Ms. Locke

Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment

Hotel FF&E Means More Than Just Decorating and It Starts With Smart Design

By Amy Locke, Director, Interior Design, Hatchett Hospitality

Why can the manufacturer of the Dr. Skud flyswatter, which was crafted by famous French designer Philippe Starck, sell five cents worth of plastic for $12?

Why has the Motorola Razr V3 set sales records when it doesn't work any better or differently than other cell phones?

Why does Apple's iPod dominate the MP3 player market when there are many similar devices available from other manufacturers?

The answer to all three questions is the same - smart, striking design.

Americans are increasingly sensitive to and motivated by good design. Sure, we evaluate products and services with our left-brain for attributes such as price and usefulness, but increasingly we also look for right-brain qualities such as emotion, meaning, look, and feel.

In short, we don't just want products and services that are utilitarian - we want them to have style and to be objects of desire.

It's why Target sells such mundane, everyday items as toilet brushes and vegetable scrubbers that have been designed by superstar architect Michael Graves.

It's why McDonald's is transforming the harsh, plastic-heavy interiors of its stores into soft, earth-toned places with upholstered chairs and attractive pendant lights.

These companies know that in a crowded marketplace, you need something special to stand out. They understand that design is a fixed cost - you pay for it just once - but it adds value over and over again, every day with every customer and every transaction.

Thomas Gale, a well-known automobile designer for Chrysler, put it well when he said, "Good design adds value faster than it adds cost."

Now, more and more hoteliers are coming to the same conclusion - that good design is good business. But it's been a long, slow process and some hotel owners are still reluctant to invest in anything beyond minimal design.

To understand why, let's look at the difference between "design" and "purchasing."

Years ago, purchasing for hotels consisted of simply comparing the cost of different products and buying the least expensive. Interior design of a property often amounted to nothing more than deciding where to put these various low cost purchases.

Hoteliers quickly learned that the lowest cost product isn't always the best product. Purchasing evolved and became more sophisticated to include evaluation of both "hard" costs such as initial price plus "soft" costs such as product quality, delivery times, and warranty features.

Indeed, today purchasing is a science - it's a skill based in numbers and calculations. It's something tangible that can be measured.

By contrast, design is an art - it's based in colors, patterns, and shapes. It's not tangible and it can't be measured, at least not in the conventional ways that business people use as the basis for balance sheets and profit/loss statements.

But good design is more than just decorating - and it isn't so abstract or subjective that we can't translate it into some realistic tips and guidelines. So here we go.

It wasn't that long ago that people would describe a hotel stay by talking about its convenient location, great service, or spectacular views. Now, travelers often describe a hotel in terms of its design.

And savvy hoteliers are responding by using design to differentiate themselves from the competition, to attract a more affluent, socially-active client, and to create word-of-mouth buzz.

Amy Locke is director of interior design at Hatchett Hospitality. She works with franchisers and franchisees on a wide variety of hotel brands, styles, and themes – from economy to luxury, from resort to business conference, and from traditional to modern. Previous to joining Hatchett, she held a position in interior design with Ethan Allen Interiors. Ms. Locke earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She is completing a degree in feng shuiand is an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Ms. Locke can be contacted at 770-227-5232 or Amy@HatchettHospitality.com Extended Bio...

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