In between a project visit to the Seychelles, a vacation in Geneva, an office meeting in New York, and his home in Montreal, designer Andres Escobar made time to speak to HotelHomes.com founder Dan August Cordeiro. The creator of distinctive hotels and luxury residences, Colombian-born Escobar of his namesake firm was candid about design trends and the hotels and residences of the future.
Dan August: What is your firm working on these days?
Andres: We are working on a variety of projects around the world. We just completed a boutique hotel called Jade, in Greenwich Village, and are now working on a luxury condominium project called Franklin Place in TriBeCa, as well as a new Marriott Courtyard Hotel, which will be the brand’s largest in New York.
Dan August: The development of hotel-branded residences is a major trend. Why do you think they are so appealing to homeowners?
Andres: The vast majority of luxury consumers do not have an awful lot of time, so the amenities and services in their building create much more flexibility for them. For instance, having a high-quality gym in the building means they do not have to spend time leaving the building and being a membership elsewhere. The same goes for spas – why leave the building for a massage, when you can arrange one easily in your home?
Dan August: What are the key design trends that you are focused on?
Andres: In our hotels, the tastes have changed a bit. Hotel guests have grown accustomed to the typical social, hip hotel with the lounge lobby, but it often feels cold and unfriendly. We want guests to feel comfortable, to be able to work, meet or just relax in this communal space. So we conceive of it as more like a private home, with different rooms for different experiences. We take a vast lobby space and create distinct areas for privacy or added comfort. The guests will gravitate to the one that best suits that specific mood or moment.
Dan August: Are the rooms still paramount?
Andres: It depends on the guest, but the rooms are still very important, and we do our best to create a high level of comfort, like a home away from home.
Dan August: This seems like a major break from the sleek, modern trend.
Andres: The edgy trend of being totally minimalist, that’s no longer relevant. It was trendy, so it came and went. We want the guests to feel comfortable and warm. It’s the old spirit of a bed and breakfast that makes you feel like you belong there. And it is not just for the hotel guests. Often, our hotels become a focal point for the neighborhood locals as well – a place to meet, talk and get together.
Dan August: What about your residential buildings?
Andres: First off, amenities are very important. Our firm has been involved in the latest wave of high-end luxury rentals on the Upper West Side [in New York], including Sessanta on West 60th Street, The Corner at 200 West 72nd Street, Columbus Square, and 808 Columbus Avenue. Each of these has been extremely successful, having pushed the level of services and amenities to new levels. For instance, at 808 Columbus, we created a park in the sky that includes a true indoor-outdoor swimming pool with glass walls that open completely. At 200 West 72nd Street, The Corner features a catered lounge, with is included in the rent, which has become a community hub within the building, in addition to a roof terrace, fitness center, kid’s playroom – all very well appointed.
Dan August: It seems like your hotels are trending more towards home, and the residences more like full-service hotels.
Andres: It’s true, but it makes sense. If the hotel guest is more comfortable, it will lead to repeat business. If a residence is more convenient for a tenant, they do not need to leave and find something else.
Dan August: How is it working with the hotel chains today in the creation of these new properties?
Andres: Most of the upscale brands are realizing that they need to provide a different sort of lifestyle in their hotels. While they are still very specific about the level of quality and security, they are much more open to new ideas. The market is changing; hotel guests can be very choosy. They realize that they need to stay relevant, and that means being more flexible in terms of design.
Dan August: That’s great that they are receptive to what you add to the process.
Andres: Absolutely. The brands are savvy, they are open to discussion, and not as rigid as they used to be. Because we not only work in hospitality, but also in residential and retail, we introduce some valuable subtleties into the design that make it more animated and interesting. After all, wealthy hotel guests live in luxury residences, so it is important to understand the trends in the different sectors.
Dan August: Where do you think the design trends are headed?
Andres: Well, eventually, all things change. The new demographic, Generation X, are looking for very different spaces. They want everything to be integrated, especially in terms of technology – they want the full access to WiFi, the LCD displays, etc. But the key is to give them the access to technology without being in your face. You want them discover it. For instance, we like to hide the flat-screen TV. At the Jade, we provide rotary-style phones that are entirely digital, and the radio looks like an antique but has complete iPhone compatibilities. It feels like it’s been there forever.
Dan August: Now on a personal note, if you could own an apartment in any hotel in the world, which would it be?
Andres: Probably at the Mandarin Oriental in New York. It has it all, the prestige, the sophistication, and level of service. And the location by Central Park is just wonderful.