The Art of Storytelling

Jennifer Busch

Mike Suomi Headshot 1_web1Michael Suomi, Principal and VP of Design at Stonehill & Taylor in New York and founder of the think-tank organization Futuregreen Hospitality Forum, leads the way on design and sustainability



IF  How would you describe your design process in one word?

MS  Storytelling.

IF   Where do you turn for inspiration during your creative process?

MS  I am drawn to both the well of history and the vanguard of contemporary art for inspiration.

IF   How have you seen the hospitality industry change over the course of your career?

MS  The cross-pollination of ideas from everywhere (nightlife, fashion, nature, museums, nesting, handmade materials, crowd-sourcing, etc.) has evolved into exciting forms of hospitality we could have never imagined when I started as a designer 25 years ago. The “micro-room” hotel, Airbnb, and the ubiquitous “branded bed” are examples of radical shifts that have now become quite common in our industry. It is thrilling to imagine what the next 25 years will bring!


IF  You are a leading proponent for sustainability in hospitality design. What are the most important trends in sustainable design in this market segment at the moment?

MS  What excites my designers right at the moment is “upcycling”, which we are looking at for a major project in St. Louis. Later this month the think-tank organization that I founded, Futuregreen Hospitality Forum, is exploring the inherent sustainable opportunities that could come out of the current trend of “smaller, faster, cheaper” production. 

IF  Other than sustainability, is there anything in particular happening in the design world right now that inspires you?

MS  Many — The visual representation of data by people like Aaron Koblin and Edward Tufte; the DIY creativeness of the band OK Go; the intersection of interactive theater and dining; pop-up; glitch art; forgotten spaces; always authenticity.


IF   How does flooring help set the tone for a hospitality space? What does the flooring solution contribute to the overall design solution?

MS  The floor, like the ceiling, is usually the largest expanse of material in a space. It sets the stage for all the other layers of design to determine the overall tone. Based upon material, finish, pattern, color, and texture, flooring can make a space feel relaxed or formal, energized or calm, classic, intimate, flowing, historic, bold, crisp, hygienic, or any other vision the designer wishes to convey.

IF   If you were able to give one piece of advice to young designers interested in the hospitality market, what would it be?

MS  Listen.

IF    What is your favorite space that you have ever been in?

MF  Gustave Caillebotte’s “The Floor Planers” in the Musee D’Orsay.

#3 - The Floor Planers

[Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Twitter] [Email]
Posted in Category Designer Spotlight | Leave a comment

Go Play

Gretchen Wagner

At Interface we love to inspire you with endless modular design possibilities. Whether it be through the photography and tile configurations on our website or the brand spanking new Workbook 2.0, you always experience the clean, perfect as we intended. Today, I’m going to bring you inside our messy creative studio where we get down and dirty with our carpet tiles and show you how we take an idea for a floor from inspiration to installation. We’re pulling back the metaphorical curtain and showing you how Interface designs with our own products.

Over the past year, Interface has been exploring the concept of composite rugs where not only colors, but also textures, from different products are mixed together in a single installation. Having recently completed a few different rugs with this concept, I was feeling inspired to take it to a larger scale and a more refined color palette. I started finding inspirational imagery of transparent glass that formed new colors and depths of shading when pieces overlapped.


Since our IT department had just moved into a new space and needed new carpet, I decided to see if it was possible to create the same effect by changing the color or texture of the carpet when shapes on the floor overlapped. A design plan slowly began to emerge featuring large, triangular shapes that overlapped and subtly changed color from one end of the office to the other. I wanted to have a wide range of textures and colors in the floor, so I sought a handful of products from our consumer brand, FLOR, which brought shaggy and chunky textures into the mix.


The floor quickly developed into a beautiful, prismatic flow of colors, but I had to develop a plan that our installers could easily follow. The result is a highly contrasted grid where the product was identified by a numeric and color key for easy interpretation. As soon as the installers arrived with the product on site, they cross-referenced the tile boxes with the numbers on the installation plan and got started cutting tiles on the diagonal to create the triangles.


I don’t want to glaze over the nitty gritty details, but a plan like this requires extra attention on the front end of the design. If you adequately provide installation plans that are both visual and informational, you’ll be good to go developing a truly unique floor for your space.

Interface provides you with the building blocks to design an exceptional floor whether you’re working with squares, planks, FLOR or cut tiles. All you need is to find your inspiration and go play.


1. Raw Color:
2. Prism Rug:
3. Colored Triangles:
4. Photograph of Pool Room rug at Catawba

[Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Twitter] [Email]
Posted in Category Design Inspirations, Products & Services | Leave a comment

Milan Design Week: Trend Report Pt. II

Gretchen Wagner

In Pt. I of the Milan Design Week: Trend Report I discussed material and color trends that broke the surface of both the Furniture Fair and the Brera Design District. But now we’ll move into some of the emerging cultural trends that have been under my radar.

As mentioned before, the trends are slower moving and are representative of changing consumer habits.


Hackable Design_web

1. Clei: Prototype of stacked kitchen appliances for small space living
2. Vitra: Mariposa Sofa by: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby 3. Edra: Flap by Francesco Binfare
4. Edra: Standard by Francesco Binfare 5. Miss Moss: Hirashima 6. Gan
7. Vitra: Planophore by: Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby

It is a known fact that there has been a re-densification of cities across the world and where there are more people, there is less space. Small space living has inspired lots of individuals to find interesting design innovations. For example, SCAD has recently launched ScadPAD, a collaboration between students, alumni and faculty to create a clever design solution to micro-housing needs, and famous artist Andrea Zittel has been designing ways to maximize small space for years!

Less space isn’t always a bad thing, but it does create a design problem that can only be solved with efficiency. The result is furniture that is not just dual-purpose, but multi-purpose, furniture that can evolve and convert a space from a bedroom into an office. But it isn’t just furniture in homes that is becoming multi-functional. It’s also office tables that can expand to seat twice as many people, or wheeled tables that enable spontaneous collaborations.

Furniture that can be modified in an instant is not only user friendly, it’s also conscious of the need to be able to transform a space. Multi-purpose and customizable furniture is essential to the future of product development as we continue to do more with less in our rapidly changing world.


Cross-Disciplinary Collaborations_web

1. SCP London: Donna Wilson 2. Citco and Zaha Hadid’s wall features 3. Vitra: Alexander Girard
4. Bolon: still from The Contradiction of Silence 5. Republic of Fritz Hansen: “Unplugged Relations” Analog table 6. HAY: “Wrong for Hay” Collaboration with Sebastian Wrong

How we use technology was a recurring theme throughout Milan Design Week. With an emphasis on technology and the ability to connect with diverse groups of individuals instantaneously has led to beautiful cross-disciplinary collaborations. It seemed like almost every showroom was highlighting a collaboration between their company and another group of creative individuals outside of their industry. Take into consideration Bolon’s collaboration with Alexander Eckman, a choreographer who developed a modern dance emulating the manufacturing process of Bolon’s woven floor coverings. Vitra’s showroom (always one to excite the senses) presented new and updated classics featuring work inspired by Alexander Girard and Ray and Charles Eames. One of my favorite showrooms at the Furniture Fair was SCP of London, a company that commissions furniture, ceramics and textiles from various London artists and designers to create collections for consumers that are both sophisticated and nationalistic. HAY, a Danish company, consistently collaborates with internationally known designers to produce playful furniture, lighting and textiles for their customers. And lastly, one of the most widely discussed collaborations was between Italian based company Citco and architect Zaha Hadid.

Collaborations are not new to the interior design industry, but the technology and resources that are making these collaborations so much easier definitely are. Companies such as WeWork or Mojo CoWorking are two of many that create forums for individuals from different industries to bench and collaborate with one another in a single, modern office space based on the concept of renting individual desk space. All of this new technology that allows us to stay connected constantly—for better or worse—means that companies can connect with employees located across the world to get the job done. These collaborations aren’t just happening in the working world either. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) frequently pairs students with industry leaders to create unique classroom experiences as a part of their Collaborative Learning Center.

Whether it be for the development of a new product launch, a study on small living space or simply benching together in an open office, students and professionals alike are collaborating on a daily basis.

Everybody who’s anybody is doing it.

Now, looking through the lens of everything I saw at Milan Design Week, I am noticing these trends on an even larger scale and am eager to see if NYCxDesign and NeoCon will yield similar trends or offer new ideas all together.


[Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Twitter] [Email]
Posted in Category Culture & Play | Leave a comment

Hospitality Design Inspiration

Join us as we follow 2 designers from concept to execution as they create custom hospitality vignettes for HI Connect. 

Design Force Corporation
Designers: Joanne McGillvray IIDA, ASID

HI Connect_Design Force_2_web

1. What is the inspiration for your vignette at HI Connect Design?

Our vignette is centered on intuitive technology and innovation. It’s an accolade to the advancements of manufacturing techniques and technology available in our industry and when combined with beautiful aesthetic it provides the ultimate in luxury experience.

2. How does the flooring contribute to the overall design concept?

Unexpected design and product application. Incorporating carpet tile instead of broadloom in a luxury guestroom setting. Plank format allowed us to create ombre design with no particular pattern repeat.

3. Does sustainability figure prominently in your design concept? If so, please elaborate.

Not directly but in using carpet tile instead of broadloom we understand that there would be less quantity required for installation verses broadloom creating less waste. Carpet tile can also be replaced one at a time as needed instead of an entire room of broadloom if carpet gets damaged or soiled. That can be considered sustainable when speaking about the life cycle of a product.

4. Why did you choose to work with Interface Hospitality as a supplier for your design concept?

We consider Interface to be one of the innovators for carpet tile and the new technologies available to our industry.

HI Connect_Design Force_3_web HI Connect_Design Force_4_web







Joanne McGillvary_Headshot_web2As Design Director for Design Force, and over 20 years experience in the field of interior design, Joanne is greatly involved with the firms strategic business focus and quality initiatives including design excellence and diversification. Specializing in Hospitality design, her experience and expertise spans the Destination Resort, Boutique, Luxury, Convention and Full-service hotel arenas as well as Culinary, Lifestyle and Retail environments. Her passion is to find innovative solutions, by fusing functional and mindful planning with beautiful aesthetic to deliver revenue driven results that successfully connect the customer with the brand.

The W Group
Designer: Whitney Fisher IIDA, NCIDQ

1. What is the inspiration for your vignette at HI Connect Design?

This design pays homage to the history and growth of Nashville. Rustic elements reference the early days of Nashville when settlers inhabited the area while more refined traditional elements reference The Hermitage, Belle Meade Plantation, and Cheekwood. Conversely, metallic, modern elements indicate the recent growth and sophistication of Nashville’s current climate. The artwork will feature a modern twist of the history of the Hermitage and the growth of Nashville.

2. Why did you choose to work with Interface Hospitality as a supplier for your design concept?

Interface was chosen because of their innovation in Hospitality Guestroom carpet tiles. We liked that they offer a plank tile that can emulate the idea of wood flooring and are able to create an accent inset easily to highlight a seating or bed area. Operationally this type of flooring is great because the ease of replacing a tile if there is a stain that can’t removed. The fact that there is little waste when used is also a bonus to the overall budget and project.



Whitney Fisher_head shot_webWhitney is principal interior designer of The W Group. Graduating from Fider accredited O’More College in 1986 with highest honors. With more than 25 years of extensive practice in the commercial interior design industry. She has acquired numerous awards throughout her career, including the Lodging Hospitality Design Award, the ASID Silver Award, and two IIDA Gold Awards. . Publications in which her work has been featured include Hotel Business Design, Lodging Hospitality, Contract Magazine, Her work was judged “Best Design for a Spa” by Spa Finder, and the firm’s Hershey Country Club project was among five finalists in the Remodeling/Renovation category in Golf Inc. Clubhouse Competition. Fisher also has served on furniture and fabric design review committees for new introductions. She also is as an attendee for the Hospitality Design Summit for 4 years for top designers and is by invitation only.

Additional HI Connect Vignettes

[Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Twitter] [Email]
Posted in Category Hospitality Design | Leave a comment

Milan Design Week: Trend Report Pt. I

Gretchen Wagner

During Milan Design Week the already stylish city of Milan, Italy, transforms into a multi-cultural showcase of current and forecasted trends. Soaking in the beautiful new color palettes, materials and products is surely inspiring, but my favorite part comes after the after-parties have long been finished. All the imagery and literature that I gathered is carefully cataloged and cross-referenced with other emerging design trends from various blogs and publications, and I soon begin to find recurring themes. These recurring themes become the basis of my trend research as I continue to step into both the past and the future to understand where these trends have come from and where they are going.

I have broken the overall design trends from Milan Design Week into two categories: Material/Color Trends and Emerging Cultural Trends. Material and color trends are simply a visual analysis of what textures and colors are emerging in various markets. These trends are often moving at a fast pace and typically start in higher end markets and eventually diffuse to consumer markets where they become widely accepted as “fashionable”. Emerging cultural trends represent larger, slower moving trends that dictate not only our material and color choices, but also how and why we design products the way we do. They represent what is happening on a global cultural scale and signify changes in consumer habits and how we interact with one another on the human scale.

So let’s kick things off with a colorful start.


Pastel and neon colors have slowly been creeping into consumer driven markets, particularly the fashion industry. In a world that has gone neutral in most recent years with subtle variations on taupe and cool grays, I am excited to announce the emergence of pastels and neons in contract design. Scandinavian design (both fashion and interiors) has always lent itself to interpreting accents in the form of pastel and neon colors. Unlike most trends that start in higher end markets and diffuse downward to consumers, this trend emerged with consumers where it became widely accepted and is now skyrocketing upward into mature design aesthetics where pastel and neon colors bring a whimsical and play-like atmosphere.

Within the pastel and neon trend I am also noticing blush and dusty rose colors coming to the forefront. Depending on surrounding palettes, blush tones can effortlessly blend in as imitation neutrals or become a subtle statement piece amongst a tonal backdrop. Stylists in home interiors are dialing up the intensity of blush hues and creating soft pink spaces filled with glowing light and simple accessories.


Alchemy by definition is a medieval form of chemistry that focused its efforts on transforming base metals into gold. Gold and many other metallic finishes and reflective surfaces were all over Milan Design Week and are hitting home interior trends in the form of copper clothing hangers and brassy light fixtures. Metallics were not the only shiny things at the Furniture Fair. Lacquered side tables and case goods that were so glossy you could see your own reflection in them cropped up across multiple showrooms. Metallic finishes and reflective surfaces are popping up everywhere from copper finishes on handbags, to light fixtures, tableware, furniture and fine art.

Clean and thin metallic wire accents against soft pastels and neutrals are effortlessly modern and bring brightness into any space.

I will continue with the emerging cultural trends in Pt. II of the Milan Design Week: Trend Report, so stay tuned!!

Ciao for now!

[Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Twitter] [Email]
Posted in Category Culture & Play | Leave a comment