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Michael Suomi Explains His Personal Approach

Not many high school students get the chance to design a house in class, let alone the opportunity to have that house built a year later, but for Michael Suomi, principal and VP of design at Stonehill & Taylor, such an experience was the start of his design career.

The moment when Suomi fell in love with hospitality, however, came later, after he gained his architecture degree and designed buildings for various architecture firms. Working with an interior designer on high-end, custom-designed restaurants, bars and nightclubs introduced Suomi to his current field of work.

The designer admitted his personal style is more about process than anything: “I approach each each project as a new challenge with its own unique set of criteria,” he said. “I like to find a couple of elements about the property, location, client or history of the area and use that to craft a specific narrative. I build a design out of that.” While the designer doesn’t have a specific look that ties his projects together, Suomi does favor a few products that have made their way into different properties.

Fawoo’s Ultra-Thin LED Light Panels fall in line with “one of the things that I am currently passionate about: new technology that is simple and almost intuitive,” Suomi said. “The light panels provide a slim, uniform way to create a larger area of glowing light.” The designer noted that a computer-controlled version was used at theflagship Novotel New York Times Square. “They are used to transform the space that they’re in,” he added. An extra bonus? They’re made in North America.

Suomi, whose name means Finland in Finnish, embraces all products from the country. The iconic and perpetually modern Ball Chair by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio helps capture the designer’s heritage: “I love that chair,” he said, which was used at the Best Western Plus President Hotel at Times Square. It was custom painted with a union jack to evoke the Revolutionary War theme. “We used a couple of those chairs at the property,” Suomi said.

The designer has recently become passionate about social sustainability and buying from local manufacturers. Brooklyn-based Ray Door’s room divider systems fit the bill. Suomi loves the “simple modular system that’s intimately changeable,” and features a “gold acrylic semi-translucent panel that extends to the outside of the frame.” Ray Door’s room dividers are used in the Hyatt House Exchange Place in Jersey City, NJ, which has just begun construction.

A desk lamp with integrated touch dimming from Flos is another favorite of Suomi’s. “It’s simple, it’s adjustable and it’s beautifully designed,” he said. “I’ve always admired the design and we just used that lamp in the guestrooms at the Novotel.”

Suomi is a fan of the new “leather finish” for stone surfaces from Brooklyn-based ABC Stone. He loves the “brushed, uneven and repolished finish.” It has a semi-gloss polish and a naturally wavy surface, which follows the grain patterns of the stone.” The finish was applied to stone used in the Novotel’s lobby.

 “I’m always looking for products that are handmade or products that display the way they were made,” said Suomi, who is attracted to products that “you’re compelled to touch because you want to feel it.”