Adjusting the Lens: Designing with a New Perspective

It’s hard to know for sure what will immediately change, and what adjustments will evolve over time.


What a year this month has been.

If you’re like me, you face the same challenge in not fully being able to halt your mind from sneaking too far into the future. Raise your hand if you’ve recently found yourself teetering on the fault line between: “I wonder how this will all play out in six months?” and “The world as we once knew it, is forever changed, what will my industry look like after this?” Well, you’re not alone.

Marla-Rae Lewandoski
Studio Director, Hospitality & Commercial, Kimberly Timmons Interiors

When I was approached to write this five weeks ago. I was not only excited to be thought of as someone to share a piece of my experience and expertise in the hospitality world, but also I was honored, as I feel so fortunate to be part of an industry that never fails to always surprise, evolve and inspire when needed most.

However, we are living in a vastly different time than we were two short month ago, and I found my excitement beginning to shift to trepidation as I began brainstorming ideas. In a way, it felt inauthentic to write about a process or a trend within hospitality design during a time when our industry has been impacted so severely, seemingly overnight. Who is going to want to read it, if I felt uninspired to write it? It was in that moment, when I adjusted the lens. I was perceiving my end goal to instead view it as an opportunity to explore what my livelihood might look like six months, or even 12 months from now, and what my role in it will be. That’s when my excitement returned.

We will recover and our visions and ideas will influence how that happens.

When I think about the hospitality industry and all its intermingled tendrils, it becomes immediately clear, (and overwhelming) at the same time to think about how things will look post-pandemic, how long it will inevitably take for it recover, and to what we’ve always known/expected it to be. Take hotels for instance. What will our energetic, communal lobbies look like moving forward? Will the quest for getting people out of their guest rooms and down to the lobby be vastly impacted? Will community tables sit vacant and underutilized? Will occupancy loads adjust to heed social distancing? Will we be required to undergo a full body scan upon entering the vestibule, like airport Transportation Security Administration screenings that we already have become accustomed to, to ensure we are virus free? Albeit mind-boggling, it’s also refreshingly captivating to think about the possibilities and the opportunities we have as designers, architects, engineers, builders and consumers in having the privilege to help script the redefinition of what business and leisure travel will look like for our guests, and the design that envelops it.

It’s hard to know for sure what will immediately change, and what adjustments will evolve over time; however, I suspect safety being at the forefront. Assuring guests that they will feel safe leaving their home nests of certainty once again. Slowly, this will begin to rebuild the severed bond of trust that the virus has stolen from us all, and of utmost priority in stepping back into any establishments soon. This could mean elevating the hotel’s sanitary game, by intentionally drawing attention to the housecleaning staff’s wardrobe, whereabouts and constant tending to of spaces, all of which previously had been intentionally shuffled about back of house corridors. It could also include providing fundamental items, like hand sanitizer and cleaning agents within the hotel guest room, to make the guest feel more at home and protected than ever before. Perhaps this is where we’ll see extended-stay brands with integral kitchens become more popular. Or possibly incorporating gym equipment in each guest room to keep people feeling safe and healthy at the same time (if they no longer feel comfortable spending as much time in the public spaces).

I see lobby markets and grab-and-go markets expanding their offerings to include designer brand face masks (why not make it fashionable right?) disposable thermometers, and disinfectant wipes in abundance. Move over trendy granola snacks, because Clorox is all the rage right now. I also envision the necessity for more visual cues throughout public spaces delineating secure distances between patrons, perhaps established by bold floor finish transitions or the incorporation of colorful wall graphics with quirky discernible reminders to “mind your span.” Imagine the cheeky possibilities within elevator cabs that this is going to create!

It’s difficult to accept how our industry has been affected already during this time of disarray and volatility, and what hurdles and transformations will result because of it. There is also a beautiful calm in knowing that we will recover from it and that our visions and ideas will influence the future of it. It’s a gift to be able to do what we do, more so than ever before. To invent, imagine and build, but most importantly, to create memorable moments within a space for all to enjoy. So, I urge you all to accept this time of discord as a juncture to inspire, a platform to grow, and a foundation to invite creativity and passion to flourish once again. “Don’t adapt to the energy in the room. Influence the energy in the room.”

Published in the June 2020 issue of Building Dialogue.

Edited by Building Dialogue