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HI Connect® Designer Spotlight - 1213id

Today we speak with the principals of 1213id as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros participating in HI Connect® 2015.

Monday, March 16, 2015
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HI Connect®®
HI Connect®
Experience a Design Revolution

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 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 1213id principals Marty Vorko and Alan Russell who are creating a Luxury Guestroom during the three days of HI Connect®.

Glenn Haussman: I really loved what you did last year. I saw a sense that you guys innovated, you brought things to the table and this year you guys are going to be doing a luxury guest room. And that to me, it seems glamorous but it also seems pretty tough because that luxury consumer has expectations that maybe aren't from consumers in other parts of the market. What do you see when it comes to the typical luxury consumer these days?

Marty Vorko: Definitely, we see like obviously the trends are looking for the technology. They're looking for the ease of all the comforts are taken care of when you're in the room so that they don't even have to think. They get to the room and everything is taken care of. And it's definitely the linens, the type of fabrics, the carpeting all have to be the highest quality.

Glenn Haussman: Right. So it's not just an issue of having stuff it's making sure that all the stuff in there is top of the line type of product?

Marty Vorko: That's correct. Yeah, and for example, we're incorporating this year a vendor that we had met at the Dubai Hotel Show and so we're doing a lot of technology in the room. Where you have basically they're doing a whole a room control system. And so within there you can from your iPad, your own iPad or the iPad that they have in the room you can control the drapes, all the lighting, you can control the temperature and so forth, so you make the ease and comfort but being very luxurious.

Glenn Haussman: I really like that idea especially if it's your iPad 'cause I've seen some earlier systems that seemed a little bit more confusing, but I have a feeling if it's an app through your iPad it's a lot more intuitive would that be right, guys?

Marty Vorko: Yes. I mean one of the things that this vendor versus some of the other ones that I've seen out there is they made the icons like that when you go to control the temperature or you control a light it's very user friendly. You know, obviously, you don't want to put technology in there and it takes you 20 minutes to figure out how to turn on the lights. So they've made everything seem very seamless so that the customer can really not think twice about it and get it done and make it really easy for the customer.

Glenn Haussman: I think that's really important, Marty, because when you're talking about incorporating these type of things into the room I think you've nailed it. You don't want to have to read an instruction manual to have a luxury experience. Heck, I don't want to do it at the mid-scale or economy level either. It has to be something that's intuitive and smartly thought out.

So how are they able to achieve that?

Marty Vorko: The biggest thing is the room integrations. They're able to; you know we basically have an icon that has a picture of the drapes so you know that's for the drapes. It's easy to push the button and the drapes open slowly or they can stop at any point. They basically, you know everything is just it's all run through Ethernet to these controls so it's very, you know all the voltage and everything is taken care of.

As well as our designs are kind of pushing us into the some of the mid-scale and the select service markets, and we are trying to actually introduce them into those markets as well. And take the luxury even down into those brands in maybe a simpler model of the room control system but still bring some of that with it. So you can still have the user experience and bring some of that luxury down to those brands as well.

Glenn Haussman: Yeah. And what I really think would be a luxurious touch is if the systems get to know who you are. So if I'm a frequent guest at XYZ luxury hotel chain it will know that I always want my room at 72 degrees. And it will just, you know, I'll be able to have all of that stuff preset. Or I like my drapes to open at 7:00 AM every day that's the kind of stuff that I think is really adds that luxurious factor to me. Because it's not really just about those furnishings and finishing's that you're saying but it's really about an entire holistic experience, isn't that right?

Marty Vorko: That's correct. And it's funny you mention those because that's one of the things that they offer is you can have an evening mode where before you get to the rooms that it's already pulled the drapes. It's setting the lights down to a certain level; you know from zero to ten maybe turn the lights down to three. Maybe it turns on the reading light and so before you enter the room that's already done for you.

Glenn Haussman: That's pretty awesome. I love that. So tell me a little bit about what you're seeing in the luxury level of the market because it is at the top end, but the top end seems to be almost limitless in how luxurious it could be, right?

Allan Russell: Well, I mean I just got back from a trip from Middle East and one of the greatest properties that I've seen in a long time. And basically, it's a property, a beach resort that everything that you see, everything you experience is absolutely flawless and seamless. From your arrival, you're able to get to the property very easily. There is venues to look at. There is things to do, things to see, but still very, very seamless. And literally, when you're walking through the spaces you can kind of create what you want it to be. You can find very quiet, intimate spaces you can find active spaces.

At one point, I walked into the spa area to see what it was all about and talk about a very special space. You know instead of having a gym area literally it's like little cubbies. There were hooks on the walls. There's floating, your equipment is sitting out in these areas opposed to a big open room. And you've got people coming and going almost seamless. You don't see the people, you don't hear the people, but it's just a nice experience and a very different experience most people had been seeing.

Glenn Haussman: Yeah, it sounds like luxury in general is changing.

Allan Russell: Well, definitely it seems that way and the more special treatment that you can give people the better especially in the five-star market and five-star plus. As many new amenities, any basically taking and looking at the design situations and basically putting a different twist on it just like I said with this spa it's just kind of something that people have not been seeing so everybody's kind of loving his new kind of treatment and new approach to most every design that we're seeing now.

Glenn Haussman: Hmm, that's pretty wild stuff. Now, all right, so we've talked about a little bit how luxury is changing but one of the things that you guys do is you are doing a lot of work overseas particularly in the Middle East and you have been for quite some time. So you're dealing in a sense with somewhat different audience than like the Las Vegas market, for example. You've got a lot of issues that you need to deal with. How do you create a luxury experience that caters to different cultural nuances throughout the world? I mean to appeal towards a Muslim traveler might be very different than appealing to a secular American traveler, right?

Marty Vorko: Sure. Definitely. We're growing actually pretty rapidly in the Middle East. Allan is like our Middle East arm. So he'd been going there for a number of years and so it's given us the experience, the culture and what they look for. But like for example, as you mentioned, you definitely have to keep in mind of the religion and also that their idea of sort of be luxury may still be a little bit on the traditional classical side but we introduce as much modern elements as we can by pushing the envelope with them.

Glenn Haussman: Right. So it's almost kind of like an old school verse new school type of thing. You've got to kind of create something that bridges the gap between traditional design and where you believe it should be going.

Marty Vorko: Exactly. For example, we're doing a new project in Doha where that was the owner said I just want the traditional classic look and sent us pictures of what he wanted. Where we feel that like if we put that in there, it would be dated by the time the property opened. So we did a presentation where we took some of those items and we just modernized them made them much more, you know, pushing the envelope. Because most of the buildings that are going up are these beautiful skyscrapers and very modern but still they want that traditional feel when they walk through so you kind of have to push them a little bit to kind of blend the envelope and have the traditional with the modern flair.

Glenn Haussman: Right. And I would think that that's what people want too because isn't that really mirroring a lot of how some of those Middle East societies are going? They've kind of got one foot in the pasts and one foot kind of in the future at the same time?

Marty Vorko: Oh, definitely. I mean you still have to plan for the traditional, the culture, and how those things go on. You always have a prayer room and within the hotel, you still have some traditional things that go on. We're still building spas where you still have completely separate men and women's areas. And also even like events kind of occur sometimes like the weddings in Kuwait.

We're doing a humongous addition of a hotel there where the ___ ballroom function area but traditional Kuwaiti terms is they have separate men and women's weddings. And then they only come together for about 15 minute where they're together and then they go back and they still have separate parties, you know it's still very traditional. So you kind of have to plan the design around that where these events are going to occur.

Glenn Haussman: How do you learn about these types of things to make sure that when you're in the design process you create something that's wholly appropriate for the client base that will be coming to that property?

Marty Vorko: Sure. That's probably one of the things that we do best is we dive into the culture. We learn all about the area. We go and immerse ourselves in like wherever that property is that's going to be built. We try to learn like all the cultures within there and what works. We see what the competition is. What kind of local art there is. What kind of local restaurants and food. You know, that we're not swapping in this very modern hotel in a traditional neighborhood or vice versa where it wouldn't work.

So you definitely have to take into account so if you go do a presentation to them that they understand that we've take the time That we understand the culture, we understand the needs of the client, and so the responses that we get is we're not trying to go in there blindsided.

For example, we have a client that just mentioned recently that we were bidding for a project with him and he gave us to this other group so we're doing some other work with him. And every time we come back and see him, he says he wished he would have chosen us because this firm that he went with he believed in the principles that were like us. But then when they got to do the work they sort of turned over to the intern who really are missing the beat and aren't spending a lot of the time going in and immersing themselves like we do and getting to know the customer.

And so I think it comes back and it definitely will hurt you if you don't do that.

Glenn Haussman: Right. I have the same problem in my end of the business there's a lot of PR professional's, I prefer to deal with principles because they have these young people at the front lines that don't seem to take the time to want to understand what I do and then speak my language. So I could see how that would be a problem for a hotel lower if they're using a design team that doesn't speak his language in return.

Marty Vorko: Exactly.

Glenn Haussman: Interesting. Okay. So then, my next question to you is I found it very interesting I was talking to some folks from Hilton last month and as they're expanding their offerings in the Middle East, they're investigating things like even an all female floors. Which would be different than the concept here in the United States in the sense that these women could actually just be themselves. They don't have to wear burkas and they could interact in a more organic and private kind of a way. Are you seeing that at the luxury level in the markets that you're dealing with?

Marty Vorko: We do see it in some instances, definitely in the spa areas you'll have like, for example, we have a spa and then they'll have like a yoga room and different various facilities within there where the women only want to get their side. Plus they have talked about a women and men's floor. You definitely have in a couple of hotels we're doing there in Kuwait we have executive levels and they tend to be at that executive level it's all male on there and then below they have the women's floor and then there's staff at the floor below that.

And then some of them they just see, you know where we have like a whole public pool area and everything they've decided that like Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are women's days and the alternate days are men's days to use some of the facilities within the hotel as well.

Glenn Haussman: That's very interesting to see how all of these shifts are affecting the way that you do business overseas.

All right, so taking it back here to the United States, March 25-27, Nashville, Tennessee, HI Connect®® what has the process been like for you guys in developing something that's going to wow the attendees that come this year?

Marty Vorko: Definitely, I mean this is sort of our third year in the running. The first year we really just walked the event and we got a good feel for everything about it. Last year, obviously, we were full participants in it. We learned a lot. We learned how everything and what you had to do to go through in setting up. And you know it's a long design process. We started two weeks after the event.

But definitely by June we kind of had our design in place and what we needed to do. And so you definitely have to think far enough in advance and also think – you also have to wow everyone so that, you know you could just have a room where you walk by a lot of rooms and some of those have been acting like oh, it's another guest. So you have to think on the aspects of okay, what's going to draw them? You know whether it's the technology or the fabric or the wow factor you're definitely thinking in those as you're going to present there because you only have that five minutes with an executor that could walk through the event.

Glenn Haussman: Right. Okay, so let's take it back full circle to where we started this conversation with technology. How do you design a room that's wow in technology to get that pull that they'll want to come in there, 'cause we were talking about things that are not necessarily visible.

Marty Vorko: Sure. I think in our room like what we're doing is we've found this company so that there is seven little informational pads in the room itself. Starting from the door panel on the outside that there will be a display that allows when a customer is out of the room or in the room or needing service or doesn't want to be disturbed. And from the moment they get in there, they can see the panel on the left that they can operate every light in the room or the drapes or setting the temperature when they come in. I think they'll get a feel of the technology instantaneously by seeing those panels when they go into the room.

Glenn Haussman: Excellent. Awesome. Anything else that you guys want to add about this?

Marty Vorko: Definitely, I think one of our biggest things that we enjoyed about the show is that 2014 was an excellent show for us. It gave us the opportunity to attend all the seminars that you lead as well as basically showing our vignette. And in the end, it gave us a lot of interaction with professionals that are in the industry, a lot of great resources that came out of it that we are using on projects. And probably the biggest thing, we ended up with three projects from the event. Just from the high connective end itself, we were very lucky and fortunate that we were able to get three projects directly because of attending this event.

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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