Interview with Designer: Michelle Tran and Jacob Royster of HBA

Interview with a Designer: Michelle Tran and Jacob Royster HBA

Continuing with our series of interviews with interior designers, we are showcasing and breaking down the idea of “Where Hospitality Begins.” We believe that it encompasses all aspects of hospitality. This includes design, how the guests feel and interact with the hotel, and the impression left with both the service and design. It also includes how the different parts of the industry interact with each other before reaching the stage of the guest arriving.

Let’s take a look at a conversation with two designers from the HBA San Francisco office, and see a bit more of their inspiration, design process, and passions.

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

MT: I draw inspiration from anything that makes me pause and admire its presence. It could be a shadow created by the sunlight through a screen, an antique door handle detail, or the stunning hues of the sunset.

JR: My biggest inspiration comes from taking the mindset of a prospective guest. I find that this can sometimes reinvigorate some of the norms or ideas we associate with hospitality design. It also helps each design I am working on become unique, as the guest mindset will likely differ at each property even within the same locale.

What is your favorite thing to design?

MT: I enjoy the challenge of designing a small compact space. How can I create a functional space where each component harmoniously blends in with each other while still has its own personality? How can I layer in colors, textures, shapes and forms in such a way that gives the space an intriguing complex appeal yet still effortlessly elegant? This type of space is every exciting to me.

JR: I enjoy designing smaller spaces, ones where you can really hone in on the details and give the space its own personality. Especially more boutique or historic projects, where spaces are cozier and can feel more like someone’s grand home that you’re visiting.

Do you have a favorite vacation you have taken?

MT: Cuba is my favorite vacation to-date. I felt like I stepped back in time in the most poetic sense. Everything about the country, the culture, the people captured my heart. Not to mention the music and the food were phenomenal. Havana, especially, is as beautiful, artistic, and captivating as everything that I have read in books and imagined it to be.

JR: My trip to Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Greece, & the Greek Islands. Growing up in the US the oldest built places you’re exposed to are maybe a few hundred years old. In some of the cities in Bulgaria you’re literally walking through a history book, with some of the oldest inhabited cities not only in Europe, but the world. In Greece staying in a cave hotel on the edge of the caldera in Santorini was definitely a bucket list experience.

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

MT: I don’t think it has. It does make me become more aware of what elements, whether design or services, that elevate a great travel experience to a memorable one.

JR: My curious and inquisitive side wants to know more of the story and thought process behind the design. We’re often asked to envision and tell a story through design or to build upon an established story for a heritage project. So, to be in a hotel, as a designer, it’s hard for me to not wonder what informed their decisions and influenced their design.

What is your favorite design space you’ve seen?

MT: Lefay Resort & Spa in Lake Garda, Italy. It is tranquil with a stunning view of the lake. The simple modern indoor/outdoor design allows me to feel submerged with the surrounding nature the minute I step inside the resort.

Lefay Resort & Spa Lago Di Garda
The Beekman, a Thompson Hotel, NYC

JR: It’s hard to pick an absolute favorite there are so many – but I would have to say The Beekman in NYC is a top contender. I appreciate and am drawn to classic lines. I have a fascination with the grandeur of the past, and this property so tastefully preserved an architectural gem while simultaneous crafting a curated experience that a modern guest can enjoy. There are so many moments in the space that just make me smile.

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

MT: My dream design would be a hotel where I can truly spend time to craft every detail and curate every single piece of furniture and artwork. Time is the luxury we all crave to have more these days.

JR: Something charming and historic with grand architectural details. Layered with a combination of modern and refurbished furniture.

What is your favorite part about the hospitality industry?

MT: Its ability to adapt and transform despite the ever-changing needs of travelers, or which way the economy steers. It truly is a unique industry that allows passionate artists like to us to live out our creative dreams in the most fearless ways.

JR: The intense creativity. You could take the same programing requirements or space parameters and give it to any number of designers and it seems impossible that any two designs would be the same.

How do you convey the idea of hospitality through design?

MT: Hospitality experience goes beyond what is beautiful to the eyes. A successful experience creates a long-lasting visual and emotional connection with the guests. It makes them want to come back for more…more of the locale and the culture of the destination that it represents. I believe once you achieve that, your design philosophy of the hotel / resort has been successfully transformed.

JR: Carefully considered design decisions from planning that creates an inviting space, to furniture that makes someone feel right at home. You have the ability as a designer to curate an experience. One that your audience can submerge themselves in with each sense.

Canopy by Hilton Cancún La Isla designed by HBA San Francisco
What does “Where Hospitality Begins” mean to you?

MT: Hospitality begins with cultivating spaces that evoke all the senses and leave memorable impressions on both creators and the end-users.

JR: “Where hospitality begins” gives weight to the story behind what most guests experience as they enjoy the spaces we design. The countless hours, team members, experience, products, etc. The combination of these elements is vital to ensuring when a guest arrives at any property they are experiencing hospitality in a true sense.

Where Hospitality Begins

Thank you for joining us for this closer look at what is inspiring to two 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. You can find that interview here.

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