Rebellious Tendencies

Rebel Design + Group founder and ceo Douglas DeBoer discusses the maverick sentiment behind the firm's work and predicts what's next for hospitality.

 Rebel Design + Group is NOT a company of “office people.” And yet, its 30-plus-year history proves that such maverick sentiment isn’t the boast of a one-hit wonder. Instead, it comes from an ultra-sensitive ear for what the client and guest want. We caught up with founder and ceo Douglas DeBoer to get a few a few of his insights on what’s ahead for the January + February 2018 issue of Boutique Design. Here, he digs deeper into what the future holds for design and some key projects he’s working on.

Sherlock's Pub, Detroit by Rebel Design+Group
Sherlock's Pub, Detroit, by Rebel Design+Group features a quirky take on a London drinking place. Rendering: Courtesy of Rebel Design+Group


Boutique Design: What are the top trends you see for the rest of this year and beyond?

Douglas DeBoer: Generally, over-the-top design feels dated. Today’s consumer has shifted their desires toward smart, straight-forward technology. The previous desire to incorporate as much technology as possible into guest services has become undesired and moot. 

Kuala Lumpur Boutique Hotel by Rebl Design+Group
There's just enough detail in this Kuala Lumpur boutique hotel by Rebel Design+Group to add interest, but clean lines keep the balance. Rendering: Courtesy of Rebel Design+Group


BD: What’s the one overall trend designers need to be aware of, and how will that shape the look of hospitality?

DeBoer: Wellbeing continues to be top of mind. What’s new is that there is more emphasis than ever on what that means for extended family (including pets). So, spaces have to be kid- and animal-friendly, as well as suitable for multigenerational adults. Fitness facilities, wellness treatments, healthy food and beverages, and community driven transportation such as bicycles are musts
BD: What do you think the idea of a boutique hotel represents to the guest—are we still talking Ian Schrager territory here or has the hi-lo approach changed the way travelers perceive this sector and what does that mean for designers?

DeBoer: Guests want to feel that they are getting value for their money. It doesn’t matter why they’re traveling; business and leisure travelers both feel the need to maximize their budgets. So, designers need to curate each property’s offerings. Today’s version of select-service hotels run the gamut from boutique luxury to a convention hotel or bare-bones property. Properties may include fitness rooms, business centers, guest laundry machines, mini convenience stores, indoor or outdoor pools, small meeting rooms, and modest restaurants. Whatever the mix, the building type must exude an image of value.

Sherlock's Pub, Detroit by Rebel Design+Group
A clever mix of seating adds a light touch to Sherlock's Pub by Rebel Design+Group. Rendering: Courtesy of Rebel Design+Group

BD: What’s in your pipeline?

DeBoer: Among other projects, we’re working on a boutique hotel in Kuala Lumpur and we just finished an English-themed pub in Detroit, Sherlock’s and a lounge in London called Red Delilah. Many of the projects we’re involved with are not necessarily conversions of historic properties into five-star landmark hotels, but rather a complete transformation of historic structures.

 These transformations include the repositioning of properties with a variety of uses including; mixed-use, residential, and hospitality, and take full advantage of their location in the local urban core. 

 Additionally, with governmental historic tax credits available, and most cities offering additional incentives for redevelopment, these type of properties represent savvy investments for our client.