Mass Timber + Hospitality: The Operator Perspective
This is the third entry in our blog series exploring the development of a realistic, hypothetical mass timber hotel. Previously, we looked at the perspectives of the developer and architect, and next week, we’ll see how mass timber can create a memorable guest experience!
Walking into our hotel, I smiled as I scanned the wood lobby ceiling, heavy timber beams and posts — in the sea of hotel sameness out there, I prefer to manage a hotel with a bit of character. One where, in a world with such uncertainty — at least lately — a structure can somehow reassure with its visible strength and natural beauty. A structure which also leaves the hotel guest with a lasting memory of the space — an image in their mind that sets this hotel apart from many others.
We’ve always loved the expansive wood ceilings in our lobby and conference areas, but it’s nice that these details also extend into the guestrooms, where guests can experience them on a more intimate level. Since our opening, I noticed that something happens when guests first arrive at reception — a kind of momentary pause — with maybe a slight relaxing of the shoulders. This stay would be all right.
According to our ownership group, this wood system was a way to get through construction faster and open the hotel sooner. But it also really helps with sales, and with drawing new staff to us. I know guests tend to choose a hotel by location, first, but having this exposed wood detail is a real differentiator, and once folks look over our website, the warmth of our interior images really seem to resonate. Despite all the newer hotel product entering our market lately, the wood character clearly sets our hotel apart from the others. I’m fairly sure that more than once, it also influenced a sales director or housekeeper to join our hotel staff, rather than someone else’s.
This is a special place to work. I love the people I work with, have known many of them for years, and feel the environment in some senses really draws everyone together, both staff and guests.
Day-to-day, our operations run great — the exposed wood in our hotel is sealed, so it’s easy to dust and maintain, and stains can be quickly removed. When we do have an unexpected incident like last week, when a sprinkler accidentally discharged and flooded the floor and ceiling of the room below — mops, wet vacs and dehumidifiers managed the situation in short order. We haven’t had a significant fire or smoke situation, but I understand there’s low likelihood of significant structural damage.
We’re still a year or so away yet, but I’ve already started preparing for our upcoming 7-year renovation cycle. I’m excited about the opportunities to freshen up the place a little, but have some homework to do. The refresh will cover public and guestroom areas — we’ll swap out all the carpet, some of the upholstered furniture, and accessories like lampshades and artwork. The interior design firm hired by our Ownership group is super-creative, and happy to have this wood palette as a starting point and backdrop for their work. In general, we’d like to keep our interior aesthetic fairly consistent, and I’ll tell you: having exposed wood ceilings and posts really cuts down on the interior areas we have to touch — saves on the budget, and allows us to focus on easy-to-change-out decorative items for these short-term refreshes.
Over the longer term, we look forward to the evolving character a few gouges in the wood will add, here and there; these are marked indelibly in the minds of our guests, as well as marking the passage of time.
Tom Kostelecky is a Design Director at Marriott International, with 15 years of hospitality experience overseeing conceptual design approval for new-build hospitality projects, as well as developing and refining new prototypes for the company’s select service and extended-stay hotel brands.
Prior to joining Marriott, Tom worked in design firms based in the Washington, DC, area, specializing in equestrian, historical adaptive re-use, and residential projects. He is a licensed architect in DC.
The Mass Timber + Hospitality research team includes:
Josh Cabot, SERA
Gary Golla, SERA
Chad Chalupsky, Fulcrum
Mitch Lund, Fulcrum
Tom Kostelecky, Marriott International
Jack McCutcheon, KPFF
Erica Spiritos, Swinerton Mass Timber
Tom, this is an incredible concept! Brings the feeling that you get when walking into one of the great lodges. I have always loved that feeling so much that when I had the chance I built a sunroom addition to our house using real solid board knotty pine for the interior walls.