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September 15, 2016
Cool backdrops for Instagram photos, a photo booth in an elevator, a speakeasy bar and a fitness area made from shipping container materials.
Those are just some of the elements Ankrom Moisan Architects' designers have used in their hospitality projects.
Yesterday, the design firm launched The Society, a separate stand-alone company that will focus on interior design for hotels, resorts and restaurants. The Society will have interior designers, brand strategists and architects based in Seattle and Portland, and work with clients across the U.S.
Karen Bowery, an Ankrom Moisan executive vice president, will lead the team. She said the group will chase mixed-use, “high branded,” urban hotels — “something with a strong story,” but not suburban-type hotels that have “pretty scripted” design elements.
The Society will work with Ankrom Moisan as well as other architectural firms.
Bowery said she expects a lot of the work initially will be renovations and new construction on the West Coast, which is seeing strong hotel development.
Bowery said The Society is in contract talks for its first projects: two hotel interiors, one in Seattle and one in San Francisco.
Ankrom Moisan is a national firm with more than 350 employees in offices in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco. It has done hospitality work for about 25 years, Bowery said, but this is the first time it has had a studio, or “collective” as it's referred to, dedicated to hospitality.
Bowery said The Society is a natural fit for the hotel industry's new lifestyle brands that cater to the specific interests of their guests, everything from wellness to sustainability to the desire to be social. Lifestyle brands include Moxy by Marriott and Starwood's Element and Aloft.
The Society also expects to work with boutique brands. Boutiques include hotels like Motif in Seattle and Hotel Lucia in Portland.
Bowery said her team would also like to create a whole new hotel brand from the get-go.
Hotel guests today want experiences, she said. They want to know about culture, food and history in the places where they stay.
The Society team wants to be as creative, bold and fun as the projects it designs. Ankrom Moisan refers to it as an “audaciously independent hospitality design collective,” with members, not staff; a manifesto; a rabbit; and a “secret handshake” that includes shadow puppets. It even has an online clubhouse, with “news, musings, shenanigans, and industry insights straight from the bunny's mouth.”
Most of The Society's members come from Ankrom Moisan, although two people were hired from outside.
They don't have the usual titles. There's a “Hot Air Balloon Captain” (Managing Principal Heather Hayes), a “Resident Disc Jockey of Jupiter,” (Interior Designer Casey Scalf) and the Duchess of Mischief, (Karen Bowery), on the 10-member staff.
One key member is The Ambassador of Buzz (Brand Strategist Stacey Clifton), who researches societal trends.
Here are some of the projects people on the team have worked on: Moxy Tempe in Arizona; Salishan Spa in Gleneden, Oregon; Starwood Hotel at Esterra Park in Redmond; and Motif hotel in Seattle that has a rooftop bar called Frol!k Kitchen + Cocktails. Frol!k was named “#2 of America's Coolest Rooftop Bars by Travel + Leisure.”
Lynn Porter can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.