What a first-class design firm can do for you

From left: Jess Hinola, junior interior designer; Lisa Juan, RID, senior interior designer; Raymond Rao, interior design technician; Laura Sloan, RID, senior interior designer; and Judy Henderson, RID, principal interior designer.

From left: Jess Hinola, junior interior designer; Lisa Juan, RID, senior interior designer; Raymond Rao, interior design technician; Laura Sloan, RID, senior interior designer; and Judy Henderson, RID, principal interior designer.

VANCOUVER — Canadian Lodging News asked Judy Henderson of Inside Design what a leading design firm can do to help your renovation or new-build hotel project run smoothly. Communication and candid discussion of costs at all stages can help prevent cost overruns and misunderstandings.

Inside Design was established in 1997, specializing in modern and innovative hospitality design for global clients of all sizes. Projects include large casino projects, and small projects like the First Nations Kwa'lilas project in Port Hardy, B.C.

Henderson, the company founder, fell in love with hotel and resort design during a backpacking trip to Australia and the South Pacific after she graduated in architecture and was working to design offices and institutions. At the time, the Japanese were investing heavily in resorts in the area, and the field was booming. 

After thinking long and hard, she decided her love was the hospitality industry, and she started Inside Design with the idea of specializing in the field. Twenty-two years later, the fact that the company has stayed the course and stuck to the hospitality industry is one of the things that sets it apart.

“We have a team of designers who all know hospitality design; we don't do it as a sideline,” Henderson told CLN. “We can take a client who has bought a hotel, an investor who isn't always a hotel person or a construction person, take them through the design process, including pricing, bidding and teaching them how to execute the construction process.

“Some of our clients didn't know how to bid a project and we walked them through every step.”

Inside Design does purchasing; not every design firm does. “We know how to make it a seamless process. Sometimes people don't know how to start – there are so many decisions to make that it can be overwhelming.” The company works with the client through design, tendering, contract administration and purchasing. 

Henderson believes that communication and candid discussion of costs at all stages of the process are key. This can help avoid problems such as cost overruns. “To control the costs, we should start with that conversation right up front. Fortunately, we have the experience to know what things cost — unless the client starts to add things. Every decision has a cost implication.”

Some clients start out wanting a five-star hotel until Inside Design walks them through what they need in terms of amenities. Then they may decide that they want a three-or four-star hotel. “We have an international group here,” Henderson said of her team. “They know that a four-star here is different from a four-star in Asia, and the cost of building is different too.

“Be it a renovation or a new build, we as business owners know that time is money. A good interior design team knows how to plan a project and has the experience to know a project always has hiccups and plans for them. Opening on-time meets your customer and staff expectations and cash flow when you and your banker expected it…”

So what types of projects is Inside Design looking for? “New hotels of course,” said Henderson. “We really like renovations too — anywhere from three- to five-star properties — including rooms, restaurants, corridors, elevator lobbies and lobby renovations.

“A nice, simple lobby reno would be a great project — it's fun and quick; you see the results faster!”