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Designers share how to make it in hospitality design
May 1, 2013

On Monday evening, the New York Design Center opened its doors to design professionals, architects, students, bloggers and editors eager to get the scoop on what it takes to be successful in hospitality design. The sixth annual “Check into 200-Lex” was hosted by Interior Design magazine Editor-in-Chief Cindy Allen and offered product resources and insights from leading designers in hotel, restaurant and commercial design.
This year’s theme was the art of collaboration. Panelists included interior designer Matthew Berman in conversation with restaurateur Ron Levine; designer and architect Jeffrey Beers in conversation with Kristen Franzese, who is responsible for retail operations in the Plaza Hotel; interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud; and George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg of the design firm Yabu Pushelberg.

Cindy Allen and Matthew Berman
All of the panelists discussed different types of hospitality design from large commercial projects to quaint restaurant spaces and everything in between. They discussed how to get the “big ticket jobs,” the importance of a collaboration with the business that has hired you, and the similarities and differences these projects have from residential design.

Jeffrey Beers and Kristen Franzese
Some of the main takeaways from the evening included:
- Have great “eye candy.” Sometimes when you’re trying to sell yourself, having great renderings does the trick. Even if you haven’t done a project like it before, be confident and show it through your sketches, prove that you can do it. Everyone has to start somewhere. 
- Listen. When you are working on a restaurant design, the owner is your client, and you should treat them the same way you would a client. It is their space and you have to respect their wishes. Make sure there are open lines of communication and the project will go smoothly.
- The timing from start to finish for a residential project and a commercial project is extremely different. A restaurant, a store, a commercial building—these are all businesses and need to be making profit—just like you. It will be a much faster turn around time than you’re used to, according to Berman who does both hospitality and residential design work. You need to be prepared and if it means meeting with the client four times a week, do that.
- No matter how extravagant a project may be—everyone has a budget, according to Champalimaud, who worked on the iconic Bel Air hotel in Los Angeles, California. Although it seems glamorous, no one has an unlimited budget and you must still work in certain parameters. Since hospitality design is working with businesses, it’s almost impossible to go back and ask for more money, you have to cut and edit your designs and make it work.
- You must also have a great relationship with your vendors and showrooms. They are just as much a part of the collaboration as the client, and can help you get out of a time or budget pinch.
- Be confident, but put your ego to rest. There is no room for attitude when you are working with other business professionals. Consider them your peers, they may need some design education, but you will need some restaurant and food environment education.
- And finally, communication is key. Just like the importance of communication with every person involved with a residential project, a hospitality project can have double the amount of people and communicating seamlessly with all of them is imperative.
Aside from attending the discussions, guests were encouraged to explore the showrooms and “Interior Design Picks.” The editors at Interior Design magazine chose some of the best products they thought would work for a hospitality project and those products were on display in the showrooms.
Products included everything from bar stools to rugs, paneling and outdoor dining sets. Guests who traveled to all the showrooms to check out the Interior Design picks were given a “Hospitality Passport” and were entered for a chance to win prizes.

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