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Thinking out of the Box - Hotel Design in 2015

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Being a hotel designer is an amazing career, it gives one the opportunity to study trends and to shape the environment of others with an innovative approach to designing spaces in response to the changing trends.  I have been at this a long time, and my life experiences enhance my strengths in all these areas.  I am an avid traveler and I have traveled extensively with my kids who are now twenty something’s themselves. They are the millennial generation, and I get to see hotel experiences from their eyes and mine (the baby boomer generation).  I am also a small business owner, so I am always conscious and aware of the business traveler and what that feels like.   Additionally, my clients are hotel managers and owners and I offer extensive experience in understanding the dichotomy of having budget limitations to renovate properties, but having an intense need to offer unique and updated visitor experiences in their hotels.


The hotel business is at the onset of a new cycle and a very exciting set of challenges.  After years and years of bad economic times, and little money available for renovation, and less disposable income (and therefore less travel), we seem to be emerging at the other end.  Hotel owners and operators are finally shaking lose their renovations and launching into the work they have needed to do for a very long time. PIPs (Property Improvement Plans) are being reevaluated and enforced. Companies like IHG announced plans for new guest room designs of their Crowne Plaza properties and introduces “Formula Blue” which is the name given to the redesign of their Holiday Inn Express properties.  Hilton Garden Inn is introducing a premium guest room which follows their Project Grow initiative.  Starwood is rethinking its Sheraton design to be less traditional. And the list continues…..


Also, we have a changing world in terms of design and in terms of need.  The key words of collaborative, interactive, open spaces, pods, and flexibility are defining our new work environment and our new hotel spaces.  Hotels are creating better pre-function areas, conference foyers and movable furniture and dividers to provide more diverse options and additional revenue generators.

Public spaces are now being designed to be more open while creating spaces for casual gatherings and formal meetings.  All kinds of interesting spaces are trending: modular seating options for impromptu meetings, large dining like communal tables, cocoon or pod like areas for small amounts of privacy within open spaces, interesting lounge seating areas with different shapes and sized upholstery for groups to meet and talk.  These are exciting times for designers to be creative and invite new ideas and new ways to think about hotel space.


The guestrooms are also being redefined.  The traditional guestroom is being rethought everywhere.  Should it be more interactive?  Should it be more flexible?  Should it be more open and more innovative? The future is now….time to rethink what direction hotel owners and managers want to go before they invest monies on renovation.  Time to be forward thinking and “think out of the box”.  Time for innovation and change.  


It is an exciting time to be a hotel designer and even more fun to focus on the individual owner or franchisee that needs to spend money wisely and creatively. To assist in bridging the gap between the clients, millennials, baby boomers, business travelers, leisure travelers, owners, guests, managers and of course the edicts of the hotel chains and flags themselves.  While some flags require exact specifications and products be followed, many others are allowing for creative and innovative design to be submitted and approved.  The overall design direction of the brand needs to be followed, but many are allowing for location and individuality in its properties.  Those are the braver brands, the one that can assess the submittals, but allow for good hotel design to be approved and implemented.  Even strict chain guidelines should be customized for each specific property so it doesn’t look “cookie cutter”, but rather looks like the nuances of a specific hotel have been accounted for.


The world is changing and people are more approachable, reachable through social media and available.  New ideas are coveted and explored.  This should carry in to our industry – into the hotel world, in to hotel design, into new product development and creativity, into purchasing services.  We should be pushing the envelope on how to be creative with the usability of public space in our hotels and in our guest rooms.  We should be allowing for interactive and collaborative people to work within the hotel spaces together and find private corners for some alone time all within the confines of the space.  

It is wonderful to have the opportunity to rethink what a hotel should look like and how it should function and design it to work better and purchase the products that establish that look.  It is really wonderful to be charged with “thinking outside the box”!


Tammy Miller brings 30+ years of significant experience in design and purchasing for the hospitality industries. As Founder and Principal of Alternate Resources,, founded in 1991, Tammy provides full-scale interior design and purchasing services for hotels, restaurants, senior living centers and many other contract/hospitality projects. Prior to forming Alternate Resources, Tammy spent 8 years in the corporate sector as Senior Vice President at Shearson/American Express, where she established national standards for office design and spearheaded the design of all branch offices for the company. While Tammy has received numerous accolades for her award-winning design projects, she feels her greatest achievement is being Mom to her three boys Josh, Alex and Jason. She is also a self-professed foodie and passionate about photography.

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