About seven years ago, my brother and I decided that our company, Garay Artisans, would actively pursue hospitality commissions. Hotels, boutiques, spas, restaurants — these all fall under the hospitality design umbrella. Since then, we’ve worked on a number of these projects and although wonderful, they require a certain mindset. Over a year ago, we were consulted on a large number of columns for a hotel and in the back of my mind thought that if we did the work, I would post about it on the blog.
In a recent chat with Michelle Lopez of Sparkle Faux Designs, she asked me about the columns. (How cool is that? Being asked about something you wrote on the blog?) I said that yes, indeed we received the approval but that the finish ultimately chosen did not represent well in photographs and so I was probably not doing a post about the commission. She suggested doing a post on running a hospitality project as opposed to showcasing the actual commission as the focus. So, I’m taking her advice.
Picture of the Hyatt taken during our very first meeting.
The column project was for the Hyatt Regency located within the Orlando International Airport. There were 38 pillars to finish and each about 10′ – 12′ height, with varying widths and either made of metal or concrete. They all had fading and peeling light wallpaper on them and so we needed to coordinate the wallpaper removal, cleaning, prepping and finishing of all the pillars. Two of them would require a lift (those two were about 20′ high) and coordination with airport security as the lift base would be parked right in the area of where security checks are held. Thankfully, we’ve worked at the airport before so we were familiar with their procedures.
You can see a few of the 38 columns within the scope of the project...
If pursuing projects such as these, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- TIMELINE: In hospitality design you will overwhelmingly be discussing a project about a year (or a bit less) in advance. Such was the case with this one – we met the wonderful Hyatt team in January and the work was done in August. The design teams plan well in advance either because they need to time all the trades correctly and/or they need to schedule the work perfectly in between confirmed events at the location. We are currently in the midst of negotiating two that are about a year away and one time, we started working on a project 2 years in advance. Sometimes it’s a bit surreal.
- SCHEDULE: In all our initial talks, we discuss the schedule and the clean-up. There have been very, very few hospitality commissions where we worked normal hours. There was one project where we worked 8 am – 8 pm virtually every day for a little over a month — there was a grand opening to consider and a lot at stake. That being said, we more work the 10 pm – 6 am shift. We usually set up at 10 pm and breakdown at 6 am, leaving absolutely no trace that we were ever there. We call it “Stealth Faux”. (…and btw, you meet the most unusual folks at that time. The stories I could tell you…)
- BUSINESS FORMS & COMPLIANCE: Have your insurance and licenses up-to-date. For these projects, they are not optional – they are mandatory and you will be passed over if you are not sufficiently covered. This goes for your team members as well. Also, ask if you need to add any companies as an “additional insured” right at the beginning. This will save you time and monies as some insurance companies do charge for this extra feature. If using scaffolds or lifts, I always make sure we are following OSHA guidelines to a T.
- FINISHES: There are so many fantastic finishes out there and hospitality commissions can be wonderful canvases for these. You do need to think long-term, though. These are spaces where thousands of people will pass through and be inspired to touch. The staff will go by with carts and nick the bottoms of your walls or columns. Housekeeping will use strong cleaners on your finishes. Guests will touch, tear, write with pens, scratch, scar with their luggage, spill their drink, bang their chair — you name it, it can happen. The finishes may be gorgeous but they must also be ultra-tough and relatively ease to patch up. We usually plan to train the Engineering staff on how to touch up the finishes, provide them with written instructions and a guide on where to purchase the products in the future and how to contact us if things get out hand. It proves very helpful to the client.
For this project, five of us worked the overnight shift for three weeks. On Week 3, we started calling ourselves the Zombie Nation.
I came in to ensure our finishes looked good during the light of day and found the Hyatt staff setting up for a beautiful lunch in the midst of an area we had just cleared a few hours before! It was a great moment to realize how valuable great communication and organization with the design team can be. We all knew the products dried quickly and it kept the hotel's pace intact. Most of the columns you see are finished.
We went with a heavy but smooth application of lustery plaster over the columns. It hit all the points specified: a) neutral but with a shimmery elegance; b) durable; c) relatively easy to fix and d) nestled perfectly within budget. We originally had another finish slated with a more pronounced shimmer — but while it looked incredible in the evening lights, it did not look appealing in the sunlight. Sometimes, you have to change your direction very quickly to complete the job well.
All in all, a wonderful project! One more thing — and I cannot stress this enough — it is imperative to be surrounded by a good team, a happy team, during a hospitality commission. When hiring for large projects, we look for talent and a fantastic attitude. There will be that day when you will have all sorts of things going wrong and to have a group that has a great disposition, some who are able to project manage while you put out fires, artists who are nice to one another at 4 am, people to laugh with and moan about coffee together, all pulling each other through the “zombie” hours — that is Priceless. For that I thank Mary Childs, Monica Arrache, Roger Herota and NEVER least, my brother, Jason. They, as well as the Hyatt’s executive staff, are extraordinary. The right people will make your hospitality commission that much more pleasant — to visit and to recall in memory. Hope this has proved helpful — have a great day!
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