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Furniture Reflects Regional Trends

The movement toward regionalization is just one of a number of trends taking place in the furnishings for the hospitality market, but it’s certainly on the minds of many owners. “Most of ownership would like to have properties reflect the region or flavor of the [local] city,” said Pat Miller, vp and corporate director of hospitality at design and architectural firm Leo A Daly.
“There’s a change in the furnishings concept. We’re following the idea that we want to know where we are. The whole notion of the hotel is shifting a little from hip hotels to one that takes on the flavor of the locale,” said Jennifer Luce, principal, Luce et Studio, which has been involved in boutique projects such as 5th & E, a San Diego boutique property, and has done a lot of work for the Janus Hotel Group. “It’s all about place,” Luce added. “Color and light are the most critical [elements] to explore. For example, the reflection of light onto a wall. Finishes and materials are all important in describing place.”
Alexandra Champalimaud, principal with Alexandra Champalimaud & Associates, agreed, “pattern and texture are the best way of doing that.” She cited specifically the firm’s work on the newly opened Hartford Marriott Downtown, where it tried to incorporate late 20th Century New England design. Champalimaud noted the use of light “historic” colors was a prevalent theme.
Furnishings suppliers have responded to the trend toward regionalization with an increased assortment of looks. “Patterns such as woods and veneers are more recognizable to a [particular] area, where lighter, clear maples are [more popular] in certain parts of the country,” said Rick Evans, vp, sales and marketing, American of Martinsville, a supplier of case goods, tables and chairs for the hospitality industry.
One undeniable trend in furnishings, according to both manufacturers and designers, is the transformation of the armoire in the guestroom. Particularly with the increasing popularity of flat-screen televisions, the traditional armoire as we’ve known it has been all but eliminated in favor of less space-consumptive items.
“The armoire is kind of like a dinosaur, it’s [now] the all-in-one cabinet which is the old dressers only higher,” said Felicia Mariani of furnishing supplier Sorentino Mariani Co. “The armoire has been turned on its side, instead of horizontal it’s vertical.”
Miller agreed, noting that furnishings in general seem to be more modular now. “The big armoire pieces have become lower. You don’t have the enormous pieces anymore,” she said.
Taking the traditional armoire out of the guestroom has given designers more options when it comes to overall design, particularly with the increased desire of guests to have an office when traveling. “We have more freedom to create potential work space and more freedom to create a casual space. There’s a whole new mix of opportunities,” said Luce.
It also has resulted in different furnishings helping to define the motif of the guestroom. One area in particular that’s taken on much of the design focus has been the evolution of the headboard. “There’s a lot of creativity in the headboard arena. That gives the designer an opportunity to make a statement,” said Evans, noting the ability to incorporate a number of different fabrics and textures.
Champalimaud said one of the pieces she’s designed that has attracted a lot of attention was the result of “incorporating its headboards into a flat-screen [TV] with an elongated desk wood backing.”
When it comes to seating, while fashion appeal is part of the story, the main issue seems to be practicality.
“Everyone is looking for comfort. There has to be a real level of comfort, it can’t just look comfortable,” said Ray Leibman, director of marketing, Gasser Chair Company, Inc., who added that one of the company’s focuses has been making its lineup of seats wider, higher and softer. He described the current trend in seating as “contemporary and modern, not necessarily baroque, but rather ‘nouveau comfy.’ ”
In terms of what is driving furniture design today in the hospitality market, there was little debate that contemporary or modern looks with clean lines are very much in vogue and materials continue to be a means of differentiation. “Furnishings are more contemporary in design. The international style is popular and clear low-slung looks are in. The materials are pretty sophisticated in styling. They are shimmery, more like fashion materials like you would see in clothing,” said Miller.
All of these trends show the numerous ways that designers can make a statement with regard to design, whether it’s incorporating the local design flair or just providing a consistent theme that guests will appreciate. The days of adding one piece of furniture for an accent seem to be a thing of the past. “As an interior designer, I would never use one piece of furniture to make a statement. The scales have changed,” said Champalimaud.