Hospitality Design Expo + Conference Recap: Design and Product Trends to Watch

June 12, 2013

One of the most exciting parts of my job as an interior designer for Populous is the challenge of creating entertaining, diverse and functional environments for social interaction within stadiums, arenas and convention centers. Within all of our facilities, there are a wide variety of premium spaces, restaurants, bars and social gathering spaces, each of which must have a unique identity complimenting the overall concept.  At this year’s Hospitality Design Expo + Conference in Las Vegas, held May 15-17, I had the opportunity to explore innovative solutions, products and materials for hospitality interiors  and listen to a number of accomplished industry professionals discuss everything from branding at restaurants to designing luxury spaces. Regardless of facility type,  be it a sporting venue, a convention center, a casino or a restaurant, the goals of any entertainment space are the same; to create authentic, memorable experiences in immersive environments that are indicative of the clients with whom we partner.

What were the most important takeaways from this year’s Hospitality Design Expo + Conference? They could be divided between two categories: design trends and material and product trends.

  • Design Trends

There was an extensive focus throughout the sessions on creating integrated, fully-branded environments that tell an engaging story. Design elements in these environments, including the interior architecture, materials, lighting, graphics, signage and furniture, are woven together, reinforcing the story.  In a restaurant, bar or club, even the font on the menu can add a layer to the design and the visitor’s experience.   An example of this attention to detail shared in a session was the new Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto, and how it stands out in a saturated luxury market.  In one year, four 5-star hotel and condo properties opened within one mile of each other in downtown Toronto. For each to succeed, each property had to provide a distinct luxury product.  Similar, but on a different scale, we design sports facilities with numerous club spaces, each providing its own experience.

  • Material and Product Trends

The trade show portion of the event allowed attendees to get a first-hand look at new and innovative materials and products in the hospitality industry. A major trend was a focus on furniture detailing. Upholstered pieces featured contrasting piping, unique decorative seaming, tufting and buttons.  This added ornamentation and detailing veers away from the clean and simple lines and materials which have been prevalent for the past several years.  It’s not your grandmother’s Queen Anne chair!  The successful marriage of antiquity and modernity was reflected in modern twists to ornamental traditional pieces.  How about a tufted lounge chair in white patent leather or cowhide and white lacquer frame?  Or a whimsical bookcase that looks at a traditional profile from a different perspective.



Well-designed lighting can be the jewel of hospitality environments.  Another product trend was large-scale lighting.  Pendants, 4 feet in diameter or larger, can be used to define space, especially in large hospitality areas such as lobbies or clubs. Large scale floor lamps add interest and provide more intimate, patron-level lighting.  Stackable fixtures can create back-lit towers of illuminated wood veneer to physically divide space or create feature elements.


Many materials shown at the Expo highlighted the continued ombre trend that hit mainstream fashion a few years ago and has been popular more recently in interiors. The Expo featured ombre upholstery, drapery, carpet, tile & stone products. Printed graphic broad loom carpet provided a whole new oversized scale to custom and standard carpet offerings.  From ‘airy’ neutral organic patterns that emulate a blurred black and white photo, to bold and bright geometric graphics, these oversized patterns are perfect for large hospitality spaces that will make a statement.

From the most casual, funky burger joint (check out Holsteins at the Cosmopolitan!) to high-end premium spaces, successful interiors must tell a story from the moment a customer enters the space. In order to do so, the design and material choices must be reflective of the brand’s identity while incorporating applicable trends to create spaces that customers can’t help but want to return to again and again.


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