Posted in People on 17 May, 2017

What does it take to build a reputation within the notoriously demanding North American market – and then consolidate it by expanding? Can Faik meets ForrestPerkins’ Deborah Lloyd Forrest to find out…

ForrestPerkins is a distinct design studio of Perkins Eastman that creates bespoke interior design solutions for Hospitality and Luxury Residential destinations. Founded in 1998, the studio under the leadership of President Deborah Lloyd Forrest, FASID, ISHC, provides the highest quality interior design and architectural services to the owners and operators of luxury and landmark hotels and prestigious multi-residential projects throughout North America and internationally.

Tell me about your role at ForrestPerkins?

I am President of ForrestPerkins, which means that I lead the management and direction for the five offices of ForrestPerkins – Dallas, Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, and Dubai. I am also Managing Director of the Dallas office as well as a shareholder and Director on the Board of Perkins Eastman, a 1000-person architecture and design firm with which we merged in 2016.

What six words would you use to describe ForrestPerkins?

Design-driven, Innovative, personal, fresh, authentic, visionary.

How long have you been involved with hotel design?

Almost 40 years.

What differentiates ForrestPerkins from other design firms?

We focus on designing for the way that people live today. We are experts in high-end and boutique hospitality and multi-residential interior design, architecture, and branding.

We have a breadth of knowledge in adaptive re-use and historic buildings as well as new build architecture and design, hotel branding, master planning, and programming. We design across genres from contemporary to eclectic to traditional, specifically for each client and each project.

How and why did you get into the interior design industry?

I had always been creative and spatially-oriented and wanted a tangible way to use that creativity to make spaces and places that people would enjoy.  I taught at high school for two years before I made the change to interior design. I got into hotel design about five years into my career, when I was offered the opportunity to design a small hotel in the historic Mississippi town of Natchez. From there, I was hooked on hotels and never looked back.

Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?

I think hotel design has become more eclectic, more ‘anything goes’ than I have seen it in my career. While there are more brands that slice and dice the market into smaller segments – luxury, luxury lifestyle, boutique, lifestyle, select service – there is less of a consensus of what each means from a design standpoint. I also see less creativity and more reuse of design elements from previous decades, often without context.

How important are public spaces in hotels?

Public spaces have always been important. They are more so today, catering to the variety of activities and uses that guests expect, such as a place to work, socialise, enjoy a drink or a meal, hold an impromptu meeting, really whatever is important to each guest at the time.  So, flexibility and a variety of seating options are important as is a greater emphasis on responsive, individual service.

With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does ForrestPerkins stand out from the rest?

I think I can safely say that ForrestPerkins’ work stands out for being well-considered, skilfully-detailed, and responsive to owners and guests without repeating a particular look or style. We produce design of quality: our attention to detail and our holistic design-driven approach ensure that our designs stand the test of time.

Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?

There is quite a bit of work going on in the Middle East and has been for some time.  Likewise, China, by virtue of its size, continues to grow.  What we see happening in the hospitality design world in China is that more and more luxury properties are being designed by Chinese design firms and these firms are winning international awards. This wasn’t the case until very recently. Before hotel design in China was driven by western design firms from the US and Europe.

What has been your favourite project to date?

I always say my favourite project is the next one and I have to believe that is true. But there are some from my past that remain near to my heart over time, such as The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, and the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, DC.

What’s your favourite part of a hotel?

My favourite parts of the design process are the initial planning and design concepts and then the actual execution – being on site to make crucial decisions if things aren’t going quite as planned. And I love being on site for the photo shoot – seeing the project completed and then making sure that it is captured in its best light, literally and figuratively.

My favourite part of a hotel is its guest accommodations. These are the spaces that bring guests comfort and make their stay memorable. So we pay careful attention to creating a quality experience for each guest, from the fittings, fixtures, and lighting in the bathroom to the comfort of the bed and bedding to providing options for relaxing, work or dining.

How would you define your ‘hotel style’?

My ‘hotel style’ is luxury in all its forms. For me, that means finely crafted furnishings, generous accommodations, gracious service, excellent lighting that changes in intensity appropriately and seamlessly throughout the day and evening, and of course, the perfect location.

What does design mean to you?

At its essence, design is finding elegant solutions to unique problems.   This applies to all types of design and we take our role as problem solvers very seriously. The opportunity to create beautiful environments that are also functional and practical is what continues to excite me about being a designer.

What would be your dream hotel project?

One with no budget, no schedule, and a client who agrees with everything we present. In my experience, there are no ‘dream’ projects that meet my definition, but there are fairy tale projects that allow us to create environments that provide the background for memorable events in people’s lives.

Where do you see hotel design in the future?

I hope that it continues to excite the imagination of travellers and that great hotel design remains the key ingredient in driving occupancy and revenue for hotel owners.

Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

We just completed the design of the public areas of the Fairmont Washington, DC, and I am very proud of our results.

What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?

From an experiential and service perspective, the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok has to be an all-time favourite. I spent a wonderful long weekend at the Ritz in Paris, which was magical. And I love La Bastide de Moustiers, Alain Ducasse’s lovely little hotel and restaurant in Provence. Each of these experiences was made more special because I shared them with my husband, who loves to travel as much as I do.

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