May 28, 2019

3 Ways Designing Hotels Makes Me Better at Designing Your Home

After 12 years of designing boutique hotels, I’ve seen how my hospitality design knowledge helps me make smarter, more creative choices for my residential clients. I’ve picked up countless tips and tricks along the way, and want to share a few with you.

As an interior designer who takes on both hospitality and residential projects, I’m often asked which one I prefer. I wish I had an easy answer, but the truth is, there are parts about both I enjoy. What I didn’t expect was how many parallels I would find between the two, and how doing both would make me a better, smarter designer. I’ll  always remember my first hospitality project. When the owners called me for an interview, I confessed I only had experience with residential design. Imagine my delight when they said they specifically wanted a warmer, more inviting look than the old stereotype of staid or overly formal hotels. They wanted their hotel to feel like a home. I got the job and have viewed my residential experience as an enormous asset in my hotel projects ever since. Likewise, after 12 years of designing boutique hotels, I’ve seen how my hospitality design knowledge helps me make smarter, more creative choices for my residential clients. I’ve picked up countless tips and tricks along the way; here are a few I want to share with you.


When designing for hotels, I have to be exceedingly efficient with my space planning. A single room may be a bedroom, work area, and entertainment space. Drawing on this skill helps me think outside the box when creating multipurpose spaces in my clients’ homes. In the era of open floor plans, we are all familiar with rooms that are  meant to facilitate all sorts of living, all at once. You want to be intentional about area rug and furniture placement, as they are critical for defining spaces within a large room. In smaller urban spaces, I think about building up to maximize vertical space and incorporating multipurpose pieces. One example is an upholstered ottoman with a removable tray top. It lets the ottoman be a soft place to prop your feet when relaxing, and provides a hard surface for setting a drink or game board.


It’s no surprise that clients with children and pets put durability at the top of their list of priorities. Working in hospitality design has broadened my expertise of materials and finishes. I’ve learned which fabrics resist stains and wear well, yet are also beautiful enough to use in someone’s home. When sourcing materials, I’m looking at options I wouldn’t have considered in the past. Are you familiar with double rub count? It’s a durability testing process in which fabrics are rubbed with a piece of canvas to see how much wear it takes before the fabric begins to pill or break down. The higher the count, the more durable the fabric. The standard durability for residential fabrics is 20,000 double rubs, but now I won’t use anything less than 40,000 double rubs. In hotels and homes, there’s a lot of crossover in the materials we choose, but that doesn’t mean a delicate fabric, such as silk, is off-limits. It just means I may specify it for a pillow versus a sofa. I’ve also met many more vendors and tradespeople we an turn to when we need to have something customized. When making design choices for your home, think carefully about what you hope will last, and pick materials that can weather the long haul.


Money is always going to be at the forefront of decision-making for a hotel. This experience has helped my design team look at a budget as a whole, and pick and choose where splurging will make the biggest impact. I like to achieve this by mixing high and low. If there’s an element we love, such as a gorgeous fabric, it would be cost-prohibitive to put it everywhere. But we could use it as an accent, and balance it with some more frugal elements. Another example could be simple white-dressed bed anchored by a showstopper headboard. Your eyes go straight to the wow factor, and the quiet bedding gives eyes a place to rest. If your space feels jumbled, even though it’s full of things you love, it could be that you’re trying to fit in too many “wow” pieces. It’s hard—right?—when there are so many exciting and beautiful things available to us. But choosing just a couple elements to standout, whether it’s artwork, wallpaper, or a rug, gives your space a harmonious look and feel, and saves you money. At the end of the day, people check into hotels to escape, unwind, and be inspired. Hotel owners and homeowners alike often tell me they gravitate toward hospitality design that is more adventurous than they would feel comfortable trying in their own homes.

Meanwhile, when I’m designing their homes, clients speak about wanting to capture that special feeling of a retreat from everyday pressures. So whether you’re looking to push the boundaries a little bit in your home, or recreate that hotel hideaway feeling, I hope you’ll remember some of these pointers. They will help you feel more confident that the choices you are making now will work for you into the future.

For more ideas and inspiration, take a peek at my portfolio.

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