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Overall view of lobby and lounge featuring layered artwork, millwork detailing, and dark stone with white stone and furniture
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The Evolution of a Brand: AC Hotels

Brian Murch

Since our partnership with Marriott, we have collaborated with their team throughout the AC Hotel brand’s evolution, acting as their design partners and brand advocates. Marriott acquired the AC Hotel concept from Antonio Catalan, who established the brand in Spain and Italy. Marriott’s goal with the hotels was to adopt Catalan’s vision of a contemporary and timeless European brand and bring it to relevant urban markets in the United States. In 2015, we designed our first AC Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. This property was just the beginning of the brand rollout, becoming the second AC Hotel in the system. Since then, we have designed over 30 new build and renovated properties across the country.

Our goal with each location is to create a “European feel” and layer in the locale as the backdrop for design. “Perfectly precise” describes the design approach and aesthetic. Thoughtful editing and sophistication set the AC apart as a localized boutique design rooted in a carefully curated narrative for each location and market.

Localizing a Global Brand

We’ve always centered the AC brand on minimal contemporary design, and the palette has traditionally focused on a monochromatic, neutral vibe. Still, we’ve learned how to take a more creative approach to the refined pallet while staying true to the brand’s design aesthetic. Visitors experience a similarly branded materiality through each hotel – the throughline – but when you read into the unique design narrative for each location, the details bring the design to life. We’ve learned to use materials differently to convey a different feel and add relevancy to each site. We’ve collaborated to evolve the brand away from the hotel’s initial prototype design and have moved towards an adaptable brand that feels organic and relevant to its locale.

Modern hospitality is about unique experiences – memorable storytelling of the region and place where guests stay. This concept is the future of the guest experience and has been the recipe for the hotel’s success. The days of the prototype hotel are over, and contemporary hotel design is about a collection of affairs – memorable experiences through the different AC Hotels and the communities they represent. The lasting impressions are created by drawing from and in the community to blur the lines between the locale and travelers. The recipe for success is becoming the social hub of the neighborhood—a truly authentic experience to give guests a cultural destination centered around design.

Tetra, Autograph Collection & AC Hotel Silicon Valley

Design collaboration within our architecture and interior design teams always start with a fresh understanding of what makes a space unique in its market, the materials we use, the art, the lighting, the interiors, the surrounding landscape, and more to differentiate each hotel. Hotels are a destination but must also represent a local experience and culture. If the locals love it, then it is a beautiful place to be.

Design Principles that Work

Our AC Hotel design approach does not just end with this brand. Our history with Marriott has led to incorporating many of these design practices throughout our hospitality work. We coordinate with local artists whenever possible to give us the ability to pull the lever on the locality. Partnerships with the art team are huge. The artwork helps create a strategic lattice, and you can get more ornate and colorful in some places to energize the brand. This quality is consistent from property to property. Still, the standard of interest in each space varies – this challenges our team creatively to curate unique environments at each location within a brand.

Outside courtyard seating area with trees and floor to ceiling window
AC Hotel, South San Francisco

Success through Tailored Guest Experiences

Design storytelling represents a fresh and localized ethos to modern hospitality. Our teams are dedicated to crafting a unique and sophisticated narrative into each property, intertwining it with its community. This new lifestyle genre, boutique branded hotels, is where our hospitality studio has made a name for itself. A guest experience inspired by thoughtful design fosters innovation and imaginative solutions to how we craft the spaces and architecture around each distinctive property. Our partnership and collaboration with Marriott brand ambassadors are the foundation of our award-winning reputation in the hospitality industry. This reflection of our passion for design ensures a level of quality our clients can rely on to create a relevant guest experience that keeps people coming back time and time again.

Explore more of our partnership with Marriott.

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dlr group principal and Senior Hospitality Designer brian murch, AIA
Connect with me to start a conversation ➔ Brian Murch, Senior Hospitality Designer

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