Boutique Design Events and Trade Fairs

Boutique Design New York (BDNY) was the best birthday party a brand could ever have.  Celebrating its 10th year, Boutique Design’s trade fair and conference, held Nov. 10-11 at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, connected a who’s who of hospitality designers, architects, owners, operators, developers, consultants, purchasing companies, manufacturers and product marketers. People from all sectors of the industry shared experiences in the more than 30 conference sessions, got the latest strategies for everything from designing cannabis-related hospitality spaces to building brand awareness, understanding the development process and finding out what’s next in sustainability during interactive presentations on the trade fair floor, and explored the elements that will inspire work on their boards in the more than 750 exhibits.

Since this is a visual industry, BDNY was as much about showing as telling. That started with the Nov. 9 site tours of the Conrad New York Downtown, led by Stonehill Taylor and sponsored by Vaughan Benz, and the behind-the-scenes look at New York’s buzziest new neighborhood, Hudson Yards (including lunch at José Andrés’ Mercado Little Spain, and food for thought on the menu of innovation that shaped this village of eateries). Despite their varied stylistic influences, these two venues revealed clever onsite R&D to deal with challenges such as the intimate floorplans in the Conrad’s suites or the location of a portion of the Mercado over the High Line.

When the event opened Sunday morning, attendees stepped into an experiential encounter with the future of their industry. Designers, hoteliers and suppliers alike have asked our conference team to blend the how-to and the what-if. They said they wanted to hear from thought leaders in adjacent industries as well as the best minds within the hospitality design discipline—both on the creative and the client sides. Our team couldn’t agree more.

What better way to showcase what’s next than to examine what could be a fundamental rethink about the goal of design?  In our keynote, sponsored by LG Business Solutions USA, David Kepron, vice president, global design strategies, distinctive premium brands, Marriott International, and Amahl Hazelton, who oversees strategy & development, Urban Spaces, for Moment Factory, gave attendees a guided tour of how technology could shift the aim of design from permanence to an environment that takes advantage of digital imagery to change the customer’s experience every nano-second.

Over the two days of the event, more than 100 speakers (including nearly 70 ceo’s and principals) mapped out cutting edge ideas for improving guestroom design by tailoring what’s a “must” to the needs of micro-targeted guest markets or surprising travelers with a choice of rooms and suites reflecting different cultures; making restaurants more relevant and more comfortable with thoughtful touches from large counters that distanced guests from the heat of the kitchen to lighting that flatters people and food; getting straight talk on what brands such as Marriott, Hilton, 1 Hotels, 21c Museum Hotels and Homage Hospitality and owners such as AAHOA’s members want from designers who hope to be on their short lists; and what lifestyle concepts such as Neuehouse, Equinox Hotels, INK Entertainment and 305fitness as well as cannabis-related enterprises, senior living developments and set design stars such as Kris Moran (a frequent collaborator with director Wes Anderson as well as a hospitality designer) can teach the hotel industry about expanding the offer beyond just a bed and breakfast. Designing around major art pieces, what’s New in New York, how to safeguard your designs and what you need to know from the ops team all expanded the tool kit for this year’s attendees.

On the business side, hot topics included branding, learning your client’s financial language, mastering next-gen wellness and sustainability (as outlined in NEWH’s Green Voice sessions) and learning to write the perfect spec in our Smart-Specs Interiors™ panels (including one on window treatments sponsored by Valley Forge Fabrics and one on public space lighting sponsored by Renwil). Attendees had the opportunity to meet giveback heroes who make time to do well at work and do good in their communities and learned how to eat, sleep and breath their brand at the Be Your Brand session, sponsored by LIOLI, Inc., with Andrew Alford, founder and chief creative officer, Andrew Alford Creative; Charles Khabouth, chief executive officer, INK Entertainment; Damon Lawrence, cofounder, Homage Hospitality; Julia Monk, senior principal, director of hospitality design; led by Andrew Fay, president, The Gettys Group. They also got best-practice advice on management, handling some of the major issues facing the industry in 2020 and more from the insightful executives honored as Boutique Design Power Players: Women Leaders in Hospitality, in collaboration with NEWH and sponsored by Faulkner + Locke and Floor and Décor. (To get up close and personal with the Women Leaders at BDwest and BDNY, see our November issue digital edition.)

On the inspo front, we had plenty of eye candy in the Designed Spaces. Our signature Face2Face sessions in these must-see lounges offered attendees the drill-down on what it takes to design without a proper ceiling or walls, how to work without a client but within a budget and how a concrete box convention center can transform into a neighborhood with special spaces that run the gamut from escapist to meditative: Fig & Fable was HVS Design’s take on the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; Memento: Experiences Worth Remembering was Hilton’s in-house team’s celebration of the hotel company’s 100th anniversary; The Exchange Brought to You by Tribute Portfolio was a neighborhood for modern mavericks conceived as a collaboration with Marriott International and Design Poole; Urban Lush was BDNY’s first-ever Designed Space bistro, created as a “green eddy” by EoA; and Enchanted Forest was Wimberley Interiors’ tribute to nature and sustainability.

BDNY also got social. From the Kickoff Party sponsored by Crate & Barrel, Legrand, Manchester Mills, Gilchrist & Soames and Tarkett to the Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design sponsored by title sponsors RH Contract and Valley Forge Fabrics, as well as category sponsors, Astro Lighting, Akula Living, Berman Falk, Element CF, JVA Art Group, KB Contract, Kravet Contract, Maya Romanoff, P Kaufman, Saatchi Art, Vaughan Benz, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., attendees, speakers and exhibitors mixed, mingled and networked.

Watch for more details in the coming weeks and in our BDNY wrap-up in our January/February 2020 issue. Thanks to our sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and attendees for making BDNY so successful.