HOTEC designer profile: FH Design's Marjorie Feltus Hawkins

FH Design created the Cary Grant Suite at the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis. (St. Louis' Magnolia Hotel)

Ahead of this year's HOTEC Design North America, Hotel Design spoke with Marjorie Feltus Hawkins, ‎owner and principal of Nashville-based FH Design, to discuss the latest trends in hotel design this year. As more hotels look to capture the lucrative millennial demographic, Hawkins expects that public areas will become a main focus of design renovation, and that technology will be more seamlessly integrated with the guest experience. 

What do you think will be the biggest change in hotel design this year?

This year, we will see a big shift [from] focusing on guestrooms to more of a focus on creating spaces in the public areas for people to work, eat, drink, and co-exist together in the same space. It is becoming all about creating a sense of community and social atmosphere that not only attracts people to come stay at that hotel, but also patrons that live in the surrounding community. By putting the focus on the retail, restaurant, and bar-and-restaurant areas in these hotels, it creates a landmark for the community that gives travelers and locals a chance to mix and mingle together.


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What new trends do you think will last and what will just be fads?

The integration of technology into guestrooms and public spaces as a trend will last, although it will continue to evolve and change as technology changes. Another trend is the change of the arrival and check-in experience that also coincides with the technology trend. With the constant evolution of technology, we are seeing check-ins become more self-service in the form of kiosks or apps, and there is less of a need for the front desk area.
Since a lot of travelers still need a traditional desk area, the fad of removing the desk altogether will start to change. This will most likely not come back in a traditional way, but we will start to see creative ways of integrating a traditional sized workstation into guestrooms in innovative ways. This could be in the form of a pull-down desk, a tea height table at the lounge seating area, or a desk surface built into the media wall.

How is technology changing how hotels look? (For example, are you incorporating charging stations into public areas and guestrooms?)

We are incorporating charging stations everywhere in hotels. Guestrooms, concierge lounges, public spaces, lobbies, meeting rooms, bars and restaurants, etc. Within all of these spaces, power is being incorporated into every type of furniture including but not limited to Headboards, tables, chairs, banquettes, and bar fronts. The integration of technology now starts at the check-in, which is changing the need for large traditional front desk areas. In the guestrooms, desk or work areas are becoming more innovative, and integrated into the space. Nightstands are becoming smaller, since there is no longer a need for an alarm clock or landline phone in the rooms, and lighting is being integrated more often than not into the headboards.  


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What are some of the biggest design-related challenges you’re seeing in the industry these days? How are you overcoming them?

Adapting an existing room to the new standards for technology, and the modernization of a guestroom layout and the amenities has been a challenge. With an existing hotel going through a renovation, there is lots of relocation of electrical that needs to be done. To overcome this, we have been coming up with creative ways for the furniture to be constructed, so the power can be concealed behind, and wired through the new furniture and connected to the desk, headboard, etc.
Another challenge we have faced is designing the rooms for a more millennial crowd, but still being able to please the older generations that are still frequent hotel visitors. In the guestrooms, we are focusing on making the rooms comfortable, warm, and inviting, while still incorporating technology and modern amenities.


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How do conferences (like HOTEC Design North America) help designers and suppliers improve their business? 

It is great to meet the owners and have a connection. That means a lot to me which is one of the reasons we intentionally kept our company mid-size…always principal involvement. At HOTEC, you get to meet suppliers and see an overview of their products which is a great way to see if products, relationship and price structure is a good fit.

What do you expect to get out of this year’s HOTEC Design North America? 

Once again, one-on-one to establish and continue establishing relationships with owners, VP’s, etc. We like to be taken care of just like we take care of our clients and vendors and this is the best way you can put a face with the product/name and it means something.

HOTEC Design North America runs from June 25 to June 27 at the Eau Palm Beach Resort in Palm Beach, Fla. Learn more and register for the conference here.