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The Extended Stay Hotel Brand, Staybridge Suites, Taps Students at the
 Savannah College of Art and Design to Create a New Look for its Rooms

By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 29, 2009 - The company's headquarters may be in England, but in matters of interior design, Staybridge Suites is keeping it local.

The extended stay hotel brand, which has its Americas headquarters in Atlanta, has tapped students at the Savannah College of Art and Design to create a new look for its rooms.

"Every three years we work to evolve our standardized room program," said Robert Radomski, vice president for global brand management extended-stay.

Normally, he said, the company would go to tried-and-true professionals who have years of experience, But sometimes, he said, their ideas can be recycled and they often must juggle multiple assignments, making it hard to focus on one client.

"This time around when the cycle came due... we were thinking we'd like to take a different approach," he said.

That switch resulted in SCAD offering a course last winter for its Savannah-based graduate students to specifically design rooms for Staybridge. Hotel officials held frequent conversations with the students, giving them feedback on direction and encouragement to trust their imaginations.

"They represent the next generation of designers and the next generation of travelers," Radomski said.

What they suggested:

  • installing easier-to-maintain quartz countertops in kitchens instead of granite,
  • replacing ceramic tiles with glass tile to make kitchens more contemporary and
  • laying hardwoods in the entryway and kitchens to create a more clean, sleek look.

They also sought ways to utilize multi-purpose materials so that no space is wasted, Radomski said. For example,

  • the students suggested using desks with tops that can be removed and used as cushions,
  • footrests that can also double as storage and
  • closet storage that can be switched around to offer multiple ways of stacking clothing and other goods.

"One thing we really focused on was sustainability," said student Sarah Moellenkamp, 24. "We provided them with a lot of information on that and they jumped right on board."

Moellenkamp and fellow student Erin Tabolt, 26, spent this summer implementing plans for the rooms, which will debut at a meeting for franchisees in November. In addition to picking the right rugs, drapes and comforters, their job was to make deals with vendors, schedule deliveries and turn vision into reality.

"It's definitely been eye-opening," said Tabolt, adding that executing a plan is much tougher than putting it together in a classroom. "In the real world, there are many different considerations."


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