The art of storytelling

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Mike-Suomi-Headshot-1_web1Michael Suomi, Principal and VP of Design at Stonehill & Taylor in New York and founder of the think-tank organization Futuregreen Hospitality Forum, leads the way on design and sustainability.

IF:  How would you describe your design process in one word?

MS:  Storytelling.

IF:  Where do you turn for inspiration during your creative process?

MS:  I am drawn to both the well of history and the vanguard of contemporary art for inspiration.

IF:   How have you seen the hospitality industry change over the course of your career?

MS:  The cross-pollination of ideas from everywhere (nightlife, fashion, nature, museums, nesting, handmade materials, crowd-sourcing, etc.) has evolved into exciting forms of hospitality we could have never imagined when I started as a designer 25 years ago. The “micro-room” hotel, Airbnb, and the ubiquitous “branded bed” are examples of radical shifts that have now become quite common in our industry. It is thrilling to imagine what the next 25 years will bring!

NYLO New York, NY

NYLO New York, NY. Photography by Michael Kleinberg

IF:  You are a leading proponent for sustainability in hospitality design. What are the most important trends in sustainable design in this market segment at the moment?

MS:  What excites my designers right at the moment is “upcycling”, which we are looking at for a major project in St. Louis. Later this month the think-tank organization that I founded, Futuregreen Hospitality Forum, is exploring the inherent sustainable opportunities that could come out of the current trend of “smaller, faster, cheaper” production.

Novotel Times Square NY

Novotel Times Square New York, NY. Photography by Gregory Goode

IF:  Other than sustainability, is there anything in particular happening in the design world right now that inspires you?

MS:  Many — The visual representation of data by people like Aaron Koblin and Edward Tufte; the DIY creativeness of the band OK Go; the intersection of interactive theater and dining; pop-up; glitch art; forgotten spaces; always authenticity.

#1 - Aaron Koblin

Visual representation of data by Aaron Koblin

IF:  How does flooring help set the tone for a hospitality space? What does the flooring solution contribute to the overall design solution?

MS:  The floor, like the ceiling, is usually the largest expanse of material in a space. It sets the stage for all the other layers of design to determine the overall tone. Based upon material, finish, pattern, color, and texture, flooring can make a space feel relaxed or formal, energized or calm, classic, intimate, flowing, historic, bold, crisp, hygienic, or any other vision the designer wishes to convey.

Hyatt Regency Minneapolis

IF:  If you were able to give one piece of advice to young designers interested in the hospitality market, what would it be?

MS:  Listen.

IF:  What is your favorite space that you have ever been in?

MF:  Gustave Caillebotte’s “The Floor Planers” in the Musee D’Orsay.


Gustave Caillebotte’s “The Floor Planers” in the Musee D’Orsay


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