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.


“I think one of the most important things we did at h2h is make sure that every room has a balcony or a patio,” says David Baker. “They’re not so big, and guests may never go out on them, but the indoor-outdoor connection is a huge thing.”

In homes, Baker recommends finding ways to make that connection. “People tend to think of outdoor space as something you sit in, but there’s always a real psychological freedom in being able to look outside. A little space can yield a lot of benefit.” Window boxes with potted plants or flowers can make a big difference in a small room. “Biophilia is real,” says Baker. “It feels good to be around other living things.”

At the Epiphany, McCartan’s rooms have floor-to-ceiling glass doors that lead onto wide balconies with sweeping views across the low-slung valley toward the Santa Cruz mountains to the south and San Francisco to the north. Vines cling to exterior walls and bud vases serve as clever floral sconces on interior ones. Shadow-like images of trees and birds are integrated in guest room wallpapers and rugs, further enhancing the sense of natural spaciousness.

MGM Grand. Skyline Terrace Suite, by Joyen Vakil / MGM Resorts International

MGM Grand. Skyline Terrace Suite, by Joyen Vakil / MGM Resorts International


h2hotel. Guestroom bath, by David Baker Architects

“The wall-mounted flat-screen television has been a great addition to hotels in recent years,” Baker mentions. “It used to be you’d see a giant armoire holding a cathode ray TV—a huge waste of space.” At home, too, Baker advocates getting televisions off of stands and shelving units and onto the walls. “It makes more room in your room.”

Some day in the not-too-distant future, Baker imagines that TVs will have a touch screen. “In homes, you’ll be able to use it for security, or to check on the kids in the other room. At the hotel, he suggests, “You’ll be able to look through a camera out by the pool and go, ‘Oh, great, its not full of noisy twenty-somethings’ or ‘Oh great, its packed with hot twenty-somethings!’”

Michael Kramer ( ), the gay 27-year-old wunderkind who helped re-kit Manhattan’s legendary Chelsea Hotel, recently started his own firm, Michael Thomas & Co. His team handled the guest room interiors at Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa (


“It kind of irks me to have a television in these rooms that have beautiful water views, but what we did was mount the television on the wall, right over the desk.”

With state-of-the-art wireless systems, Kramer’s arrangement allows the television to do double duty as a work screen and viewing screen for mobile device content. The TV cabinet and the work area have been compressed into one multifunctional space.

Kramer has also incorporated nightstands with pull-down butler trays and interior outlets, so guests can have their digital devices, and cords, out of sight while they’re charging. “No one wants to see clutter when they’re on vacation.”

The same goes for small rooms at home, says Kramer, who is decidedly anti-bric-a-brac. “In the seating area of a hotel suite or a studio apartment, you should select a single signature piece such as a beautiful coffee table that provides visual interest.” Too much of a good thing can make an otherwise outstanding room feel busy and cramped.


“The lighting is critical in small spaces,” says MGM’s Vakil “It’s generally wise to keep the light diffuse and the source from being visible: you don’t want the source to take attention away from what it’s supposed to be lighting. Our eyes are naturally drawn to the brightest spot in a room—that shouldn’t be a light bulb!”

In the sitting rooms of the Terrace Suites at the MGM Grand, Vakil has mounted large photographs on backlit acrylic panels, allowing the art to do double duty as lighting.

Similarly, McCartan’s décor at the Epiphany includes mirrors with cleverly integrated lighting that emanates through stencil-like images of table lamps and chandeliers on the mirrors’ surfaces.

“Light fixtures are getting slimmer and slimmer,” says McCartan. “You can find LED strips that tuck behind furnishings and provide good up- and down-lighting where you don’t see any bulbs or cords at all.”

In Michael Kramer’s designs for Gurney’s, bedside table lamps are generally avoided. “You want the guests to be able to utilize the room’s surfaces as much as possible.” By mounting adjustable lighting fixtures to walls and headboards, desktops and night tables, functional surface space is maximized.

For smart residential lighting, outlet, and cord-management solutions, McCartan suggests checking out the offerings at Doug Mockett & Company (

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