In conversation with Lesley Wong, CEO at Lesley Wong Interiors
Here’s a personal message from Lesley Wong, to hospitality professionals and support staff at vacation properties all over the world.
As COVID-19 has taken hold of our industry and the world in general, I want to send my well wishes to those working hard to keep things going strong. There is no way of knowing how this will change the world scene, however we do know that hospitality workers are adaptable, hardworking and resilient as hospitality is the heartbeat of many communities. Let's support each other.
Lesley Wong is a Designer and Hotel Interior Specialist based in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. She feels that a brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.
Lesley’s work involves connecting interior design to corporate branding. Why are customers choosing you? What do your customers expect? What story are you telling? And since this is about interior design, how does interior design relate to branding?
According to Lesley, telling that story, your story, takes commitment. You want your client to understand fully your values, and the value you bring. Therefore, your branding needs to come alive in everything – from your company’s logo to the way it treats its customers.
We now present excerpts from our interview with Lesley Wong, where she talks about client interactions, and the need to understand brand values before you work on the design process.
What was the path to becoming a designer, and working with interiors?
Great question to start with. I guess you could say I've always wanted to be a designer. When I was a little girl I would make furniture for my dolls with items from around the house. It only goes from there. I'd give up a night out to buy wallpaper or pillows for my first apartment. It was meant to be.
Now I'm running my own design company where we service both residential properties and hotel interiors. Details make the difference in what we do.
How would you translate a company’s brand properties into interior design?
For me, I like to do some homework before I meet the client. I look at the company logo, website and brand. I try to get an understanding of what they would like to convey to their guests.
The next step is to meet at the property to connect, if what they want to convey is really getting across to their guests. For instance, does the brand say “warm and welcoming”? As it pertains to interior design, we can use that as a jumping off point with a color palette. Maybe we look at logo colors and modify from there with complimentary colors in the interior – ones that make you feel warm and welcomed. Think warm rusty oranges, reds, yellows, earthy browns and beige - “warm” colors. Textures that are soft will continue on that path of welcoming.
How difficult does this become in the physical world of interior design?
That really depends on the brand standards and budget. Brand standards, in that you want to comply with the direction the brand is going but still respect that every budget has a limit.
Some designers will push that budget limit, but I don’t feel that respects the owner’s investment. These are large projects, at times costing large dollar amounts.
How can you achieve synergy and resolution with (sometimes) different points of view?
Communication is key. We have to not just hear, but listen and translate the needs that each owner and brand is trying to get across. Typically, this is an amicable process between the hotel owners, myself and the brand.
Everyone wants the best outcome and so we work together to support each other in moving forward. There are at times obstacles, but not one that hasn’t been overcome.
How can you prevent “brand presence” merging into the background, or becoming invisible?
As designers we need to be mindful of balance. One side, we want to give credit to the brand - however the flip side of that is the temptation to make an outstanding individual hotel by being extra creative with the unique setting, layout or circumstances at that property.
Could design elements sometimes end up making an overstatement?
Sometimes we have to rein it in creatively, and sometimes the budget does that for us. We have to be realistic. Functioning well and appealing to guests is the foundation of our process and we check in on that throughout the design process to make sure we are on track.
When a client redefines his brand identity would you need to rework on interiors?
I would hope not! That’s just wasteful. We take the approach of having a classic design base with added but interchangeable elements that are low-cost, so that should brand change, keeping up is not so costly.
One final question from AIRDA: What do you think of timeshare as a long-term holiday option?
We had a timeshare vacation property and used it well. It was perfect for where we were in the cycle of our growing family and we had many happy times because of it.
I would recommend it for young families to connect with other family generations and make lasting memories.
What does an AIRDA membership mean to resort owners and developers? AIRDA comes in as your industry partner, conscience keeper and business catalyst - with a wide portfolio of support services.
What does AIRDA mean to holiday seekers and prospective customers? AIRDA comes in to provide information and offer guidelines on making the right timeshare decisions.