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HI Connect® Designer Spotlight - Diamond Interiors

Today we speak with Lori Neal and Nicole Wood of Diamond Interiors, as part of our series focusing on the hospitality designers, architects and purchasing pros participating in HI Connect® Design 2014.

Wednesday, January 15, 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. Or call 631-424-7755 x150 for an immediate response.
For today’s interview, Editor-In-Chief Glenn Haussman speaks with Lori Neal and Nicole Wood of Diamond Interiors who are creating a Luxury Guestroom during the three days of HI Connect® Design.

Glenn: You folks are doing a luxury guest room, and I can understand why you are doing a luxury guest room because you were a part of the 2013 event. And in that you won the People's Choice Awards for the vignette, most likely to make guests what to move in for a luxury guest room.

What was your secret to success last year Lori?

Lori: It was really very exciting. It was our first year to show, and we wanted to bring something new to the event. So we used a private collection that we designed. Was very well received.

The luxury elements were thorough the room. It was from the floors, the padding in the carpet, from the details that set a room apart as a luxury environment.

Glenn: This puts you in a very stressful position, because now you’ve got to outdo yourselves. So what are you thinking in terms of luxury in 2014 and beyond?

Lori: We are doing a brand new concept this year, completely different from last year. So we'll have a brand new look, and I'll let Nicole expand on that a little bit.

Nicole: Well I'm always up for a challenge. That's when I find I do my best design work. So every excited about some of the development and creative thought processes that we've put into the design this year.

But essentially we are gearing to something more related to younger travelers, or urban guests. And we have a lot of interactive involvement going on throughout the room. Which for me speaks volumes whenever I stay anywhere when I'm traveling.

It's going to be really fun, lots of color. And I'm really excited for everybody to see that.

Glenn: Yeah that should be really interesting. So I want to know a little bit about what luxury means to both of you ladies. But how do you make it so technology and luxury work together to create a cohesive type of experience?

Lori: Well the technology aspect Glenn is going to provide the guest with convenience factor. And it will gather more business for the businesses that are located around the hotel, information within the hotel and some other fun entities that we're putting into this technology. So the luxury of it is at your fingertips.

Glenn: It sounds to me that you're using technology as a tool to further break down the barriers between hospitality and the guest experience?

Lori: You hit it right on the head. This technology came out of a very brief conversation and has developed very rapidly. And I look forward to it being a change for the industry that would be very positive.

Glenn: One of the things that I find interesting, just how much technology is really taking over. And when you're planning on designing to technology, how do you design something that really is not something necessarily that you look at and have a tactile experience with, but it's just kind of there in the background.

Nicole: I think everybody wants to have an experience, whether they're staying in a hotel or they're going grocery shopping. And that's what's going to keep somebody coming back.

We try to get as creative as possible or marrying these different components together in our design. But it involves everything from technology to fitness equipment, and things that are just going to make the travelers stay more convenient.

So we've incorporated elements all across the board to make a cohesive, beautiful experience, for any of the guest.

Glenn: Nicole what does luxury then mean to you as an individual and as a guest?

Nicole: For me being a younger designer and kind of fresh into the industry. I'm not your typical designer that's looking for lux fabric and these beautiful high finish pieces. Again I want to have that kind of experience. I want to walk into a room, I want to be comfortable, but I want my life to be easier. I want to feel like I'm in a trend setting kind of space.

So I try to stay cutting edge and innovative with all of my designs. And I think interactive involvement whether it's technology, or the textiles that you're using, or the finishes that you're applying to certain pieces, all of that needs to be thought out carefully and integrated appropriately.

Glenn: That's interesting to me because what that makes me think about is how luxury has changed over the years. When you think of luxury I think in the classic sense you think of the original St. Regis, the original Waldorf=Astoria, and that look and feel. But today's traveler I think interacts with what they think is luxury in a very different way. And I think you said it perfectly by saying, younger travelers see it differently.

Lori how do you see luxury then, are you on the same side as Nicole?

Lori: I follow that same thought process. And it's very interesting to work with a younger designer because it gives you a fresh outlook on the things that you’ve done for the 20 year career that you have. For me the technology I think is the big key, because when you go into a room as an individual with your phone, and your laptop and all of these things the hotel have not a place where the guest going to plug in. How are they going to do X, what's available for them to make it more like a home experience. Which we all want a home away from home when we travel.

So I think that is high on the list for me. And then I look to the same, the experience, the comforts of the room, the amenities that are involved. But not to the degree of just the lux fabric and a custom carpet. I look at it as an overall scenic experience.

Glenn: Yeah I think you're right, because to me luxury is not about those specific items, but it's the overall feeling that I get. It’s the feeling that more than I can have at home. I think my home is pretty nice, but if I want luxury it's got to be whatever that level is that I live at, at home, it's got to be more. Would you agree with that?

Lori: I would completely agree with that.

Nicole: 100%.

Glenn: Great that's what I like, I love it when people agree with me, it makes my life so much easier.

What are you guys thinking about these days in general, how has luxury changed for example over the last number of years? Excluding that technology part, because all that's rising?

Lori: Sure I think Glenn you said it very well in that the traveler that stayed at the St. Regis and the Ritz Carlton of past, and what the reference was to luxury is just very, very different with the influx of boutique hotels, and very many designs based on those environments, I think luxury has a very broad definition.

Nicole: I think that a lot of the materials and finishes, there's so many very creative and innovative people out there right now that are coming up with these new ways to spruce up a room and make it have a luxury feel without the budget that you have to have. So that everybody thinks that they're in.

So it's getting creative and it's trying to figure out how we are going to make the client or the guest life simpler. They're going to want to return, they're going to want to come back, and they’re going to have that good feeling when they leave here.

Glenn: And it's all got to be at a price point that's affordable for the operator bill that environment as well. So you're talking about building in components that look and feel more expensive than they might actually be in the real world?

Lori: That is absolutely correct. And primarily design now Glenn, is a creative process, we all want the beautiful vision. But when it comes down to it, budget is what drives ROI so having that is very, very important whether it be a two star or a five star property.

Glenn: The last question that I have on this particular topic is, can you design a luxury hotel for everybody, or has the market just become so fragmented that you just kind of have to pick where you want to go?

Lori: I think it's a combination of both actually. I think that there's segments of the travelers that have the expectation of what we know luxury to be. But as the influx of the younger generation comes into every market professionally, I think that the fragmentation is definitely is definitely going to affect where they stay, how long they stay, whether they refer that property to a friend, and what their overall feeling is of that experience.

Nicole: Every client wants a five start property on a three start budget, and Lori and my brilliance comes into play is making that happen. (laughs)

Glenn: There you go, and it's all about your brilliance. And speaking of brilliance and the brilliant interiors, what have you guys been up to lately, what's going on in your business?

Lori: We have a lot actually going on. Our fun win at HI connect last year we mad really great partnerships and opened a hospitality showroom in Los Angeles where we run out design businesses but it's also an 8,000 square foot space with a full library for other designers and purchasers to come in and use our library and work with us to help them with whatever it is they're doing.

And I've been working on this technology aspect which will make concierge a thing of the past.

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