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Microtel taps next wave of designers

ATLANTA–– Instead of going straight to an established designer or design firm for ideas on how to redesign U.S. Franchise System’s (USFS) Microtel Inn & Suites brand, the company instead bestowed the task upon a group of students at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) here.
“We consider investing in the community extremely important and we saw partnering with SCAD-Atlanta as a very unique opportunity to do that,” said Roy E. Flora, COO of USFS. A class of eight interior design graduate students was given the task of each designing a new look for the economy hotel brand, while being challenged to stay within a budget of $7,000 for construction and all items such as carpet, furniture, paint, lighting, appliances, soft goods and beds.
In February, each student presented their design boards to a panel of eight judges including Flora; Sarah Hawker, designer, Hirsch Bedner Associates; Barbara Purvis, president, Essex Hotel Management; Lauren Bovich, managing editor, The New Look™; Mark Goldman, president, Grey Worldwide Atlanta; Teresa Griffis, assistant vp, SCAD-Atlanta; Marian Goodman, president, Hospitality Plus, LLC and Rachel Ramos, hospitality reporter, Atlanta Business Chronicle. At the conclusion of the presentations, the judges evaluated each design and whittled the group down to three finalists.
Flora noted he was extremely impressed with all of the students’ work. “The level of quality and the creativity and research that went into all of the students’ designs far exceeded my expectations,” he said. “Every design was so different and ingenious, you could see how much thought went into each one.”
Following the initial round of judging, the three finalists–– students Sabrina Kwon, Amy LaGuire and Bijal Patel–– were given the opportunity to bring their design concepts to life at the Microtel Inn & Suites on Corporate Blvd. in Atlanta. After working within a very tight schedule to get the installations completed, the judging panel reconvened in March at the Microtel property to select the winner.
Sabrina Kwon was named the winner with her design entitled “MicroLuxurious,” a sleek, contemporary look that drew inspiration from a number of sources, one being the Microtel logo, according to Kwon. “I wanted the design to be simple, but also have a ‘wow’ factor. I thought of the word ‘micro’ meaning small and wanted to convey the idea that good things come in small packages,” she said, adding she was also inspired by the Mini Cooper car as an example of something that is “tiny, but very design-focused.”
Kwon explained her design had three main goals. “I wanted something clean and efficient that incorporated circular accents drawn from the sun in Microtel’s logo.” After carefully considering how the brand’s guests might best utilize the space, she divided the room into three zones: work, play and sleep and selected a color palette in shades of brown and cream accented with orange. “I wanted a color scheme that was soothing with universal appeal, but was also exciting and conveyed a luxurious feeling,” she said.
“Sabrina’s idea of separating the room into zones was a great concept,” commented Flora. “She took the traditional room layout and flipped it so the sleeping area is where you enter the room and a dual-piece swivel desk creates a work area.” The living area of Kwon’s room incorporates the window seat, one of the hallmarks of the brand, which has previously been part of the sleeping area. “She made it luxurious and beautiful,” he said.
Kwon commented that although Microtel is an economy brand, it is still possible to achieve a look that is modern and highly styled. “The budget constraints were an opportunity for me to be creative,” she said. “Design shouldn’t be something that is exclusive, it should be inclusive.”
As winner of the design contest, Kwon, who said she plans to pursue a career in hospitality design, receives a SCAD scholarship for one semester as well as a paid internship with USFS. Flora explained that USFS plans to draw from all three of the finalists’ designs to formulate a new prototype for the Microtel brand. “We’re looking at certain components of each of the designs and are evaluating the possibility of incorporating them into a redesigned prototype. We’ve already received a lot of good feedback from owners.”
One way Microtel will be able to receive guest feedback is through the three newly designed rooms at the Microtel Inn & Suite on Corporate Blvd., which will become part of the property’s inventory. “It will be a great way to get measured feedback from our customers,” said Flora.