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Houston's Settle Inn Redefines Itself as Park Inn

Colorful redesign ushers in new era for this Carlson property.

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Scott Kauffman
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Less than a year after rebranding itself as a Park Inn property, the old Settle Inn Hotel & Conference Center in Houston has redefined itself in more ways than one. Besides the exciting new Carlson Hotels branding, Park Inn Houston North Hotel & Conference Center has shed its tired past with a fresh new look and feel.

Most noticeably, the new Park Inn Houston took on a shiny palette of primary colors. For example, in besides a newly painted hotel exterior, Park Inn repainted its airport shuttle vehicles into four colorful quadrants of blue, green, red and yellow.

As hotel interior designer Kenneth Poley puts it, Park Inn guests now being picked up at the airport will no longer mistake their shuttle ride for the ubiquitous “white van” of old. Indeed, business travelers accustomed to the former Settle Inn will be surprised to find a more youthful or “campier” look and feel of the new Park Inn hotel.

The former Settle Inn is actually one of 13 new Park Inns to open in North America since last May as part of Carlson’s Ambition 2015 growth strategy. According to Steve Mogck, executive vice president for Park Inn, the Park Inn brand is a leading mid-scale brand in Europe and the Middle East that has “great potential in North America.”

Mogck added the strong visual identity and contemporary design of the brand provide a “fresh approach to the mid-scale segment." And Park Inn Houston, decked out in its playful new color schemes, is a perfect example of how this emerging mid-range brand is positioned to attract a new set of younger leisure and business travelers.

“The Park Inn Houston has a potential to be almost a boutique-like property,” says Poley, who is a Carlson Hotels-approved designer, as well as for Hilton and Marriott. “They’re really gearing to 30-year-olds and younger. The example I give I typically if you looked at (Park Inn) parking lot you wouldn’t find a Hummer. Instead, you’d see a Volkswagen Beetle. That’s the generation they’re after.”

Poley says one of the biggest design challenges at Park Inn Houston was matching fabrics and materials to the hotel’s new specific yellow, red, blue and green color schemes.

“To find stuff that meets that specific criteria is a challenge because blues vary in shades and so do reds,” adds Poley, whose Kenneth Poley Interiors Inc., is based Odessa, Fla., near Tampa. “So this property is turning into a nice little boutique hotel.”

The makeover was part of Park Inn’s official rebranding that started about six months ago. Poley says the hotelier is currently in the second phase of its Property Improvement Plan. Conveniently located five miles from Bush Intercontinental Airport, Park Inn Houston now offers 220 recently renovated rooms, 17,000 square feet of meeting space, two outdoor heated pools, a fitness center and hotel dining.

In Poley’s eyes, the colorful new checkerboard-like shuttle vans are symbolic of the newly rebranded and redesigned hotel.

“The whole project reminds me of the concept of the vase inside a Volkswagen Beetle with a flower,” Poley points out. “It’s just a campy thing to put inside a Volkswagen Beetle but it’s appealing in some type of way. The project is kind of like that. It’s colorful; it’s fun; it’s life. It’s not serious. What (Park Inn Houston general manager Ryan Dickey) has done to the property with the limited funds he has… he’s gotten the most mileage I’ve seen in a long time from anyone.”

One area Dickey maximized was the corridors. When Poley inherited the project, he was handed “real specific big pattern corridor carpeting” that Dickey’s partners inherited when they bought the property.

“It had some olive greens and off golds and some very strange patterns to go into the (new) primary palette,” Poley recalls. “But we saved the carpet because it wasn’t on the PIP and we made the corridors work without a harsh contrast visually to bring out the best potential of the corridors.”

Poley achieved that design goal by installing proper wall covering and creating a “cohesive blend of flow, which made the area very powerful.”

By Poley’s estimates, it probably would have cost up to $40,000 to replace the carpeting. Instead, Park Inn spent $9,000 on the vinyl wall covering.

“And the thing with wall covering is you can get texture,” Poley says. “You can get dimension and you can also get modeled colors. In other words you can get gradations of color very easily and it’s preprinted in stock – already made so you don’t have to make it.”

Polley installed the wall covering from the floor to the 36-inch chair rail mark, then painted from there to the ceiling. By choosing the right colors, Park Inn was not only able to retain the original carpeting but also create some dimension and new life in the corridor with the wall covering.

“That’s a quick fix and that’s a designer’s dream because we know how to blend all that together,” Poley says. “That was probably the thing we spent the most time on and it was the cheapest thing (Park Inn) had to buy.”

Scott Kauffman
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Scott Kauffman is a leading journalist on golf course development and luxury resort and real estate development worldwide. Kauffman has 25 years of journalism experience, including full-time writing and editing positions with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, USA Today and Orlando Sentinel newspapers, and Golfweek Group magazines. Over the last 12 years, the award-winning writer has specialized in golf course real estate and resort development and been published by more than 30 regional ...
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