Boutique Design Events and Trade Fairs

The overall decibel level might have been a little lower at BDwest in West Hall than it was at the other end of the Los Angeles Convention Center where Tony Robbins, the self-styled “#1 business and life strategist” was motivating thousands of people to “Unleash the Power Within,” but the energy was equally electric for both. And, why not? Members of the hospitality design community came to Boutique Design’s West Coast trade fair and conference for a lot of the same reasons people signed up for Robbins’ 3.5-day event. Both groups were looking for the right tools to, as Robbins puts it, break through their limits and achieve the quality of life they desire. 

BDwest was all about giving hospitality designers, architects, purchasing agents, developers, owners and operators the information and networking opportunities to do just that.  The 30-plus conference sessions featuring more than 100 thought leaders from the hospitality sector and adjacent businesses mapped out the opportunities ahead and drilled down into the detailed strategies that would help firms leverage the upside of the years to come. 

That meant talking attendees through case studies that showed how to navigate the uncertain terrain of new builds, dual brands and F&B concepts or opening a red-hot hotel or restaurant in LA’s complex regulatory and competitive environment. It also involved creating a forum in which some of the biggest names in the business shared their secrets for using metrics, model rooms and AR/VR to get clients to invest in a cohesive design vision—without value engineering out the integrity of the design or blowing their budget and endangering the financials of the project. Attendees heard from major brands and successful start-ups about the changes ahead for their design platforms and their decision-making process on how to get on their short lists.  They also got the insider intel on why you don’t have to be an industry giant to get some of that high-profile work.

Whether designers wanted to leapfrog into the future or capitalize on the “now,” BDwest had them covered.  Michelle Finn, vice president of the Boutique Design Group, moderated a “we said, they said” roundtable putting AAHOA’s owners in conversation with designers about what’s working, what’s not and how each side would improve that dialogue. Other real-world sessions took on tough topics, such as the proliferation of hotels on a mission to energize community development and give back. Our Smart-Specs Interiors™ sessions offered in-depth training on how to write the perfect specification and get the product you envision without a series of change orders or cost overruns. NEWH’s Green Voice sessions offered a sector-spanning GPS on eco charetting, biomimicry and sustainable supply chains. 

A spirited roundtable featuring the 2019 Boutique 18, (which honors rising stars in hospitality design), and a dynamic panel discussion with this year’s Up-and-Coming Hoteliers, (which celebrates the visionaries who are redefining this industry), offered fresh thinking from individuals who thought—and acted—outside the box to create real change. The honorees included as BDwest’s Power Players: Women Leaders in Hospitality, cosponsored by NEWH, provided the view from the top on issues ranging from the design/operations responses to guests’ need for transformation to the agenda required to make diversity a reality in the hospitality industry overall. 

This year’s conference programming was equally pointed toward the future. Our panel on wellness advised designers to broaden their scope beyond traditional spas and fitness facilities to consider what “wellness” means—whether bringing a firm into a coworking space to help desk-bound executives become more flexible, adding a nurse to the roster of consultants to help design guestrooms around offers of in-room IV therapies or considering layout, color choices and seating arrangement to counteract what is expected to be the next hot-button issue: depression. 

Speakers highlighted business-building opportunities from senior living projects to cannabis-related ventures. They talked about how gamification is influencing design, and how that will change guest expectations for an experiential and interactive stay.

Interviews in this year’s Designed Spaces gave attendees a behind-the-scenes look at how these inventive displays come together, and how they can translate the onsite R&D to permanent projects.  The ISHP/BD Owners Grill revealed what’s on the minds of key clients. And, just for fun, the Industry Feud tested owners’, designers’ and purchasing agents’ industry knowledge. Survey says: even tests can be fun.

The hands-on, lifestyle vibe continued on the trade fair floor. More than 300 suppliers and marketers of hospitality FF&E showed off cutting edge products that make designers’ vision a 3D reality. 

Boutique Design’s team will be covering many of these sessions in more depth in the coming weeks.  For starters, here’s a look at the owner/designer roundtable. Check out our Instagram for updates as the news continues to roll-in.