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The Paradox of Good Hotel Design

Two parts Andy Warhol, one part Willy Wonka, a dash of Jackson Pollack and a pinch of Universal Studios. Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously over ice. Pour into a chilled, neon green martini glass and garnish with Jared Leto’s wardrobe. 

And that is how you begin to define Andrew Alford. 

And you know what else? There’s only one Hotel Colee. Once a neighborhood only known for financiers and commercial real estate, Atlanta’s bustling Buckhead neighborhood called for a technicolor dream coat of a hotel. Hotel Colee, with its whimsical lobbies and wall art intentionally stands out from the pack thanks to Andrew’s design prowess and willingness to say, well, fuck it. Designer, innovator, self-proclaimed beige hater (so much so that he has trademarked and trended the hashtag #fuckbeige), Andrew works tirelessly to challenge the status quo, push ADR to the point of selling out care of design, and bring color to drab company (if we see another white lobby floor lamp…). Let’s face it, right now hospitality needs more color than ever. 

We sat down with Andrew Alford to talk about the future of hotel design, throw pillows, bravery, and kittens.

PH: Why is hotel design so often relegated to beige? 

AA: Someone once said to me “No one ever gets fired for using Fed Ex,” meaning that if you need to send something overnight, you use the safe option, not necessarily the superior option.  An employee at an investment firm doesn’t want to get fired, so they back the developer that creates safe but soulless hotels. Speaking from experience, teams of brave individuals who are willing to risk their own careers to create something bold is a rare animal. Practice is one of those rare animals.

PH: What’s the value of good hotel design, in your opinion? 

AA:There are two sides to the coin of good hotel design. On the heads side is the guest facing benefit. Hotels are the backdrops of many of the most important experiences of our lives. The design should be thoughtful enough to provide a beautiful stage for those memories. On the tails side of the coin, follow the money. I have designed projects that went from rates of $80 per night with 30% occupancy to $290 per night with 90% occupancy. The location of the hotel didn’t change. The team working at the property didn’t change. The design changed and created the value.

PH: Where do you see the future of indie hotel design heading?  

AA: The future of hotel design will be smaller, more automated, more creative, and micro targeted to the public, with bold design. By smaller, I don’t necessarily mean the notion of motel scaled properties, but rather clusters of locations with two to six rooms each. If you look at every major US city right now, there are endless street level retail spaces vacant and unused. I think we will see creative use of spaces like those, built for every niche of customer imaginable. With more change coming, you can hear the distant mourning bells for a lot of the big brands. 

PH: What’s the deal with throw pillows in guest rooms? Can we get rid of them already? 

AA: Yes, we can get rid of throw pillows in guest rooms, however I must insist that they are replaced with either: A) A kitten. B) Cinnamon pancakes. C) An older person who sits in the corner and gives you unsolicited advice or D) Lasers.  Fuck it.  All of the above.

Andrew could easily be coined the Ian Schrager of our time, at least from a design standpoint. He has that same desire to push the boundary, even walk right over it pretending it isn’t there. His hotel designs leave you wanting to see what else he can do, and how far he can exceed the limit. Thanks to Andrew, we’re currently in search of an older person sitting in the corner with a lap kitten who shoots lasers into cinnamon pancakes. While we do that, you try to find another designer who can pull off a pink and blue onesie whilst designing some of the greatest lobbies in the game. We’ll wait. 

For more from Andrew Alford, watch the interview on IGTV.