For Sonya Haffey, Design Is To Be Unique

“I never recycle design, and like to bring a fresh eye to interiors influenced by local inspirations and architectural elements,” said Sonya Haffey, VP of V Starr Interiors, a Florida-based design firm founded by tennis champion Venus Williams.

Sonya Haffey will be on the InspireDesign panel at Hospitality at Market.

She believes each project is different and should have a concept that makes it unique. Lighting is one way she makes her mark on projects.

“Lighting, in particular, is always such a large part of projects because it can guide guests’ focus away from their personal bubbles and up into the world around them,” said Haffey. “I like to use natural light when possible because it is the most aesthetically pleasing and wellness-focused. A lot of these things stem from a feeling of comfort, which I believe is a big piece of the puzzle when aiming for memorable design. Knowing when to apply it and when to fight it is a very important technique.”

As a creative, Haffey is logical and detail-oriented when designing for hospitality. For her, aesthetics come second only to function. She’s also thoughtful and strives to be a steward of the world around us.

“The first step in our process at V Starr Interiors is to identify the needs within a plan and elevations; then, we can add finishes that will not only enhance the guest experience, but also be pleasing to the eye for many years to come,” she said. “I also believe we all have a role in the future of the earth, so I am always factoring in sustainable practices to make educated decisions that have less impact on the global environment.”

The fourth annual Hospitality at Market program during Fall Market will be held Oct. 20-21. InspireDesign is the exclusive media partner.

As a panelist on the InspireDesign panel at Hospitality at Market, “The Intersection of Residential and Hospitality Design,” Haffey sees opportunities for this trend to thrive outside of the hotel industry.

“Multifamily projects are becoming more concierge-centric and hospitality-like in their amenities, including package lockers, dry-cleaning options, cooler lockers for grocery delivery, gyms that require more specialized equipment for digital or physical group exercise classes, options for cleaning, valet services and even customizable spa-like experiences,” she said.

“Beyond market-rate to luxury rental residential projects, condo options, such as those at Niido Powered by Airbnb, create a rental experience that caters to the type of guest looking for longer-term stays. A Niido project we worked on in Orlando has a very interesting concept that capitalizes on the fact that hospitality projects are becoming more ‘home-like,’ boutique and casual,” she said.

Haffey believes the same thing can be said for hospitality becoming more residential. “At a recent stay in the new Moxy hotel in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, I noticed even more specialized amenities, such as a phone that can play bedtime stories, a high-tech bottle opener and a self check-in on the ground floor,” she said. “The ability to go directly to my room with my digital key definitely made it feel more like home than a hotel: the same can be done with the checkout process for a fully automatic and private experience. Of course, you can still find the old norm in both sectors, but there is a major push on all of our recent projects in both hospitality and multifamily to include elements from each other.”

So, what excites Haffey about design? With inspiration at every turn, it can be a tough question to answer. “That always feels like a never-ending question! The world is constantly changing, and at a such a rapid rate now that it seems every minute there’s a new product or way to save energy, recycle, or be cleaner and more renewable,” she said.

A forward-thinker, Haffey pointed back to her stewardship of the earth. “If I had to choose, improving sustainability would be the most exciting thing,” she said. “It gives me chills to think: What’s next? For example, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have not only a residence off the grid, but a hotel that still offers the expected amenities?”

The innovations of Habitas, a newer brand in the hospitality arena, also fans the flames of excitement for Haffey.

“They currently have locations around the world and are growing fast. The premise behind their hotels is ‘connecting with others,’ which I believe is truly becoming a lost art,” she said. “The facilities are luxurious, yet not overwhelming, providing all you need in a simple and accessible way. In the residential sphere, Habitas’ individual residences utilize common meeting space. They have created a new ‘neighborhood’ in hospitality, a concept that started in residential and has transformed over time due to many cities disappearing.”

What else gives Haffey a thrill? The opportunity to attend Hospitality at Market for the very first time. She’s juggling a busy fall schedule to make time to participate in this exceptional event this year.

“I have been hearing so much the last two years about High Point Market by various licensing agents that it made me curious, and once I had the opportunity, I jumped at it,” she said. “I am looking forward to taking some notes, walking around a bit and giving you a report once I return.”

…and more!

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