Editorial: Designing Impressions

April 8, 2007
By Robert Nieminen

The other day, I was picking up a friend from work, who is a massage therapist in a small, local spa, when she asked me if I wanted to come in for a look around. Always interested in seeing the types of environments in which people work, I was somewhat surprised when I walked into the entrance.

Instead of being greeted with an open, soothing environment that I would have expected from a spa facility, the reception area was rather cramped and the colors on the walls were plain and uninviting. Once we got past the reception area, however, the overall ambiance was much more pleasant. But I wondered, how many people are likely to get beyond the entrance if they don't feel invited or comfortable the moment they walk in?

Of course first impressions are important in any business, but I believe the design of hospitality environments is especially significant because a customer's decision to return has a lot to do with how they felt when they experienced the space. If you're designing a hotel or a spa, the last thing you want is a guest who has a negative experience or feels uncomfortable. And chances are, if your firm hasn't tapped into the hospitality market yet, you very well could in the near future.

As IIDA president Pam Light reports in this month's forum article, a recent survey of the top 75 firms practicing in the hospitality market revealed that there has been huge expansion into this practice sector, with relative newcomers to the specialty surging to the top of the production list. The report further suggests that for one-third of these large firms, hospitality is their only work, and for another 11 percent, the sector accounts for 95 percent or more of their income.

"While these statistics only analyze the firms with the largest amount of work speced," notes Light, "the good news for the industry is that the average hospitality fee earned per design employee was $126,118—up 16.7 percent from just a year ago. Clearly, hospitality design is an expanding and lucrative sector of design that is garnering attention in many respects."

Statistics aside, what attracted our attention here at Interiors and Sources were the images we received of the Silver Rain a la prairie spa at the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman, the subject of this month's Photo Essay. This dazzling project takes its design cues from the cool tranquility of a glacier and invites guests to enter a water-themed space that is sure to offer the relaxation they seek. Designed by the New York-based interior design firm D'Aquino Monaco, the 18,700-square-foot spa is an oasis from the stresses of everyday life.

If the tranquility of a spa isn't quite your speed, then shift into high gear and read this month's cover story on Broadmoor's Summit Restaurant. Summit is located in Colorado Springs near the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, an annual automobile and motorcycle race to the summit of this famed mountain. In fact, nearly all of Summit's design elements were created to give the impression of speed and movement.

"It is meant to convey the feeling that you are sitting in a car, and everything is going by very quickly," explains Adam Tihany, principal of Tihany Design. From the carpet to the ceiling to the custom-designed wine turret, the design elements all hint at the experience of racing.

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