Interview with a Designer: Barbara Parker with Parker-Torres Design

barbara parker torres design interview

This year, we’ve been focusing a lot on the concept of “Where Hospitality Begins” as a way to highlight the different areas of hospitality before guests arrive. As one of the top FF&E companies, we are proud to be a part of the process, but it is the designer that really is responsible for creating the atmosphere.

Last week we connected with Therese Virserius to chat about her design inspiration. This week, Barbara Parker of Parker-Torres Design shares some of her favorite things to design, and a closer look inside how she and her team approach every project.

What is your biggest inspiration when you’re designing, or where do you draw inspiration from?

We dig deep when we start a project, studying every aspect of the surroundings, the history and the culture of a place.  That’s why all of Parker-Torres Design’s projects look so different.  Inspiration can be found anywhere, and sometimes the best ideas come from the most obscure references.

What is your favorite thing to design?

I love the macro and the micro.  Macro when I walk into a space and imagine how to improve the flow or create a new focal point.  I still love master planning.  Micro for when the design of the smallest detail can add so much unexpected dimension to a chair, a table, an artwork.

Favorite vacation you’ve ever taken?

There’s been so many wonderful locations, but a favorite was definitely Venice for my 50th birthday.  Mid-winter, not crowded at all, so it felt like we had that magical city to ourselves.  We attended an opera, La Traviata, performed for about 50 guests, in an abandoned palazzo, with each act, lit by candlelight, played out in a different grand room.  Unforgettable!

How has your profession changed the way you see other hotels when you travel, or has it?

I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and stay in some of the most extraordinary hotels.  It does give you an appreciation for the finer things in life.  I always take detailed photos before I unpack to document the room and am constantly amazed at the clever details my design colleagues imagine.  It really doesn’t matter if its luxury or limited service, there’s always an opportunity to be clever.

What is your favorite design space you’ve seen?

It’s too hard to pick a favorite, so generally speaking, any space with generous proportions and lots of natural light.  Also, a space that reflects its geographic location and culture.  When traveling, you need clues to remember where you are in the world when you wake up in the morning!

If you had an unlimited budget and completely free reign to do what you wanted, what would your dream design look like?

Life, and design trends, happen so quickly.  I would want to design something enduring, something that would still be admired 20, 50, 100 years from now.  What will be deigned a “classic” in 50 years and what will be dismissed as a passing trend from the 2020’s?  That is the challenge for our industry. 

My interests have always been in creating space and shaping form.  The interior architecture of a space tends to outlast the furnishings, but unless they’re “classic” they also get abandoned after a renovation cycle or two.

What is your favorite part about the hospitality industry?

The people without question.  Everyone I’ve met lives the basic ethos of hospitality with their warmth and dedication to service.

How do you convey the idea of hospitality through design?

I like when hospitality design feels like an elevated version of home.  Not everyone likes the idea of brand standards, but I appreciate knowing what to expect especially in a new or exotic location.  Having the comforts of home, with amenities “at your fingertips” is reassuring when you travel.  As a designer we need to design guestrooms, in particular, with the intention to make the guest feel at ease.

What does “Where Hospitality Begins” mean to you?

It all starts with a warm and welcoming smile.  That shows the world that you are truly happy to see them and happy to serve.

Where Hospitality Begins

Thank you for joining us for this closer look at what is inspiring to hospitality designers. We have created a dedicated space for everything relating to our “Where Hospitality Begins” campaign. You can learn more by visiting that page here, and by following us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. If you have anything to add about what “Where Hospitality Begins” means to you, feel free to post about it, tag us, and tag #WhereHospitalityBegins so we can find it. We’d love to hear your stories.

barbara parker designer

About Barbara Parker

Before lending her name to Parker-Torres Design Inc. as a co-founder, Ms. Parker sharpened her design skills with over 20 years of experience with a notable international hospitality design firm. Throughout her career, Ms. Parker has excelled at fulfilling her clients’ desires for the highest quality of interior architectural design, and the clearest, most thoughtful communication of design documentation. She worked closely with a number of mentors who depended on her keen design sense and thoughtful attention to detail in places as far afield as Belgium, Japan, Malaysia, England, and Turkey.

At Parker-Torres Design, Ms. Parker focuses her company-wide obligations on the business management side of the firm with her experience in marketing, team management, and product quality-control. For her numerous hotel clients, Ms. Parker provides her specialties in Concept Development, Master Planning, Space Planning, Interior Architectural Design and Detailing, Custom Furniture Design, and Project Management.

Educated at Chamberlayne College in Boston, Ms. Parker holds a degree in Interior Design, and she graduated as valedictorian of her class. Ms. Parker has taught advanced interior design courses at New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University.