal/informal fusion decor.

Ultimately, the blurred line of inside to outside makes a huge impact. For example, if we are designing a space where the weather outside can be brutal and cold, we would not add any windows so that the emphasis then becomes on the plate in front of you and not the outside environment. The design becomes about escapism and helping you forget the howling wind or snowstorm outside. That’s really the biggest difference.

The interior of The Aviary NYC. Photo: Courtesy of The Mandarin New YorkThe interior of The Aviary NYC. Photo: Courtesy of The Mandarin New York

HOW DID YOU BREAK INTO RESTAURANT DESIGN?

Actually, we didn’t start in that business. Over the years, we did several restaurants around Chicago that were owner/chef driven—more neighborhood type spaces. We were focusing on single-family houses, rehabs and other urban/suburban projects in 18 states. One of our residential clients, investor Nick Kokonas, and his wife were blown away by the food at Trio, a small but outstanding restaurant in Evanston, Illinois with a then-up-and-coming chef, Grant Achatz. Kokonas wanted to give him the chance to go out on his own. As a result, a small restaurant group was formed and Alinea was born. Since the original Alinea (which we redesigned in 2016), we’ve also created Roister, Next, and upcoming Progression restaurant in the Chicago area, as well as The Aviary NYC and The Office NYC, all under the Alinea Restaurant Group banner, as well as other restaurant projects.

WHAT’S ON YOUR BOARDS?

In Chicago, we’re currently designing a large supper club and bar event space in Chicago’s United Center. It’s going to have a retro feel with balconies, an atrium for outdoor dining and private dining rooms. Our latest project for Alinea Group, Progression, will be a music-led venue. We’re also working on some evolutions of the Japanese noodle restaurant Ramen-san for Lettuce Entertain You. And finally, we’re collaborating with a New Orleans chef who is moving to Chicago to work on a restaurant that focuses on Israeli/Lebanese cuisine.

Dialogue Restaurant
The dining area at the Dialogue Restaurant. Photo: Courtesy of Dialogue Restaurant

AS MODERATOR OF THE FOOD & DESIGN SESSION AT BDWEST, WHAT DO YOU HOPE IS THE KEY INSIGHT YOUR SESSION ATTENDEES TAKE AWAY?

We want people to understand that collaboration is key. It’s paramount that the chef, client and designer all be able to communicate openly. Dealing with a chef-driven property is much like designing a complicated multimillion-dollar house; there is a huge team of people, and you all have to get to the same page or it’s not going to work out well.

HOW IS SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCING RESTAURANT DESIGN?

Almost everybody is asking for an “Instagrammable” spot. One of our upcoming projects has that social media component designed in, with photo booths that print the date and name of the event on the picture. A digital copy can be instantly loaded to a person’s account. When I attended Design Week in London, there were a lot of well-known designers taking photos in front of the Woolsey sign outside and posting them on social. Everyone is caught up in this; we are all doing it. It’s simply a part of the process now, whether that’s good or bad.

The Office NYC at the Mandarin Oriental New York
The interior of The Office NYC at the Mandarin Oriental New York. Photo: Allen Hemberger

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A SPACE AS A GUEST WHEN ENJOYING A MEAL OUT?

I want to walk in and think wow, this is REALLY comfortable and inviting and enhances what I’m there to do as opposed to dominating what you’re there to do. I am not as crazy about loud spaces. Granted, I like to look at pictures of hyper-dynamic venues; I don’t know if I want to sit in them.

To find out more on restaurant design from Rugo, Dialogue executive chef Dave Beran and the restaurant’s co-owner Michael Simkin, come to their panel discussion “Food & Design” at Boutique Design West (BDwest), April 4, 1:30 – 2:30 PM, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

View the complete Agenda here

Debuting Spec-writing Master Class Series

Hospitality designers and specifiers can hone their spec-writing skills in the new Smart-Specs Interiors™ master class series at BDwest this year. Expert panelists in each of five product categories—Carpet, Guest Room Casegoods, Upholstered Seating, Guest Room Lighting and Fabric—will outline unique considerations and best practices for writing clear, supplier-ready specs for hospitality design projects.

Presented in association with NEWH, the Hospitality Industry Network, the series is designed to help designers and specifiers avoid costly errors and delays and achieve optimal project results.

“There’s so much about our industry that is not taught in school,” said NEWH executive director Shelia Lohmiller. “This is a great opportunity for design firms to send their junior designers, and for experienced designers and procurement professionals to get a refresher on the latest manufacturing techniques.”

Presenters for the fully accredited Smart-Specs Interiors™ sessions include seasoned designers, purchasing agents and product manufacturers for companies including Applied Textiles, Benjamin West, Bray Whaler, Carver & Associates, CF Kent, Chapman Hospitality Lighting, Creative Resource Associates, Fabricut Contract and S. Harris, Flick·Mars, ForrestPerkins, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), JLF Collections, Lexmark Carpet, The Light Annex, MTS Seating, Neil Locke & Associates, Ramsey & Associates, Royal Thai, Studio Partnership and Vaughan Benz.

Moderators for the new sessions are Becka Chester, president, Hospitality Design Specialist, for Fabric; Ted Brumleve, senior director, Wyndham Hotel Group, for Guest Room Casegoods; Michelle Finn, president, Hospitality Media Group (HMG), for Carpet; Jeanne Varney, lecturer, Cornell University, for Upholstered Seating; and Steve Rice, president and founder, Rice Consulting, for Guest Room Lighting.

“Smart specification writing fulfills a critical need in today’s hospitality design industry, and we are excited to present these courses from the manufacturer, designer, brand and purchasing agent perspective,” said Finn, who heads HMG, the company that produces BDwest and sister trade fair Boutique Design New York (BDNY). “The response to this new series has been overwhelming among BDwest registrants, and reinforces the value of these sessions to our industry.”

The Smart-Specs Interiors™ master classes are among more than 35 sessions in the BDwest 2018 lineup, featuring more than 160 hospitality experts from across the industry.

View the complete Agenda here

BDwest Closeup: Matt Mars, Flick∙Mars

The co-founder (along with James Flick) of this Dallas-based hospitality and leisure design firm provides unique insights on the next hot projects, what excites him about the broad range of lifestyle hotels on the studio’s boards and why Boutique Design West (BDwest) has been a can’t-miss event since its launch in 2012.

WHERE ARE THE NEW HOT SPOTS FOR HOTEL DESIGN WORK?

From our perspective, secondary markets are still hot for the boutique lifestyle projects we are involved with. New builds in cities like Chicago are very exciting for our firm.

WHAT KINDS OF PROJECTS CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE THERE?

The focus is still on lifestyle hotel branded properties; “local-centric,” experiential properties; and small boutique-style projects designed to appeal to millennials and lifestyle travelers. Our team is looking forward to seeing the range of new properties in and near Downtown Los Angeles when we’re attending BDwest April 4-5.

WHAT’S THE BUSINESS OUTLOOK FOR YOUR FIRM AND FOR THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?

2017 was the best year we’ve had in terms of growth and project size since James and I launched Flick∙Mars in 2005. We’re getting lots of new projects, including an independent hotel we’re doing for Tavistock Group, and we’re expanding our offices. We’re very bullish about 2018.

WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING ON A HIGH-PROFILE PROJECT, AND OVERALL, HOW ARE CLIENTS CHANGING IN TERMS OF THEIR DESIGN PRIORITIES?

We’re fortunate to have a generous budget for the Tavistock project. But, equally important is the fact that our client really supports creative freedom. It’s great when we’re able to work with a “visually articulate” client who appreciates our ability to push the boundaries of design. When the entire team is creatively driven, strong and inspiring, everyone brings their A-game.

YOU’VE SAID YOU’RE OPEN TO GROWING THE FIRM ON AN AS-NEEDED BASIS, BUT THAT YOU LIKE THE CULTURE OF A SMALL COMPANY. WHY?

We get to be nimbler. We’re more free to explore different design opportunities. We don’t have to worry about feeding a big machine. We keep our workload manageable by selecting only intriguing projects. Our boutique size and philosophy is also a win for clients because they know they’ll have the attention of senior management. The key is to be organic, grow our market and to not lose sight of the design work that brought us success.

HOW DO YOU LEVERAGE THAT TO GET THE SAME BUYING POWER AS LARGER FIRMS?

It’s more about personal networking and building relationships. Some of that can be done in our offices, but a trade fair such as BDwest offers another way to connect. Because this event is intimate and the boutique booth sizes make vendors approachable, we can be efficient with our time. The standard scale of the exhibits also puts the focus on products and enables us to have personal interaction with suppliers. We respect what they bring to the design process and value them as team members. We appreciate the opportunity to talk with them about our needs and see what new solutions and inspiration they’re showcasing. As designers, we’re asked to do the impossible every day. It’s important to know the suppliers and identify the right firm for the project.

WITH SO MANY INDUSTRY GIANTS COMPETING FOR WORK, HOW DO YOU GET THE FIRM IN FRONT OF THE CLIENTS YOU’D LIKE TO WORK FOR?

Obviously, our track record, reputation and portfolio open doors. But it’s important to network and to keep abreast of what clients want. That’s one reason BDwest is a must for us. We appreciate hearing from the brands about what they want from their design partners. The intimate scale of this fair, like its sister Boutique Design New York (BDNY), gives us the opportunity to meet the owners speaking on panels and attending social events, as well as connect with our existing clients. In fact, BDwest helped build and cultivate our relationship with several new clients, including White Lodging. I love the comraderie. It’s always energizing to walk the trade fair with clients and talk shop. BDwest attracts a very informed community. Being part of that really deepens our rapport with clients, as well as firms from all sectors of the hospitality design, architecture, purchasing and consulting community.

YOU MENTIONED THAT THE FIRM’S EXPANDING. HOW DO YOU FIND TALENTED STAFF AND TRAIN THEM QUICKLY ENOUGH TO CONTRIBUTE ON A FAST TRACK?

We grew our staff size by 25% last year, which is a challenge because we seek elevated talent. Personality is key to our studio dynamic so finding the right person with skills and the energy level we want makes hiring a studied process for us. That’s another reason we make sure events such as BDwest get on our whole team’s calendar. The education component is crucial for young designers learning the fundamentals of their craft, including spec writing and other vital skills. Initiatives such as the pioneering Smart-Specs Interiors™ sessions are a great way to help bring team members up to speed. That’s why I’ll be sharing my insights on writing the perfect carpet spec.

The caliber of BDwest’s speakers means that, as a principal, there’s a lot for me to learn, too. I love hearing other designers’ success stories and gaining insights about their best practices for creating great design and improving their studios’ processes and performance.

WHAT’S A MUST AMONG THE SOCIAL EVENTS AT THIS YEAR’S BDWEST?

The Boutique 18 (B18) awards. One of our senior associates, Lindsey Seboldt, is an honoree this year. We’re really proud of her work, and this is fitting recognition. The exposure this will give her, and our firm, is invaluable. The B18 award recognizing rising hospitality design stars is one more example of how Boutique Design and BDwest are helping to identify and support up-and-coming talent, as well as cultivate and nurture relationships and expand professional development.

Hear Matt Mars’ insights as a presenter for the Smart-Specs Interior™ session focusing on guidelines for writing the perfect carpet specification. That panel is set for 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM, Wednesday, April 4 in Conference Room 306 at the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of BDwest 2018. Joining him will be moderator, Michelle, Finn, president, Hospitality Media Group, LLC, and fellow presenters Gina DiRoma, director of sales, West Coast, Royal Thai; Jennifer Ramsey, president, Ramsey & Associates; and Jennifer Wellman, vice president of architecture and design sales, Lexmark Carpet.

View the complete Agenda here