by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | May 24, 2012

Ian Schrager and Cheryl-Anne SturkenThis week in Montreal, a new international business conference on the marrying of creativity and commerce, C2-MTL, launched with an unprecedented lineup of some of the world's leading innovators, from the artistic world to the academic.
Among the presenters was noted hotel developer Ian Schrager, whose unique boutique property concept has transformed the hotel industry landscape from big-box brand name to individual personality. We had a chance to sit down together, and he shared his perspective on the current market and what propels him to continue his creative journey designing iconic hotels.

Q. Where do your design ideas come from?

A. I am not sure. They are not analytical or intellectual. They don't come from customers, because they don't know about it. It starts out as some kind of spark.

Q. Are hotels better designed today than when you created your first property, Morgans Hotel, in New York City?

A. When I think about design, I think about the way it makes you feel, the resonance it strikes, the emotional appeal. Big hotel companies don't get it. They think design is the way a hotel looks. Hotels are like a movie. If you have a bad script, bad actors and a lousy director, it doesn't matter how many special effects you add, it won't save it.

Q. What does creative meeting space look like to you?
A. You know that meetings are the backbone of a hotel. I think windows, natural light, a view of a garden. It's not just about the lighting or design of the chair. It's about the entire setting and what it evokes.

Q. Are hotels on the right track today?
A. The industry now is the same as it was 30 years ago. I think there is another opportunity for something new. Value is what I believe is the new driver. Less expensive, good value. Everybody wants that. It has nothing to do with economics. If you can stay in a $300 a night hotel room instead of a $1,000 a night room and get the same experience you are looking for, you would have to be an idiot not to.

Q. Have you been to any hotels recently that sparked your creative interest?

A. Citizen 21 in Amsterdam. It is a very clever design. They have done something I really admire.

Q. How do you marry cool to comfort?
A. People will not tolerate something that is not comfortable. You can't expect a guest to come into their room and get on their knees to find an outlet to plug in their phone. Cool is distinctive from anything else.