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HI Connect® Designer Spotlight - Patricia Rotondo, Chipman Design Architecture

Today we speak with Patricia Rotondo, Design Principal, Chipman Design Architecture, as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros participating in HI Connect® 2015.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
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HI Connect® Designer Spotlight: Patricia Rotondo, Chipman Design Architecture

Today we speak with Patricia Rotondo, Design Principal, Chipman Design Architecture, as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros participating in HI Connect®? 2015.

By Glenn Haussman

We’re getting ready for our BIG HI Connect®? event coming this March 25-27, 2015 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. Act Now and register to be a part of this amazing event now in its fourth year!

We’ve got dozens of built out fully constructed out vignettes created by leading hospitality designers, architects and purchasing professional. And those attending HI Connect® will get to step into their master creations, get a tour and see products in the context in which they belong; in a real hotel environment!

HI Connect®? offers attendees an incredible opportunity to view, first hand, original concepts designed by industry designers, architects and purchasing companies in collaboration with suppliers shown in context within a real environment. You’ll see guest rooms, bathrooms, 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®?2015 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.

Act now to be a part of this game changing event. For more information relating to this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect®? experience March 25-27, 2015, visit our dedicated website to learn more. Register now for this unique event setting a new standard for hospitality tradeshows. Or call 631-424-7755 x150 for an immediate response.

For today’s interview, Editor-In-Chief Glenn Haussman speaks with Patricia Rotondo, Design Pricipal, Chipman Design Architecture, who is creating an amazing boutique guest room during the three days of HI Connect®?.

Glenn Haussman: I am so excited to have you on board. But first, big news, you are recently with Chipman Design Architecture. After being in the business for 20 years, big change for you. What has that been like, and what were you thinking?

[Laughter]

Patricia Rotondo: I know, big, big, big, change.

Glenn Haussman: Yeah.

Patricia Rotondo: You know it’s like in any business you are looking to grow and expand, and what else can I do better and bigger. So I saw this opportunity, and Chipman Design Architecture has been in business since the ‘50s. And the markets are driven by retail, restaurant, and hospitality, so it was a really great, great blend.

Glenn Haussman: Well I’m glad, and it’s nice to see that you’re a principal within your area with interior; that’s really exciting. And thank you so much for committing to do HI Connect®? this year, and I can’t wait to see what you have. And you guys are gonna be focusing on creating a boutique guest room. Now that’s kind of a vague term these days, 'cause everybody’s trying to be a boutique guest room. What does the meaning boutique guest room mean to you as a design professional?

Patricia Rotondo: Well you know, Glenn, this is the year of experience. We are recreating experiences or creating something new, and it’s all about the life experience. It’s all about customizing that to the guest. And even though we have been talking about boutique for so many years, I think it has become more of a lifestyle where with the brand really it speaks of the location. And the work this year is interesting. You look at what they’re talking about, it’s all about nostalgia, introspection, emotional feeling. So I think invoking those feelings in the space is what we’re creating; we’re creating this experience.

Glenn Haussman: Okay. When you say nostalgia, I’m gonna guess that you don’t mean I’m going to walk into my boutique guest room being hanging out with a lot of ‘80s bands and I’m going to suddenly have a mullet again. [Laughter]

So what does that really mean to you in the sense of how it’s expressed through design?

Patricia Rotondo: You’re funny. It’s the emotion. It’s that feeling that you create by being in the space. It’s that connection you create with a guest through every single detail that you put in the space. It goes from the big picture or down to the little details. So it’s just creating that remember that it can remember something and bring that emotion to it, that it’s intuitive. It’s just really the position of power where you’re creating this space for the guests.

Glenn Haussman: That’s right on target, but it sounds really complicated to me, Patricia, because what you’re talking about here is figuring out a way to make that emotional connection with not just one guest but every guest. And you know my needs and your needs are different, and if I talk to 100 people, they’re probably all gonna say different things. So how do you find that right balance that will create something that appeals to people staying in that same room night after night after night?

Patricia Rotondo: Well we do a lot of investigation and a lot of research. We really go, and depending what the project is and examine the psychographic where we’re really looking at the people, what they do, how they travel, those kinds of things. Is the hotel deigned as a business hotel? Is it more of leisure hotel? How can we create different experiences for different people? So we really look at all these different facets to be able to create that experience and stay customized to what they are looking for. So it’s just creating that experience so we look at different facets of it. We do a lot of research. We look at the different, the demographics, the psychographics, how do people work and how do they travel. We’re doing a lot of work in Latin America, and the big difference between the states and Latin America is that people they travel in big groups. The families travel together. Friends travel together, so the rooms have to be a little bit different size. The bed size is different. The standard that is there is different than is here. So all these different elements that make it custom to where the hotel is and custom to the experience that we’re trying to create. So it’s a long, long list; I will bore you with it if I try to tell you every single thing that we look at. But it’s this expensive research that we do prior creating a concept even.

Glenn Haussman: So by doing all of this research and understanding what some of the cultural differences are to where you are, you are able to figure out what some of those commonalities are and then layer in additional design programming to appeal more specifically to different subsets of people. Is that kind of what you’re saying?

Patricia Rotondo: Yes, yes. You said that in a very good way. And then we add that layer, that element that is very appealing to them by the interior design, the true interior design. And it’s so important, and I do express how the specialty is so thick in different countries outside the United States as well where you are curating that experience, and it’s done by interior design.

Glenn Haussman: I think that’s really fascinating that there’s this dichotomy that you’re dealing with on an everyday basis. On one hand, we’re all the same, and then on the other hand we’re all very different, and you need to try to balance the needs of both of those kinds of sides. So that’s pretty tricky stuff. So okay, so things are changing, people are changing. I think we’re getting a little bit more focused now culturally here in the United States, and I’m gonna guess you’re gonna say the same thing in Latin America, with that wellness and that wellbeing and having a more holistic approach to life. Are you seeing a lot more of that, and if so, how is it reflecting in what you’re doing at Chipman Designer, Patricia?

Patricia Rotondo: Yeah, we’re seeing a lot of that, especially because our focus is retail, restaurant, and hospitality. The restaurant business is really, really focused on that wellbeing, farm to table, everything fresh. How can we help the customers and the clients feel that we are providing the service to them through the experience, through the design? So that’s really reflecting on how we’re approaching the actual design and how we talk about the space and experience. And it’s interesting, I was in a meeting with some of the manufacturers and the type of products that they are coming up with to respond to that is very interesting. There is, not to get off the subject, but a couple manufacturers thinking about creating a system where you can track the steps by walking, when you’re walking to your office, so many steps that you can go to your desk and how much exercise you have done through the day. So those types of things that are happening in the market with technology to create that wellbeing.

Glenn Haussman: That’s interesting, and it’s gonna be fascinating to see how that expresses itself in the hotel world. You know now that we’re down this track let me go a little bit further with it. We’re about to stumble into this new world, the internet of things, where absolutely everything seems to be connected. And health and wellness I think is really going to be driving that in the near future. I’m standing here talking to you right now. I’ve got my Fitbit thing sso now I’m tracking those steps and I’m really cognizant of that. And as we start to get more into this mindset, I think I’m gonna expect my hotel experience to cater more to that as well, so curious that you’re thinking about those things at the cutting edge here of the change of technology and design.

Patricia Rotondo: Yeah it is very interesting. We always think back of when the Americans said, “Healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and I think it’s really coming back today with the whole wealthy, wellness, balance, comfort. And in hospitality we really create that space. We are creating that very comfortable space where you can work, play and feel like your home away from home. So we’re creating all this, the purpose of this space. As we work as designers we are so responsible for creating those experiences.

Glenn Haussman: And you’ve got to amp up your game year after year, 'cause it used to be good enough just to have that clean, comfortable room, which just meant you know a bed and a nice couch, but now it’s about packing in those experiences and creating that unexpected opportunities for people to really enjoy it. Now the other thing that I’m hearing a lot about is these Millennials are like trying to change everything, and I’m not happy because that means you’re not paying attention to me.

[Laughter]

Glenn Haussman: But what is really the deal with Millennials? And I’ll say this, “Aren’t they really like the rest of us at the end of the day?”

Patricia Rotondo: I think it’s interesting that you say that because part of me thinks where do we draw the line? Where do we really go above and beyond to cater to the Millennials? And you’re right, how about the rest of us? I’m not a Millennial anymore; don’t tell anybody. But I think it’s just creating this space that are happy, healthy, and engaged. Engaged meaning how do we engage the Millennials as well as how do we engage the rest of us? But I think it’s a really fine line where kids nowadays coming out of school they expect everything and all, and there is this sense of entitlement. And I think how do we respond to that and how far can we go where we are designing the spaces to cater to just that. What happens in 20 years? What happens in five years? So I think it’s just really being responsible and engaging the niches.

Glenn Haussman: Right. It makes a lot of sense. Okay. So we’ve talked about all of this stuff, so how then is that gonna be reflected in the boutique guest room that you’re creating at HI Connect®?? Now don’t tell us too much because people have to come to the March 25th through 27th event in order to see it themselves, but give us a little tease about the type of stuff they can expect, Patricia.

Patricia Rotondo: Oh I’m so excited. We are so, so excited here at Chipman Design. We have a great team, and we have been working 24/7 with Hotel Interactive®. We came up with a concept that really embraces the wellbeing, the moment in the day where everything starts, when everything’s fresh and new, and the moment where you wanna collect your thoughts and be free to be comfortable and engaged and happy and healthy. So our overall concept really, and I’m not gonna tell you too much, makes you feel that. And we’re doing it through the design, through the composition, through the material, finishes, textures, everything that is bringing that feel to it.

Glenn Haussman: Yeah, so it sounds to me then that you’re talking about the physical and emotional, not just one of those components.

Patricia Rotondo: Well it’s physical by the site that we’re building in. It’s a design that is being implemented. It’s emotional because the design creates the space that is creating that feel. It’s creating that emotion, that feeling, something that we think we remember. And it’s that time of the day where everything is fresh and new.

Glenn Haussman: Nice. All right, one last question for you, Patricia. Why does it seem that people in South America are so much happier than us North Americans?

Patricia Rotondo: [Laughs] Do you read those articles that are coming out, what is the happiest place in Latin America?

Glenn Haussman: Okay, so living in New York I don’t seem to have that same level of happiness that I see from people in Latin America. What is their secret, Patricia?

Patricia Rotondo: [Laughs] A lot of Colombian coffee.

Glenn Haussman: Ha.

[Laughter]

Patricia Rotondo: Well it’s interesting you mention that, Glenn, because if you look at the happiest planet index, the countries on top of the index most of them are from Latin America. And Colombia happens to be one of them, and somebody was asking me the same question. And I think it’s because the culture itself brings family and friends first versus everything else, and work comes along and everything else just comes along. So the culture always looks from the inside out versus from the outside in. And doing business in Colombia now we are friends with the people that we’re working with. You become friends first. You come and you have a cup of coffee and you chit chat for an hour before you do business. So it’s one of those things that I think we just like the culture thinks about. So the culture thinks of the people and the friendships first, and then work comes along.

Glenn Haussman: Interesting. Yeah, I think that there’s something about our crazy fast-paced way of life that seems to make sense on one level, but on an entirely different level, I’m not sure that people are as happy or satisfied as they otherwise could be.

Patricia Rotondo: Yeah.

Glenn Haussman: I’m going through this whole thing where I’m wondering how great is all this technology. The promise of technology was to free us up, not to shackle us. And I feel like technology has really put us in chains, and we don’t have that same frivolity that we used to.

Patricia Rotondo: I agree. And I think it’s just us managing it, and we have to be really creative about it. I have an eight-year-old and an 11-year-old, and these kids know how to use technology better than I do. And teaching them how to manage it and not always being using it. So I think it’s just it has to be a lot of management of it. In the Latin America cultures because you have that much access to the WiFi, it’s not something that you are 24/7 on it. It’s more sporadic in a way.

Act now to be a part of this game changing event. For more information relating to this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect®? experience March 25-27, 2015, visit our dedicated website to learn more. Register now for this unique event setting a new standard for hospitality tradeshows. Or call 631-424-7755 x150 for an immediate response.

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