Interview with a Designer: Sara Shalls


We have been embracing the idea of “Where Hospitality Begins” this year. We believe in hospitality, for that is what lies at the true heart of any adventure. And we believe that every part of a hotel adds to that experience. Of course a huge part of that comes from the design. We’ll be exploring that idea a lot more in the coming weeks and months, with more interviews and in-depth looks at hotels. A look at the properties that are such a key part of a memorable vacation, and the people who are behind bringing that to life.

We connected with Sara Shalls, the Principal of Shalls Design Studio, to ask some things about what inspires her, and what hospitality in design means to her.

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

It sounds cliché, but inspiration truly comes from everywhere.  My phone is overflowing with quick snapshots taken everywhere from other interiors, hikes, random packaging with great color combos, etc.  

the armstrong hotel
The Armstrong Hotel, designed by Shalls Design Studio
What is your favorite thing to design?

I love to design hotels and really get into the details of how the space will flow.  Considering the guest experience from the moment they walk into the lobby space and how they will navigate through the public areas to their guest room. Curating the guest experience is something I love doing.  

Do you have a favorite vacation you have taken?

A favorite vacation?  That’s a tough one!  I’ve been so fortunate to have so many good ones.  I have found some of my stateside vacations just as wonderful as my far off travels to Asia or Europe.  I love to explore all the food on vacation.  I gravitate towards the hole in the wall spots over the fancy.  I had the most amazing meal from a street vendor in Singapore while stilling on a plastic stool.  I also love to visit every hotel I can beyond where I’m staying to check out all the designs.  I do that no matter where I’m traveling, my husband just knows that is part of the itinerary.

What is your favorite design space you’ve seen?

Another tough one!  So much great design out there.  Thinking of hotel design, one that tops my list is the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona.  It was designed by Patricia Urquiola and it is a beautiful space that transports you from the bustling city into a serene space that is full of light.

mandarin oriental barcelona
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona designed by Patricia Urquiola
If you had an unlimited budget and completely free reign to do what you wanted, what would your dream design look like?

I really believe you can achieve great design on a budget.  That being said, an unlimited budget would mean nothing is compromised and all the details and layering I love would not be value engineered. A design with no budget would truly allow for all the tiny details to come together and create a big moment to hit all the senses.  Ok, now I have immediately started designing this space in my head.

What is your favorite part about the hospitality industry?

I think there is a common hospitable friendliness to the industry as a whole.  I have been fortunate to work with such great people in all facets of the industry.  From the manufacturers and sales groups, other designers, purchasing teams, hotel staff and everyone in-between.  There is a level of respect throughout the industry.  When I first worked with Ritz-Carlton over 15 years ago I learned an older Ritz-Carlton saying, “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”.  The root of that saying always stuck with me.  We are all working towards creating exceptional experiences for travelers.

How do you convey the idea of hospitality through design?

Conveying the idea of hospitality through design really goes back to curating an experience so the traveler feels taken care of.  I think it is important for design to be approachable.  From business travelers to leisure, the needs adjust, but as long as the design was put in place to make someone feel comfortable you see the hospitality come full circle.

What does “Where Hospitality Begins” mean to you?

Hospitality truly does begin with each individual.  Together we bring our experiences to the table and are able to make great things come to life.  I feel so lucky to be a small part of it all!

Where Hospitality Begins

Thank you for joining us in the first of many in-depth interviews. 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.

sara shalls

About Sara Shalls

As Principal Designer for Shalls Design Studio, Sara has over twenty years of Interior Design experience.  Her passion and appreciation for design has lead to an impressive portfolio.  With focus on hospitality, boutique, resort, and luxury residential design, Sara has lead projects for brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Resorts and Hyatt.  Along with this client list, Sara has been featured on DYI Network as a host and judge for design competitions and in Design publications featuring her work.

Striving to bring a fresh and unique design perspective to each individual project, Sara always appreciates a Client’s vision and has a commitment to the highest level of quality and service.

Follow Beyer Brown’s Social Media Accounts!

View All Posts

Recent Posts

Contact Beyer Brown

    Subscribe me your mailing list

    Share this Post