Some aspects of Hotel design and purchasing are easy to overlook but deserve your attention
Every hotelier is familiar with the “furniture, fixtures and equipment” process but not every hotelier approaches it the same way. Some people are more structured in handling FF&E while others are more casual.
Regardless of your approach, remember that FF&E is one of the largest categories of expenses, behind only the Land your hotel sits on and the “bricks and mortar” used to build it. Unfortunately, when certain aspects of design and purchasing get overlooked, both your budget and your property suffer.
Here is my version of a “top 10” list – this one for making your hotel stand out from the crowd while making your Money stretch further. So whatever you’ve done in the past, the next time you undertake FF&E – whether it’s for a renovation or a new construction – use these tips to guide you.
1. Decide Your Budget & Your Style Preferences
Setting a budget and picking a style preference are somewhat like the chicken and the egg – which comes first? The answer is that you can’t have one without the other – they’re interdependent.
Whether you’re shopping for a car or a new piece of clothing, you have an amount in mind you think you’re going to spend. Of course, the amount you eventually spend will be determined by the quality, style, and amenities you select.
It’s no different with your FF&E budget. You need to set a figure – if not a specific amount then certainly a range – for what you think you’re going to spend.
Your designer and purchasing agents can then help you decide how realistic you’re being based on the “look” you want to achieve.
So what is the “look” you want?
You may be able to explain your preferences very thoroughly and clearly to a designer – or you may prefer to assemble photos that capture your taste in furnishings and color combinations.
Use magazines and the internet as references. If you have time, visit local furniture shops. If you admire the d’ecor at a particular office or restaurant you patronize, ask the owner or manager for the name of their furniture brand or design company.
Bring all these photos, magazine clippings, color ideas, and other style information to your first meeting with the design and purchasing company. These materials will be important visual references in shaping your design specifications, solidifying your budget, and simplifying your communications with a designer.
2. Select The Right Design & Purchasing Firm
When selecting a company to handle your design and purchasing, remember that this firm is going to be your partner for hundreds of decisions and thousands of dollars in expenditures – so select someone you feel comfortable working with.
For example, every hotel brand focuses on slightly different details and requirements in its FF&E package. You want a purchasing agent who is familiar with your flag, but who will still represent your interests as the owner.
You also want a company with a proven reputation, so ask for references – and if possible, visit a few of the properties that the company has designed and furnished.
During your evaluation or interview process, ask candidate companies to name the manufacturers they usually use – and why. The advantages and disadvantages of various manufacturers should include such factors as reliability, shipping costs, craftsmanship, durability, and pricing.
In addition, ask for an explanation of the difference in “hard” costs between various manufacturers – namely, price – and “soft” costs – namely, poor quality or late delivery. These problems can quickly eat up any price savings and can actually double or triple the real cost of a product over its usable life.
There is no hard rule of thumb, but a good purchasing professional can extend your original budget by 10% to 20% – plus considerably reduce your headaches and sleepless nights.
To make your project go especially smoothly, find a company that provides one-stop “turnkey” service for the four stages of FF&E – design, purchasing, transportation, and installation. It’s preferable that the company performs these services in-house, without sub-contracting them to other vendors.
3. Put “WOW” in the Lobby
You’ve covered the basics – namely, selecting a budget, a look, and a design/purchasing partner – so now you can start focusing on the property itself, and there’s no better place to start than the lobby because that’s the first thing a visitor experiences.
Create a “wow” factor that will get people’s attention, make them think favourably of your hotel, and cause them to want to return. For example, prominently feature a floor-to-ceiling stacked stone wall, a dramatic over-sized fireplace, or a large waterfall.
4. Step Up to Distinctive Flooring
Before you – and your guests – leave the lobby, use the floor to make a high impact in a high traffic area. While many brand standards recognize the importance of upgraded lobby floor covering, you should consider going beyond what is “required.”
For example, use materials that have upscale appeal such as granite or marble. Enhance these even further with decorative medallions or with a distinctive border around the room perimeter.
If you have a dining area, especially one adjacent to the lobby, upgrade the carpeting by using a denser product made of a branded nylon or wool – this creates a richer, plush look and the improved quality will considerably improve wear. The increased cost of higher grade carpet will be offset by its longer durability.
5. Better Furniture Makes A Better Lobby
One last focal area in the lobby is furniture. You want to create the feeling of a comfortable, welcoming living room – so use higher-end upholstered pieces plus lots of accent tables.
Table surfaces can be granite or can feature patterns of inlaid wood. These special treatments make a strong favourable impression and granite in particular has become very affordable.
6. Make Corridors A Moving Experience
Too many hoteliers invest in their lobby and guest rooms, then neglect the corridors that guests use to travel between those well-decorated areas. You can avoid that big mistake by giving attention to these small details.
Lighting provides both style and substance. Get style with a combination of ceiling fixtures and wall sconces, perhaps as a continuing of your lobby motive; get substance with bulbs that are fluorescent instead of incandescent – they use up to 75% less energy and can last five times longer.
In addition, upgrade the corridor carpeting, use a chair rail and crown molding, plus add touches of “home” such as artwork, foyer tables with lamps, and greenery. All of these elements liven the corridors and enhance your property’s upbeat, upscale image. And if your budget is limited, use these ideas only on the first floor.
7. Add An Exclamation Point To Guestrooms
Enhanced brand standards mean enhanced guest rooms, but you can add still more pizzazz with one or two strategically placed design elements. For example, put a granite surface on night stands, use crown molding, or select an unusual piece of accent furniture or artwork – such as a three-dimensional framed object or the photograph of a local landmark.
It goes without saying that the Mattress must be very comfortable.
8. The Bathroom Isn’t Just for Bathing Anymore
Studies show that guests spend more time in the bathroom than any other area of the guest room, other than the bed. You can make time spent “primping and prepping” in the bathroom special with: Good Lighting to allow you to put on Makeup properly. Mood lighting for a bath would be wonderful. Ensure that the Shower controls are easy to use, and water pressure sufficient.
9. Make Your Fitness Center Really Fit
More and more travellers, whether they’re on vacation or on business, want a comfortable place to work out so hoteliers are responding by putting some extra muscle into their fitness centres’.
10. Everyone Into The Pool!
If your hotel features a pool, be sure to add a few extra accents that will make this area of the property even more dramatic, lively, and enjoyable.
There you have my “top 10” areas of design and purchasing that are easy to overlook but deserve your attention. How have you done in the past keeping your focus on these items? More importantly how will you do in future Hotel Refurbishments, how will you do in the future?
Amy Locke is director of interior design at Hatchett Hospitality. She works with franchisers and franchisees on a wide variety of hotel brands, styles, and themes – from economy to luxury, from resort to business conference, and from traditional to modern. Previous to joining Hatchett, she held a position in interior design with Ethan Allen Interiors. Ms. Locke earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She is completing a degree in feng shuiand is an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Ms. Locke can be contacted at 770-227-5232 or Amy@HatchettHospitality.com Extended Bio…
By Amy Locke, Director, Interior Design, Hatchett Hospitality