We’re getting ready for our BIG event HI Connect Design coming this April 10-12, 2013 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN and it promises to be the most exciting event ever to hit the hospitality industry.
We’ve got dozens of built out fully constructed out vignettes created by the vision of leading hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros. And those in attendance will get to step into their master creations, get a tour and see products in the content in which they belong; in a real hotel environment!
HI Connect Design offers attendees an incredible opportunity to view, first hand, original concepts designed by industry designers and purchasing companies in collaboration with suppliers shown in context within a real environment of a guest room, bathroom, and public spaces such as Bar/Lounge, Spa/Fitness to name a few. This is a truly the most collaborative effort ever at any hospitality event.
As part of our countdown to HI Connect 2013 we’re interviewing the people that are bringing their creative vision to life. Read the story below, or for a more fully in-depth interview listen to their story below.
For today’s interview, Editor-In-Chief Glenn Haussman speaks with Michelle Meredith of Michelle Meredith and Associates who is creating a Luxury Guestroom during the three days of HI Connect Design.
Glenn Haussman: So, how long have you been designing in the hospitality sphere?
Michelle Meredith: Oh, in the hospitality sphere I would say, I’m just going to say 25 plus years. Okay. So that’s awhile. But I’ve had my own design studio for about 12.
Glenn Haussman: Oh wow! That’s really terrific! So you probably – you’ve been doing this for awhile now. When did you first realize that you want to be a designer? How does something like that work?
Were you like four years old and all of a sudden it just clicked? Because I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do.
Michelle Meredith: Okay. No. I had had a definite short story for you here. I was working at Walt Disney Studios and they sent me to UCLA at night to take some classes in graphic design. And I took a class from the main instructor there on how to design, or the design of the paperclip. And how many – who thought of that? How many ways can the paperclip be used? And I was like, “Oh my gosh! That is so cool!”
And so she was head of the Interior Design Department and so I started taking classes.
Glenn Haussman: Oh, that’s pretty cool so that leads me to a natural question. How many ways can you design a paperclip?
Michelle Meredith: [Chuckle] Well, how many uses for a paperclip? There are billions of uses.
Glenn Haussman: That is true. So my question then is, “Why did they call it a paperclip?” because you’re clipping a lot more than just paper. These are the types of things that we like to get to the bottom of on Hotel Interactive Radio there. You know, Michelle!
So you find your vision. You realize that you’ve gotta go ahead and you’ve gotta do design because it’s fun. It’s intriguing. I guess you’re saying it’s almost like a puzzle that you have to put together?
Michelle Meredith: Well, it’s – yeah, it is intriguing but it opens up just a world of – I mean the whole world changes. I mean it’s the way you look at the world and everything – everything in the world becomes a design inspiration. So it becomes whatever you want it to be. So it’s the most exciting – it’s the most exciting possible career you could have.
Glenn Haussman: That’s pretty cool. I love that you’re so into it. So you talk about getting inspiration. So I want to get to where you get inspiration, but for HI Connect Design you’re going to be doing a luxury guest room. So you probably play in that space a lot. So what are some of the trends that you see these days in luxury hotel design?
Michelle Meredith: Well, luxury – I think luxury – that is where our expertise lies. And I think luxury has a lot to do with quality as well as luxury, but it’s an experience of feeling. And just in design today, I think that the direction is making things very – well, of course, high tech, but also multi-functional. But just creating an experience that you’re never going to forget, and the feeling that you take away from staying in a room like that or dining in a restaurant – you carry with you forever.
Glenn Haussman: So how does design play into creating that perfect experience? because I go to a lot of really great hotels that are – technically have great design but I don’t necessarily walk away feeling like I have that experience. So how can you pull it all together with a visual aesthetic?
Michelle Meredith: Well, that’s a really good question and that is a multitude of disciplines that come into that. I mean it’s not just one person’s – in my opinion, it’s just not one person’s vision. It’s the entire team. And it starts from the very moment of coming up with a concept and then just paying attention to the details because I think the details – the details can either make or break a project.
And it’s just bringing all of those things together and in line. And just paying attention to how people are going to use the space. The lighting is integral – integral to creating the feeling of enjoying the space.
Glenn Haussman: Well, I love that you’re saying you actually consider how people are going to use the space because I feel like I’ve been in way too many hotels where there is a sharp disconnect from that. Take the desk chair and the desk, for example.
I feel like in a lot of cases designers never bother to put a chair and a desk together to see if they’re actually compatible. I’m an average sized guy, I’m 5-10 yet a lot of places I’m at I gotta put 3, 4, 5, 20 pillows under me in order to reach that really high desk because they put in little tiny chairs.
So thank you for making sure that doesn’t happen to me in my hotel stay!
Michelle Meredith: Well, actually, that’s pretty elementary.
Glenn Haussman: I know!
Michelle Meredith: So whatever chair you were sitting in must have been designed by an intern.
Glenn Haussman: Yeah. [Chuckle] I gotta stop staying at those cheap hotels. I gotta stay at some more luxury places that you design. So, all right, Michelle, I want to know what project have you worked on recently that you’re absolutely gaga for, and why?
Michelle Meredith: Well, the last project that we installed earlier this year is the Sheraton North Dallas which we worked with Starwood on. But the developer and owner is HEI Hotels and Resorts. And that project – it was a renovation. It was just the most incredibly – just ugly, awful hotel. I mean the design of it – I mean it was fine for what it was back in the ‘80s.
But we completely transformed it, and it’s just getting great reviews, and we used a lot of inspiration from nature in Texas. But it’s very modern and fresh and just a very unique use of space and materials and just a vision.
Glenn Haussman: So you say you’re focusing on nature. So how do you bring the elements of the outside indoors?
Michelle Meredith: Well, in Texas it’s pretty easy because we’ve got such beautiful landscape and materials to work with. And so you really basically let the materials speak for themselves. And you have respect for the materials that you’re using, so you don’t try to make them what they’re not.
You actually let them be what they are and then you, as a designer, place those and integrate them into the space and make sure that you have a lot of light and that, of course, your exterior landscaping is placed well and relates to the colorations that you have on the inside as well.
Glenn Haussman: Are you finding, with this project in general, that when you’re brought in to do an overall kind of look at a property that you’re focusing more – not on just combining it – bringing the inside – the outside to the inside, but making sure that there are spaces outside that people can continue their experience outdoors, right?
Michelle Meredith: Oh, definitely. I mean it depends on the project and the scope and the program. But ideally, we have a project coming up that is actually going to be doing a lot more of that. It’s Brook Hollow Country Club here in Dallas, which is one of the oldest country clubs in town. And we’ve got a lot of outdoor venues that the club will be using just as much as the inside. In fact, the outer venue square footage is much larger than the interior venues. So it’s just – it’s awesome.
Glenn Haussman: That’s pretty cool. And I really see a big movement in the hospitality realm that we’re seeing a lot more of that touch on the natural environments as you said, especially creating exciting outdoor spaces.
So for that Sheraton project, where do you seek your inspiration from, and how do you balance the needs between, I guess, HEI that hired you and the Sheraton standards and their ethos?
Michelle Meredith: Well, it’s interesting that you ask that question because we walked a really tight rope on that one. We presented our concept to the owner before we presented it to Starwood. And so it was a little bit of a more – I would say regional design, which Starwood, with their Sheratons, are going for a little bit of another venue.
And – but we worked very diligently with Starwood to combine the Texas modernness feel that we did for the project, which the owner absolutely loved and was totally behind us on. And so we worked very strategically with Starwood to get many of the elements that they wanted into the project.
And when Christopher Wheeler came down and looked at it, I mean, he was just blown away. He loved it.
Glenn Haussman: How has the incredible increase in technology changed what you do in terms of creating environments? Not necessarily using technology to create those environments, but using the technology in the final product?
Michelle Meredith: Well, it definitely has an impact. I mean – and you need to – I think that you have to incorporate the technology into your design so that it’s seamless and doesn’t stand out. I mean you want the technology to be there, but you want it to be subtle and not what is noticed, but what is just part of the design.
Glenn Haussman: Yeah. and one of the things that I’d like to say to some designers out there is don’t make the technology too subtle when it comes to helping me find those plugs because a lot of times I still – I can’t find them and I just assume that they’re not there.
Michelle Meredith: Exactly. Exactly and yeah, we definitely – in that regard we definitely don’t disguise them too much. I mean we try to make them – make sure that they’re very user friendly.
If you are interested in participating in this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect Design™, coming this April 10-12, 2013, please contact us immediately at (631) 424-7755 x150. You may also go to our website for more information and to see the photo gallery of HI Connect Design™ 2012, please visit us at HIConnectDesign.com.