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Hotel Design Podcast

Feb 25, 2022

In this episode of the Hotel Design Podcast, we welcome Laurie Wouling, Senior Director of Global Design, US and Canada, for the Distinctive Selects Brands with Marriott International.


Host Glenn Haussman and Laurie start by discussing how the lifestyle concept is an essential design aesthetic – which is very popular with guests who are looking for ‘experience’ – and is shown through brands such as Moxy, AC Hotel, Element and Aloft. Laurie shares how Marriott partners with owners and consultants when developing the design and brand standards that fit within the brand’s DNA. The relationship continues throughout the entire design and development process and through construction and opening.


One property that they focus on is the Moxy Houston - an adaptive reuse project created within a former bank, which dated back to the early 1900’s. The team adapted the banking thematic and building’s history into the Moxy’s design.


They discuss how the AC Hotel brand is making inroads with the development community and consumers in North America. AC was originally developed by Antonio Catalán in Madrid, Spain in the late 1990’s from a belief that business travelers have an insatiable curiosity for urban culture. Catalán saw an opportunity to create a brand with a seamless, clean, modern and timeless aesthetic. In 2014, Marriott brought AC to the United States, and the brand’s footprint has expanded to more than 200 hotels worldwide in less than 10 years.


One property discussed is the AC Hotel Scottsdale North – a modern, clean and timelessly designed property that has 175 rooms and is owned by Host Hotels and Resorts. Laurie shares how essential storytelling is to design by using this hotel an example as to how she and her team develop a story, then pull that thematic through the entire project. Biophilic design has become very important – which brings the interior and exterior together by incorporating nature's elements throughout the design.


Another brand they dive into is Aloft – which leverages bright lights & colors, vibrant spaces, technology, and music. Their market is travelers who are looking for a savvy experience with interests in technology & live music. Exterior LED lights stand out under the canopy similar to a raceway appearance.


The WXYZ lounge & bar within the property features a contemporary loft space with unfinished ceilings and concrete floors – allowing a focal point for vibrant colors to pop.


Marriott obtained the Element brand during their Starwood acquisition, and Element makes health and wellness their main priorities.  They discuss the Nashville Vanderbilt West End.


Here, one of the key pieces to the property’s design is the lobby lounge space, featuring 16-foot ceilings and an entire wall of glass that is connected to an exterior Terra space that produces great natural light.


Moxy was intended for more urban settings, and features a fun and eccentric aesthetic that includes concrete and steel creating an industrial gritty environment. This hotel stands out because its design encourages guests to spend more time in its public spaces.


One design strategy is to use found objects as part of the hotel. By taking this design element into play, it makes the hotel Instagrammable and provides the guest an opportunity to interact with the design as they share the hotel’s story.


“We encourage Instagramable moments throughout the property,” says Laurie, providing an example of Moxy’s elevators that function as a photo booth. This encourages guests to be more of an active participant during their stay – further connecting people to the hotel and the brand.


Finally, Laurie shares that as a designer you learn by listening and discovery. Design tends to be borrowed and reinterpreted through the brand’s lens. She believes hospitality design is so infectious because it pulls together so many different types of design. Laurie also shares insightful advice for young individuals looking to jump in the industry.

Follow along with some great project visuals on our website - - and subscribe to our new Youtube page to watch the video interview!