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HI Connect® Designer Spotlight - Donna Watson-Rossmore, DWR Design

Today we speak with Donna Watson-Rossmore, DWR Design, as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros participating in HI Connect® Design 2014.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014
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HI Connect®®
HI Connect®
Experience a Design Revolution

We’re getting ready for our BIG event HI Connect® Design coming this April 2-4, 2014 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN. Act Now and register to be a part of this amazing event.

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® 2014 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.

Act now to be a part of this game changing event. For more information relating to this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect® Design, this April 2-4, 2014 visit HI Connect® Design to learn more and register for this unique event that sets the new standard in hospitality tradeshows.

For today’s interview, Editor-In-Chief Glenn Haussman speaks with Donna Watson-Rossmore, DWR Design who is creating a luxury bathroom during the three days of HI Connect® Design.

Glenn: You know, we’re down in Orlando, your hometown and this is a place of design, let me tell you. What’s it like living in Orlando?

Donna: It’s great. The opportunity and the surrounding areas with all of the guest experiences that can take part in the units, the lobbies, the public spaces, the experience is just overwhelming with the opportunity.

Glenn: Yeah, I agree. It is super down here. And I really feel like Orlando and Las Vegas are two of the markets that have kind of pushed forward the design dialogue that we’re seeing now in the industry. How do you feel about the state of hospitality design these days?

Donna: I think it’s making a turn to a little bit more of a personalized service, a little bit more of the guest experience. And focusing more on the ease of technology and not cluttering up technology where it’s too hard for the guest to experience. And the personalized service and knowing what the guests want on their experience without asking and being able to do that research for the guest prior to them arriving.

Glenn: That’s kind of tricky and that kind of changes up what you do because traditional design is just about the look and feel of creating the experience. But when you start talking about technology, you’re getting into enabling the experience and that’s a little bit different than what you’re used to, yes?

Donna: Well, it is and you have to be able to maintain that experience and that level of technology in the rooms. And you need to be able to place it so that it’s easier to find and easier to work with. So there’s different ways of doing that in all spaces of the room.

Glenn: Yeah, let’s start with some simple technology. The remote control for the television, can we please find a common place to put it in every single room, people? It can’t be that hard. I’m going to call for a big summit with the big brands. They’re going to two things for me. They’re going to get together, they’re going to be able to find one location to put the remotes, either next to the bed or under the TV or wherever it’s going to be. Please keep it consistent. And then work on the switches on the lights in the room. Can’t we just have lamps that are always in the same place? And if you have four different lamps, just keep them. Don’t have four different places to turn on the light switches. What say you, Donna?

Donna: Well, I think very good points. And I think even in our own homes the remote gets lost. I think that in the age of technology, the remotes probably will go away. There will be televisions and monitors that you can actually talk to and tell the monitor just like we can do in our own homes now. As far as the lighting controls, there are simple controls that you can hit right when you walk in the door without having to hit every lamp.

But I think laying in bed, sitting on the sofa, you’re going to want to plug in, you want to connect so to keep them all in the same location on those fixtures, those lamps, they’re not even being put in the nightstands and in the case goods themselves. So there is no movement of those type things so they do sort of stick in those same places.

Glenn: So you have to think then when you’re doing design, how you’re going to incorporate technology in a friendly, intuitive way without taking away from the overall look and feel of the room.

Donna: Oh, absolutely. You don’t want to walk in to a unit as if you’re in a space age type odyssey. You want to still be able to maintain that comfort. But you need to have that communication level close by so there aren’t wires draped across the room and everyone trying to find a plug in. So it is an opportunity to disguise those, but yet they still need to be visible for everyone.

Glenn: Which is tough because I’ve been into hotels where they’re been really good at disguising that stuff, so good that I just assumed that there was no actual outlets in the room, until you push a secret code on the desk and it opens up. Then you get that. That’s kind of confusing to the desk. So it must be really tricky for you to try to find that particular balance of enabling people to do what they want to do in the room, while still satisfying your overarching goals for the design.

Donna: Well, you do and here in Orlando, there’s not a lot of time spent in rooms so you need to make it easy and accessible for them and not hard to find. And more of the urban areas where there is a lot of business travelers that do spend more time in their room, I think there’s a different level of technology that’s going to be used in those.

Glenn: So what are some of the things that you think about that are going to empower business travelers to be more successful in their hotel experience?

Donna: A lot of the research that I’ve done is the personalized service is being able to present certain levels of experiences without having to ask for the obvious things. Being able to simplify some of the amenities that they have in the hotels, the spas. I think the spas have gotten too controlled by machines and just a vast amount of experiences.

They need to tone that down to the basic experiences again. I think everyone’s sort of tired of being able to pick from a menu of services that’s three pages long. So it would be much easier if it was something that was simple. The restaurants are the same way. They want to be able to get the community involved in the restaurants in the hotels so that you will go to a hotel to eat and not stay. But the local people will come and dine as their favorite restaurant.

Glenn: That’s so critical. And I think you’re absolutely right, Donna. You’ve gotta have focus, really strong focus on what you want to present and do those things the best way because you think you’re doing your customers a favor by having those three pages of menu items or types of massages, but for us normal people, it’s a little too much for our brains to process. I think that we can only handle a limited amount of choices. In fact, I’ve read a couple of interesting books on that whole theory on its own. So you want to give people just enough to choose from so they feel like they have a wide selection without making it too confusing, right?

Donna: Absolutely.

Glenn: Yeah, so that’s one important trick, okay. So we’re talking about technology. We’re talking about enabling guest experiences. So what to you then would symbolize, in a perfect world, that perfect guest experience enabled by technology for you?

Donna: I believe, well if we’re in a hotel, I believe probably the comfort of the room, being able to control the cool or the warmness of the room, being able to control the lighting. Lighting is huge in this day and age with the hotels because there’s not enough lighting in hotels. So being able to control each area that you experience of the lighting, I think. And then as you go into the bathrooms, there is a little bit more technology in there. Hotels, in some of the research I’ve found, some of the hotels are going to feature two bathrooms so that there is a bathroom, if you’re traveling as a couple, there’s two bathrooms in that hotel.

Glenn: And that’s the secret to a happy marriage, by the way, separate bathrooms.

Donna: Totally agree with that. So there’s two experiences then in the hotel room. And yes, it probably demands a larger room, but in that comfort and sort of pleasure of that room to say, to have two bathrooms, I think is something that in the upcoming future will definitely be a part of that [talks over].

Glenn: I think you’re straight on. I would love to have that in a hotel experience. I do like how a lot of luxury hotels for example, have separated the toilet space from other areas of the bathroom as well, so there’s a sense of privacy and more efficiency with being able to use that space. But two bathrooms, now that we have as a luxury. I like that. What I think I’d like to see, Donna, in hotels is hotels that know you and your personality that can be controlled through an app in your phone.

Donna: Absolutely.

Glenn: So I think that the way I see the future developing now, it’s funny, ‘cause the future is not like The Jetson's presented to us. It’s all stuff in the palm of our hand as opposed to flying cars and living in pedestal houses two miles up in the air, right? So I would like for XYZ Hotel Company that I’m a member of, to know what my personality preferences are. It’s great now that they ask me the pillows, but wouldn’t it be nice if they knew the setting of the lighting? They knew the temperature of the room that I preferred.

They knew my favorite TV stations and they were able to incorporate that all into an app. So they would know where I am. When I’m able to arrive I can make changes to it just in there. Then I walk into my room and I only see the four or five TV stations I watch on my television at home, if I ever get a chance to watch it, as opposed to me having to shift, shuffle through Lifetime one through 80 before I finally get to the Discovery channel, right?

Donna: Right, right, yeah.

Glenn: So I love that whole concept. Have you seen anyone trying to play with ideas like that?

Donna: I think they’re probably testing that, but you have to realize that the majority of the public has a phone, Android, that can program and do those. But then there is a generation who doesn’t carry around that type of phone and won’t understand that. So I think there still has to be the personalized, one-on-one service, as well as for those who want to travel with the apps and have that availability, that they can do that, too.

Glenn: What I really love is that the industry now is I think finally starting to get to the point of all of this data, you know big data as we call it, it’s a collective. They’re starting to figure out how to use it and actually turn it into unique experiences.

Donna: Right, so it’s not so structured as it used to be, where you would come into a hotel and you would check in, you’d take your baggage and you’d go to your room. There a whole ‘nother way of doing that. There’s not going to be the big desk, the big check-in counter desk that you normally are used to. There’s going to be handheld devices that walk around the lobby and work with the guests that way, rather than having to have everyone stand in a cue, in a line. So I think that initial greeting, I think is going to carry on through the rest of the property and the resource.

Glenn: I really like that and I love that the hotel industry is at the point now where we’re breaking down those barriers between the guest and the customer. Both the emotional barriers and the physical barriers, by getting rid of certain things like that front desk. Alright so, I’m curious though, Donna, when you’re thinking about projects and stuff like that, what kind of inspiration do you find out there in the world?

Donna: Well, interesting question because I know you had posed those prior to this interview and I think what inspires me are the experts that are around. And there’s experts everywhere. There’s experts in housekeeping, maintenance, gardeners, contractors. And they are experts in doing what they’re doing and they do it well. And they provide that level of service that I think we try to provide as designers as well.

There’s an expectation that the guest wants to see and wants to do a variety of things. So we have to cater to all that. So I’m inspired by those who are proud in what they do and they sort of show that. And once you do that it makes experience a little bit better. And the fixtures and colors and furniture in the room just add onto that but that in itself is a great experience ‘cause you want to walk into the room and have something that you don’t have at home. That old saying, you know, when you travel, you want to experience things that you don’t have at home.

Glenn: You’re helping deliver those things, the hotel experiences. So what about any hotels out there that have inspired you lately that you thought were pretty cool?

Donna: There’s two. One that I recently experienced in New York, which is The Refinery. It gained a whole lot of awards, but I think the mixture of the rustic with the metals and then the warmth of the rooms. And I think just the way they appointed the rooms in different, each area in the room, you sort of opened a cabinet and had something unique and different stored in there. It was just an interesting way to treat a very small hotel bay. And then on the other side of the world, in Fiji, there’s a resort called Our Lucaya.

And it is an experience. It’s an island but they have changed that island and it becomes this resort. It’s not even a resort. It’s a retreat island that’s right nestled on the waters. And everything there is appointed by natural and rustic and stone and glass and fire. So it’s a whole different experience from the urban setting of the hotels in New York. And the one in the islands is the one that I gained my inspiration for the vignette for the HI Connect®.

Glenn: So glad you brought up HI Connect® because you know I wasn’t going to do that at all during this interview. Of course, we have HI Connect®. As I said at the top of the show, coming April 2 through 4 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in our own 100,00 square foot design studio. It’s going to be absolutely amazing and that’s at HIConnectDesign.com. And at the event, Donna of DWR Design is going to be showcasing a luxury bathroom that she is working on. So you’re trying to make it a little bit more [islandy?] is that what I understand?

Donna: Right. It’s meant to be a luxury retreat, sort of set on the sands and the waters of the Hawaiian Islands, the Pacific, in those areas. And a mixture of all the elements of the nature, the water, the fire, the ice, the glass, the stone, those type of things. And being able to incorporate that into a warm and relaxing environment. There will be a lot of contrast in finishes and contrast in color, but yet there’s some warmth. And the visuals, the fire and the wood and the stone, I think is going to just sort of take you into that relaxation and the ideas that you can open the doors and look out into the waters and the boulders from the ocean, so.

Glenn: That’ll sound nice. Is there any particular things that you want to share about the room without giving it too away? I think you’ve laid out the concept pretty decent there. I’m going to say that they just better come to the event and check it out. How’s the experience been so far putting this room together?

Donna: It’s been very fun. I think a lot of the vendors that I have participating in the space, they’re very excited. And there’s two dramatic views and I won’t give it away, but there’s too dramatic views. If you’re walking and going up to the vignette and then if you turn around and you walk out and you go back down the other direction. So there’s going to be two fantastic points of interest in the space and we’re real excited about it.

Act now to be a part of this game changing event. For more information relating to this unique and dramatic experience at HI Connect® Design, this April 2-4, 2014 visit HI Connect® Design to learn more and register for this unique event that sets the new standard in hospitality tradeshows.

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