Make my Stay
Contract picks up with pieces that pop
Jamie Sorcher -- Casual Living, 11/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
With an economy that appears to be turning and hotels that have a short window of time to undertake renovations or refurbishments, the contract side of the casual outdoor furnishings industry is seeing more action than it has in many years.
A big reason for the buzz in the business is that hotels generally have a window of three to seven years before they need to update rooms and, in particular, high-traffic areas like lobbies, lounges, pools and restaurants.
"The economy created this pent-up demand since back in 2008 to 2009 for today's contract needs," said Henry Vanderminden, president of Telescope Casual Furniture, based in Granville, N.Y. "The biggest thing driving contract right now is that hotels had been holding off ."
Philip Payne, national contract sales manager for South Boston, Va.-based Gloster Furniture, agreed. "The economy in the last few years has slowed things down, but hotels that delayed cannot wait any longer. They are at a point now where they must move ahead. In the next 12 months, we're going to see the contract market flourish."
Payne noted a recent Gloster installation, which features deep seating, fire pits and lounge furniture, at the Le Meridian Hotel in Arlington, Va. "Hotels are now taking more of an interest in making their guests feel like they are at home," Payne said.
While many boutique properties are just starting renovations, some major resorts and hotel chains are al- ready underway with massive makeovers. For example, the recently completed $25 million overhaul at the secluded Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz., included upgrades to the spa, pool and outdoor areas, making them more luxurious and comfortable. The 70-acre resort offers amazing views of the red rock cliff s that are part of the region's glory - and many of the renovations take advantage of this.
|Sunbrella’s new Rain and Terry fabrics are well suited for hotels in high-use and high-style areas.|
For instance, the guest Clubhouse was expanded with a new lounge area that includes large fireplaces so guests can gather, relax and sip cocktails outdoors while enjoying the scenery. The pool was doubled in size and raised 10 feet so guests can now admire the 360-degree view of the canyon.
One fixture gaining popularity is the pavilion, according to Jennifer Lutton, VP of Hospitality Sales at TUUCI, a Miami, Fla.-based shade platform company. "Whether it's privacy, a shared space for family and friends, or a safe place for young ones to rest, the outdoor pavilion not only adds to the beauty of the outdoor spaces, but it attracts the modern traveler as well," Lutton said. "Modern technology can be brought outdoors as well with small refrigerators in private pavilions stocked with refreshing cold drinks and snacks, TVs to watch one's favorite sports teams or high tech music systems to transport your mood."
Common areas, with more social options, technology enhancements and more comfortable seating, are overall becoming more user-friendly. "In the past it was all about looks, but now it's about looks that serve a function," Lutton said. "Space is better utilized with deep seating groups to relax in, outdoor dining vignettes for groups and intimate couples. Shade architecture over cozy chaise lounges that blend with the landscape provides both form and function. Hotels have come to realize that it's a necessity not a choice to purchase contract grade furniture that performs in all climates and with rigorous use. The upfront costs are higher but the long-term reward of having a space that looks fresh and new coupled with the one-time buy is worth it."
Outdoor furniture is also finding its way indoors, especially to high-traffic areas like lobbies, lounges and other common areas. According to Payne, Marriott Courtyard's updated lobby is an example of the direction in which many hotels are going.
For instance, the Courtyard's new lobby areas have a bistro for folks to enjoy a snack and enough technological features to keep them in the area for hours with free Wi-Fi and ample electrical outlets to power up digital devices. An interactive GoBoard provides up-to-date news, weather and local info.
With a contemporary, sophisticated look that features vivid contrasting colors including blue, green, orange and red, the lobby also offers flexible seating options like a communal table for larger groups to interact. There is also a more intimate, semi-enclosed lounge area.
MAKING IT MULTIPURPOSE
The trend of flipping areas - a venue with one use for day and another for night - is also something that hotels are experimenting with more frequently in an effort to drive revenue around the clock.
"What we're seeing are day clubs where you have live music out by the pool along with cabanas, but then the area can be turned into a nightclub later on at night," said Tommy Lee, president and co-founder of Greensboro, N.C.-based Appian Textiles.
A recent project was at the Hyde lounge at the Las Vegas based Bellagio, Lee said. The company's fabrics, a black and- white stripe (Riverwalk Seagull) and a black-and-white damask (Charleston Seagull) are featured at the club's indoor outdoor North and Fountain Terrace areas. The terraces, which overlook one of Las Vegas' most-celebrated landmarks, the Fountains of Bellagio, offer an elegant early-evening experience highlighted with drinks and small gourm et plates.
The 12,000-sq.-ft . Hyde captures the essence of an opulent Italian villa, and is complemented by Italian marbles, reclaimed woods, lavish chandeliers and towering glass doors that lead to a secluded Tuscan garden.
"The real key right now is that everybody is still in a budget intensive environment," Lee said. "Occupancy levels are up, but not to the level of 2005 or 2006. To get customers and keep them it's now about differentiating factors - finding the pop - but doing it economically."
"WOW pieces have been the trending request by our contract sales representatives," said Allen Calzadilla, president of Miami-based Skyline Designs. "The hotel wants their guests to remember their facility and establishment after their visit. They really want the guest to share pictures with friends and family. They want it mentioned on Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube."
COUNTING ON QUALITY
Part of the process for contract and commercial buyers now is looking not only for "Wow" pieces, but also for higher quality furniture and fabrics that will thrive in high traffic areas and look good long after they've been purchased, Calzadilla noted.
"Performance and material technology have vastly improved," said Irwin Gasner, CEO of New York-based Wearbest, parent company of Bella-Dura fabric. "The result is that we are able to produce beautiful fabrics that are durable, high-design and high-performance in the same fabric. Designers and contract markets demand those options. They also need fabrics that last - and fabrics that perform."
Additionally, contract designers are also keeping factors like abrasion in mind, more so than ever, as more common areas become part of hotel redesigns, Gasner said.
"Contract seating environments mean lots and lots of ‘sits.' Bella-Dura fabrics offer a minimum of 50,000 double rubs," Gasner continued, adding they often exceed 100,000 double rubs. "And our fabrics are even bleach cleanable for the toughest contract environments."
Glen Raven's line-up of fabrics also address durability, according to Gina Wicker, design and creative director for Sunbrella fabrics. New fabrics especially suited to high-traffic areas and engineered for long term use are the company's Sunbrella Terry, a luxurious knitted terry upholstery fabric designed for texture, stretch and performance; Sunbrella Strap, an all-weather performance fabric for seating; and Sunbrella Rain, which is 100% waterproof and offers a quick drying cushion.
Alternative materials, too, are making more of a statement. "We're seeing a lot of movement with hotel redesigns and resorts that are updating properties," said Josh Horner, marketing manager for Louisville, Ky.-based Oxford Garden. "And we're seeing an interest in deep seating in alternative materials, not just wood."
Oxford Garden's Travira Collection, which features mixed materials and wood alternatives, was just expanded to include chaises and large dining tables as well as bar and bistro elements. It also now features Tekwood, a wood alternative that looks like teak, but is made of polystyrene.
Telescope Casual's Vanderminden also cited his company's MGP (marine grade polymer) furniture made from a plastic that is ideal for commercial use. "It is durable and has some weight to it - between 22 and 35 pounds," he said.
CALL IT CURB APPEAL
Another bright spot for companies, including Telescope Casual, is the desire for many contract and commercial buyers who want product that is made in America.
"Two seasons ago we started doing business with Trump Industries," Vanderminden said. "And Trump was very involved himself with the decisions making sure the product for his National Golf Club in Washington, D.C. was just what he wanted. He was involved with choosing the colors - and also with making sure it was American made."
Furniture purchased for the project included dining, sling and bar height chairs for an outdoor bar, as well as furniture for the pool and cast dining chairs for the restaurant outside. Umbrellas and accessories completed the look.
"Resorts and hotels are stepping up now and giving consumers a reason to come and visit them rather than their neighbor," said Tami Newton, sales director for Largo, Fla.- based Palm Springs Rattan and commercial sales director for Leader's Casual Furniture. "It's all about what we call curb appeal."
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