Home » Interior Design: Inspiration and Advice From Hotel Experts

Interior Design: Inspiration and Advice From Hotel Experts

by Jim Gladstone

Passport recently reached out to five notable design professionals to get their perspectives on ways in which hotels and homes are influencing each other.

Once upon a time, it would be a tremendous compliment to describe a frequently visited hotel as your “home away from home.” Nowadays, though, well-heeled, style-conscious travelers are often inspired by great design they discover on the road. Twenty- and thirty- somethings who travel frequently for work may have years to familiarize themselves with the compact chic of space-savvy boutique hotel rooms before being able to afford a cosmopolitan condo of their own.

They may covet ownership of a tidy city apartment with the cool flair of a “hotel away from hotel.”

Passport recently reached out to five notable design professionals to get their perspectives on ways in which hotels and homes are influencing each other. We also gleaned some inside tips on what hotel rooms can teach us about smart home design.

“I love it when we get inquiries from guests who want to source things they’ve seen in our hotel rooms,” says Colum McCartan (www.mccartan.com), the Irish-born designer, “Let’s be honest, in any hotel you are going to get a certain percentage of business travelers who don’t give a fiddle about design.”

McCartan’s eponymous bicoastal firm created the stunning interiors at New York’s urbane Le Parker Meridien (www.parkermeridien.com), San Francisco’s yoga-vibed Hotel Vitale (www.jdvhotels.com), and, most recently, the stunning overhaul of a Palo Alto eyesore formerly known as Casa Olga into The Epiphany Hotel (www.epiphanyhotel.com), a whimsical new hub of Silicon Valley chic.

Though guests may not be able to snag a duplicate of a specific custom end-table or light fixture they discover in a hotel room, McCartan and the other designers we spoke with say they hope thoughtful travelers will walk away from their projects “inspired by the spirit, attitude, and ideas” embedded in the work.

Their care and creativity in hotel room design can provide valuable insight for planning and decorating small apartments and residential bathrooms, as well as for making guest rooms in larger residences feel welcoming and well-equipped.

Gurney's Montauk Resort & Spa. Forward Watch guestroom, by Michael Thomas & Co

Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Spa. Forward Watch guestroom, by Michael Thomas & Co


“There’s a delicate balance between making a guest room feel like personal space and giving it too specific a personality.” says Joyen Vakil, vice president of design and development for MGM Resorts International (www.mgmresorts.com). In Las Vegas, Vakil oversees tens of thousands of rooms within a radius of just 3/4 of a mile, four to six thousand of which are renovated in an average year.

“We lean toward neutral color palettes, and the art we hang in rooms tends to the abstract,” he explains. “Its generally a good idea to avoid images that include faces and eyes, because they really suggest someone else’s point of view.”

Similarly, he says, homeowners should avoid the likes of framed diplomas and family photos in residential guest bedrooms. “When guests are in a room, it should feel like their room.”


“When you’re working with a small space,” says McCartan, “you shouldn’t be thinking about décor first. You need to focus on space and ergonomics.“

At the Epiphany, McCartan used cleverly crafted built-in desktops and seating ledges, keeping bulky furniture to a minimum.

“You should think a lot about seating height and depth. Building right up against walls and corners can really open a room up. A lot of what we think about isn’t furniture so much as interior architecture.”

David Baker (www.dbarchitect.com), architect and designer of the turf-roofed LEED Gold-Certified h2hotel (www.h2hotel.com), a hip, luxurious gem in California wine country is quick to concur. “Be thoughtful about built-in storage rather than adding extra furniture. Often, architects and interior designers are at odds. In small spaces like hotel rooms, their skills need to intersect.”

Baker has lived his own philosophies: “Yes, I spend a lot of time in hotels checking out what they’re doing to get ideas. But I have a very small 450-square-foot unit attached to my house that my wife and I lived in for over a year while our home was being renovated. It really helped me think about how to optimize a hotel room.”

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