Laurie Thomas

The Vision Style Awards look to reward and recognise the most innovative, inspiring and striking venues from across Europe who have excelled in their interior design style choices.

As the prestigious awards draw to a close, we’re catching up with Managing Director of Vision Support Services and Vision Style Awards judge, Laurie Thomas.

As Managing Director of Vision Support Services, Laurie Thomas joined Whitaker Services in 2002 which was later acquired by Vision and now forms their leading specialist product brand, Whitakers. With an extensive track record in the UK laundry, textiles and soft furnishings sectors, Laurie has a keen eye for design and his long-standing relationships with hospitality brands across the world has ensured he has a firm grip on the trends shaping the industry.

What made you decide to be a judge this year?

The Hilden Style Awards, as they were formerly known, began five years ago. The concept was born primarily from our customer base who were independent B&B’s, guesthouses, self-catering accommodation and who we noticed were rivalling some of the more famous names when it came to their interior design.

Year-on-year, I’ve watched the Style Awards grow – not only in esteem and prevalence but in popularity too and it’s amazing to see how far it’s come; particularly this year as we’ve expanded the categories from three to a massive 13 as well as opening up the categories to include all European venues.

There’s something very meaningful about recognising someone for their sterling effort and hard work and, many times, it’s been a real labour of love which makes it all the more worthwhile.

What are we seeing in terms of innovation in hospitality design trends that we haven’t seen before?

I’d say that the future is closer than we think! Being able to control the entire guest bedroom from our phones is becoming big news; from voice activated temperature or lighting control to smart intelligence that remembers guests’ past preferences.

I definitely believe that there’s going to a focus on venues highlighting their ‘green’ credentials. There’s been a great deal of emphasis on hospitality venues looking for suppliers, such as Vision, who engage in responsible business practices, supply product that is ethically sourced and commit to social, economic and environmental responsibilities

What, do you think, will be some of the key design trends across hospitality over the next 12 months?

I also believe that we’ll be seeing a push towards health and wellness – many hotels are already taking great pride in their spa and wellness facilities and I believe this is set to grow as most look to embrace the current trend of healthy and clean living.

 Is there anything that’s becoming less stylish and sought after?

Gone are the days when each hotel looked exactly the same – monotonous, uniform and neutral venues are out. Hotels and restaurants are all striving to provide something new and exciting and never seen before and even more so now that we’ve seen the rise of online review sites and photo sharing social media sites.

What do you think will set an entry apart from the rest this year?

Many of our customers look for affordable luxury when they buy from us and I believe that this is what many hotel guests want, too. They want to feel a real element of opulence and elegance but don’t want to be alienated, at the same time.

In my personal opinion, I’ll be looking for a venue that is able to exercise restraint when it comes to their design – over the top and extravagant spaces just for the sake of it are out of sync with today’s consumer where understated elegance and refinement definitely are coming into focus.

In a highly competitive market, how do you think the design of a venue can influence a guest to visit?

In today’s world, consumers aren’t loyal to a single brand for the sake of tradition. They are much savvier than they used to be – with the ability to find and view a restaurant, bar, spa, hotel in seconds and compare them all against each other seamlessly.

They know what deals they can get, where they can get them cheaper and they’re willing to do their homework so the design and style of a venue really has to be exceptional to warrant the cost.

What do you personally look at first when stepping inside a hospitality venue?

When I’m in a hotel, I look at what extra facilities they can provide. Do they have a gym, a wellness centre, a pool?  Staying in a hotel is about much more than simply eating, drinking, and sleeping these days.

When I’m in a restaurant, I look at the surroundings as well as the quality and feedback of the food.

 

Do you have the most stylish hospitality venue in Europe? Vision are looking for spas, bars, restaurants, B&Bs, self catering accommodation, holiday lets, serviced apartments and hotels to enter the 2017 Vision Style Awards.

 Entry to the Awards is absolutely free of charge and we’ve got a huge 12 categories to choose from. Will you be crowned one of our winners and win a double-page spread in the coveted Style Guide?