Interview with a Designer: John Nelson of Looney & Associates

john nelson looney

We’re back with another look inside the creative mind of a designer. Our theme of “Where Hospitality Begins” was created to showcase the sides of the hotel industry that really come together to bring the idea of hospitality to life and to the guests. 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.

Let’s take a look at this week’s conversation as we are talking with John Nelson from Looney & Associates.

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

The sense of place- the context- the weather- the history- the spirit and energy of where the project is located all provide a rich vocabulary of design cues and inspiration from which to create the unique narrative for the project, whether for a new project or for a renovation/repositioning.

What is your favorite thing to design?

Destination resorts- when successful they encompass a holistic design language through every element of the experience at the resort including signage/wayfinding, landscape, lighting (interior and exterior), interior design, and architectural design. They embody the true essence of “branding an experience” and creating an identity and a draw to provide the greatest opportunity for driving revenue and ROI.

Do you have a favorite vacation you have taken?

I was fortunate to attend architecture school in Tuscany for a semester while at University and have taken my wife with me several times to share my love for all things Italian. Italians share one common passion from north to south and east coast to west- a true love for life.

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

It is unavoidable to become a critic for me while traveling for fun or work. Our profession is one of critique, challenging creative solutions, creating something not seen or experienced before.  Curiosity and passion for design are invaluable ways to learn- my mentor instilled these traits in me almost 40 years ago and I still carry them with me today.

What is your favorite design space you’ve seen?

I was fortunate to design a number of project areas for the Ventana Inn at Big Sur over several years and for different owners. Once I had traveled, stayed there, and explored Big Sur and the Central Coast I realized that there was a spiritual connection that I was feeling for the place- the weather, views, smells, sounds, and spirit of the place still linger with me when I travel with my family to the Central Coast.

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

It would be to create a destination resort of custom, unique, suite type villas along the Pacific Northwest coastline, and incorporate world class food and wine within the resort. In addition, providing unique experiences for outdoor wellness and education would add energy and interest to the resort.

What is your favorite part about the hospitality industry?

The lasting personal relationships that we make with people- we as an industry are fortunate to travel, spend time together getting to know each other (both inside and outside our own organizations) , share our passions and interests, and place lasting trust and respect for each other.

How do you convey the idea of hospitality through design?

Through clues such as a warm palette, residential scaled details and elements, a timeless use of materials, and a thoughtful integration of lighting and sound. When a space has been painted with these brushstrokes- whether Hotel, Restaurant, Spa, Senior Living, or Multi-family- one senses the influence and impact of Hospitality Design that immediately elevates the project beyond its stereotype.

What does “Where Hospitality Begins” mean to you?

“Where Hospitality Begins” to me means the emotional core of hospitality- that of welcome, warmth, sharing, generosity, and thoughtfulness. Our industry is looked upon as a leader in implementing these core traits into each project, and again, we are fortunate to be able to affect and impact so many people’s experiences in so many different locations and project types.

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.

As a part of this series, we have also interviewed Sara Shalls at Shalls Design Studio, Jacob Royster and Michelle Tran of HBA San Francisco, and Cristi Moore from Gensler Atlanta.

About Looney & Associates

Looney & Associates is an Interior Design firm specializing in compelling projects for the Hospitality Industry. With offices in Dallas, Chicago, and Honolulu our staff includes registered Architects and Interior Designers who provide consistently high-quality Design services from Planning through Installation. The experience of our team covers a wide range of hotel types and sizes for a variety of owners and operators.

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