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HI Connect® Spotlight - Brian Thornton, Brian G Thornton Designs

Sunday, August 11, 2013
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HI Connect®®
HI Connect®
Experience a Design Revolution

Today we speak with Brian Thornton, Brian G Thornton Designs as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros that are part of HI Connect® Design 2013.

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 the podcast!

For today’s interview, Editor-In-Chief Glenn Haussman and Mark Viola speak with Brian Thornton, Brian G Thornton Designs who is creating a Boutique Bathroom during the three days of HI Connect® Design.

Glenn Haussman: Now you know Brian you’ve done a lot of great things with design. You are part of HI Connect® Design 2012, and you’re coming back this year, and you’re focusing on a boutique bathroom. This year you are doing a boutique bathroom, that’s pretty cool. What are you thinking when you’re creating a boutique bathroom, whether it be at HI Connect® Design or elsewhere?

Brian Thornton: Well I actually did a little research before I started this, and I wanted to understand what makes a boutique “boutique”. Well is it just something that’s indigenous to that town? Is it part of a brand? Or in fact it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes it’s a little bit more upscale, and what separates it from a bed and breakfast? So those were my questions, and I wanted to make sure that I was showing something that’s trendy, contemporary but absolutely memorable also. Something that you’re just not gonna see everywhere else. So that was how we started the whole vibe on this.

Glenn Haussman: You know you’ve gotta really I guess dive in there, and it sounds to me like you probably had a very rigorous research process having to go stay in a lot of boutique hotels and have those kind of experiences.


Brian Thornton: I think you’re reading my mind. I actually did – you know with all my travels last year, and earlier this year, I did get to see a couple of places and a couple of bathrooms that were memorable. And a couple of things that you don’t wanna do, and mistakes that if this were actually gonna hit the market I would definitely not do. You really have to take in fact the demographics: who’s gonna stay in these hotels? Is it business people?

Mark Viola: Right.

Brian Thornton: Is it a family traveler?

Mark Viola: Mm-hmm.

Brian Thornton: You know are they affluent? These are all the things that I considered, so I wanted to make sure that the materials and the colors, and just the shape of the space was something that people are gonna feel comfortable in.

Glenn Haussman: And that’s cool, and one of the things about HI Connect® Design is you’re not tethered to the real world in projects, and it gives you the opportunity to imagine whatever you want. So who is your core clientele that you’re shooting for?

Brian Thornton: I’m shooting for an international traveler, someone who just happens to be in this fictitious city because I can’t reveal where it is. We’re doing something really cool with our artwork.

Glenn Haussman: That to me sounds like another reason why you need to be at HI Connect® Design April 10th-12th, 2013. Go to hiconnectdesign.com for more information.

Brian Thornton: I love the way you plug that.

Glenn Haussman: Thank you.

Mark Viola: Yeah that’s Glenn for you.

Brian Thornton: This time with a boutique bathroom I want to take it just a little bit further. I had some great inspiration from all of the designers from last year. So now I kinda have a better idea of the parameters of what’s gonna make this vignette stand out? And I’m really, really excited about the things that we’re pushing. And like I said, we’re developing two BGTB products, and that’s the initials for my company.

Brian G. Thornton Designs and I’m working with some of the same people from last year so this ain’t our first rodeo. I think we’re gonna get something really good for us.

Mark Viola: Nice, yeah we’re very excited. How do you separate a boutique bathroom with a traditional bathroom? Is there anything that kinda stands out, a little different maybe?

Brian Thornton: That is actually a great question because in illustrating the differences I think it’s not just the finishes, because the finishes could go actually very residential if you’re not careful, and it could also be very mundane.

But it’s how the materials are applied. So in this instance we’re running the floor material up the wall. We know that there’s going to be a wet area –

So we’re separating the wet area and isolating it, and doing some things there that will actually make it less residential but not quite luxury. So it’s not gonna be luxurious in size, we’re really trying to illustrate it that this could happen in a very small property but it’s also very interesting in the lighting, the texture, the finishes and we’re doing something very, very special with the color that most people would never expect.

Mark Viola: That’s what I love though.

Glenn Haussman: I don’t want everyone listening to think that you’re only a bathroom guy. You do a lot of other stuff, especially around here in Las Vegas, and one of your projects that just opened is a new steakhouse going on at the Stratosphere, right?

Brian Thornton: Yeah, McCall’s Heartland Grill in the base of the Stratosphere just off the casino.

It was actually a good stretch for me because I was involved in everything; celebrity chef Rick Giffin called me when he was developing the food. So we started from the very beginning designing the restaurant around the food that he was creating.

Glenn Haussman: Oh that’s pretty interesting. So let’s talk about that for a minute. How’d those things come together? So it’s a traditional steakhouse in a lot of ways, but I understand there’s a different kind of lunch time menu as well?

Brian Thornton: Yeah, everything that you’re gonna find on the menu has his signature touch. And he’s such a talented chef. We were invited in to taste his food probably a year before the restaurant opened.

Mark Viola: Wow.

Glenn Haussman: Wow, I guess that makes sense.

Brian Thornton: So he had two concepts, and they were trying to fit it in a niche within the Stratosphere clientele. So either it was gonna be more coastal with a heavy on the seafood and maybe tropical flavors, or it was gonna be more heartland, middle of America generic steakhouse as a starting point. And after we tested the two menu items, or the two types of menus, they started leaning towards more heartland, Middle America. We took it from there, and then that was my cue to start looking at the architecture. I knew I wanted it to be contemporary, so my favorite architect is Frank Lloyd Wright. So we were thinking prairie style, Middle America so thus the horizontal lines, lots of glass, lots of stone and tile.

Glenn Haussman: Any Biltmore blocks?

Brian Thornton: No Biltmore blocks, but the stack stone fireplace was the heart of the space, and once you get to see that you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

Glenn Haussman: So it sounds like it’s a warm, inviting kind of a space that kind of is reminiscent of older times, right?

Brian Thornton: Exactly.

Brian Thornton: Colors you will find in steak like oranges, rust, reds, browns, chocolates. That was the jumping off point for the color palette.

Glenn Haussman: All right so what’s the most unusual thing that’s influenced something that you’ve done in design? Now it doesn’t have to be something that you’ve seen in design; it could be the Monopoly board. Whatever it might be.

Brian Thornton: I think in that particular space, going back to McCall’s we were halfway through construction and realized that the fireplace we wanted to use was going to run people out; it was gonna be too hot. It was a gas fireplace.

Brian Thornton: So we had the brilliant idea of using a glass artist, and taking her glass that she had created, and building a fireplace using glass shards and under lighting it and over lighting it –

Mark Viola: That’s pretty cool.

Brian Thornton: It’s 10 feet wide and about 18 inches high, so in the middle of the room if you’re not right up on it, you think it’s a flickering fireplace. And it’s a piece of art work, and it’s green design; we’re not using any fuel.

Mark Viola: Awesome, that’s amazing all the way around. I think you covered everything.

Glenn Haussman: I like that.

Mark Viola: Really good idea.

Glenn Haussman: Why don’t you ell us a little bit more about some of the things that you do, and make sure you give yourself a good hearty shameless plug.

Brian Thornton: Well it’s been a long haul. This will be my 34th year in business and I’m trained as an architect, and I followed the trends. When recessions came I reinvented myself. And so just this last time, after leaving MGM as director of design I went back out on my own, put my shingle out, there was no work. There was no work here in Vegas, so I decided I wanted to stay here but I started looking heavily more in to product design. So I developed a line of lighting with feng shui lighting, starting working with Black and Decker Stanley and developed a line of faucets, which we’re going to debut at HI Connect® Design. And following that, I’m working with Deco Lav doing bathroom furniture, high end boutique furniture. So we’re doing a signature piece. We had one last year that Disney, I understand, is very interested in using. But now we’re just gonna push it a little bit further and create one specifically for this show.

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 www.HIConnectDesign.com.

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