When approaching new hospitality design projects, award-winning interior designer Blanche Garcia finds delight in the details.
“You come to know somebody’s work by the way it looks, and the creativity comes out. Designers get a certain style and I see the details. I’ll see certain things,” said Garcia, owner and principal of B. Garcia Designs. “I’m a really big believer that the space is unique to the location and the people experiencing it. It’s about the local vibe. I never go in saying, ‘This is how it’s going to look,’ and then every project looks the same.”
Blanche Garcia will be on the InspireDesign panel at Hospitality at Market.
For her, the locale plays a starring role in the design narrative. “When it comes to hospitality, it’s as much about the location, demographic, flavor of the brand and how it’s infused,” said Garcia. “It has to be something authentic to the immediate circumstances. It drives my design philosophy.”
Garcia is no stranger to memorable design in the hospitality space, with more than 22 years of experience in residential, hospitality and commercial design. It’s her personal nuances that make each project stand out in someone’s mind.
“It’s not about individual details as much as it is about certain details; it could be history or area or a landmark,” she said. “Or, we have a brand that has a certain feel it wants to impart, or it could be as simple as a brand saying it is global and has a global vibe that is infused in different moments. I like to achieve this in fun ways, as well as in streamlined, architectural ways. It might be a tongue-in-cheek take, but it connects the dots.”
Garcia will share her expertise as a panelist on the InspireDesign panel at Hospitality at Market, “The Intersection of Residential and Hospitality Design.” She gave us a preview of what she’ll share among her fellow designers.
“I think that the past couple of years has really taken a turn where rooms are small but common areas are like living rooms; everybody wants this residential feel in hospitality. I see it a lot with residential designers being tapped by brands. You want your room to feel like a hotel room, but now they want it to feel like a bedroom,” she said.
“Hotels sell mattresses, and it feels more like a home away from home,” she continued. “In the past, it was big opulent rooms, and people just stayed in their room. It was that culture. Now, people want to connect to other people, and hotels are fostering connection, whether it’s on pool decks, or in lobbies and lounges. We want you to be able to open a laptop, talk to people and get coffee.”
Garcia noted that many of the hotels she’s worked with have been inspired by this crossover.
“I started out in residential design and found my love for commercial design after a while,” she said. “I always bring that personal connection; what’s exciting is I feel there’s a European and Spanish influence, as well as a lot of French and Italian in design. There’s also a lot of color coming in. I’m a big lover of white on white—it’s my favorite—but I love this whole play of color and shapes in different projects.”
She’s also seeing a bit of whimsy entering design treatments, inspired by what is emerging on social media.
“There’s this ‘cartoonation’ of materials and furniture. It’s like a bubblegum-pop feel, and I see it infused in what’s on Instagram feeds and on the fashion runway and in architectural design. I think it’s really cool,” she said.
“Right now, I’m starting this new design project down by the beach—Diamond Beach near Wildwood Crest, NJ—and it’s a higher-end hybrid motel/hotel,” Garcia said. “I worked with the clients before, adding a high-end tropical feel. Think Hawaiian island mixed with five-star offerings and fun. With these boutiques, we do it in a way that raises the bar. They let you run with moments and details. When you do larger than 150 keys or more, the budget isn’t always there to have these moments.”
Moments of inspiration abound at Hospitality at Market, and Garcia is ready to dive right in.
“It’s kind of the Disneyland for what we do,” she quipped. “It’s like an adult playground meets a learning smorgasbord. It’s very tactile, and you get to talk to many people at the top of their game. Even if you go to events in New York, this is really where the mecca is. It’s a lot of days and a lot of learning, seeing products and materials. There’s a lot packed in and it’s fun at the same time.”
Most importantly to Garcia, it’s about meeting people and making connections.
“You can always learn by reading or seeing a photo and saying to yourself, ‘That looks cool,’ but when you’re at Market, it’s different. Now, it’s exciting because they’re catering to hospitality designers. You have a voice, places to go where you can learn new things and connect with peers who are doing the same things,” she said. “Design is one of those careers that is very solitary. Unless you work for a large company, most design firms are fewer than 10-20 people. It’s nice to connect and share the highs and lows of design.”