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Client Confidential: Action Heroes

(March 2017) posted on Fri Mar 24, 2017

She’s the director, he’s the producer—together, Jon Bortz and Andrea Dawson Sheehan pull back the curtain on the perfect client/designer relationship.

By Mary Scoviak

click an image below to view slideshow

JON: I like to see design tie into activism; it should reflect what’s happening. There’s so much anger and turmoil in this country now. It feels pertinent to be pulling more original art into hotels that addresses that. Our decision to use a 30-ft. image of Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre in the lobby bar of our Revere Hotel in Boston worried our asset manager, but it is sure to raise interesting questions for guests when the lobby reopens. Controversy is good and given what is going on in politics today the concept is very relevant. We still have to fight for freedom.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar Los Angeles Beverly Hills. Photo: David Phelps

ANDREA: Building on that, I think design continues to also become more sensory. Lighting is a huge factor in the projects we’ve done together. We spend a lot of time and attention figuring out where and how guests will respond to light and where we need shadows to create tension. We’re also using color to alter customers’ moods as they pass through various spaces. Our firm enjoys creating chaos with color, and exploring contrasts. If the atmosphere needs to be sexy, we use lots of mirrors and polished steel but we also balance hard and soft surfaces. Instead of using scent, we like to let the aroma of real food waft through the public areas. With your hotels, no idea is off the table if it makes for a more interesting, market-driven experience.

JON: Well, there was that slide I wanted for Hotel Zetta (another Viceroy property in San Francisco). That property had this terrible meeting space with a 7-ft. lid and no windows. I wanted to install a slide from the mezzanine to the ground floor bar to link those areas and generate more buzz. The operator kept talking about the liability issues. Initially, I kept fighting for the slide but then you and I brainstormed on other ways to connect those two spaces. We came up with the game room and that Plinko wall. Hearing that ball bounce down two levels makes everyone turn around. Everybody plays with it—kids, ceos, all age groups, all cultures. That game room became so popular that we’re adding versions of it to other hotels such as the Palomar in Los Angeles. It embodies that interactive energy that gets guests engaged.


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