From Mövenpick Bahrain to Chatrium Yangon, Pearl Phuket, and several resident and retail projects, with several guaranteed design award recognitions from London, New York, Hong Kong, Ith Palach Painupong is no stranger on the interior design scene.

With 16 years of experience in the field, Ith Palach runs his own design firm called ‘That’s ITH’ and had the chance to meet with Ith to talk about design in the hotel space.

“I don’t have a favorite piece. I love every single one of my pieces. Every one of them is different with different unique selling points and I am involved in every project from the start until the finish” said Ith when asked what his favourite project was.

“Chatrium Yangon is one of the many projects that I hold close to my heart. The design plays a big part for the hotel’s identity. The new design allowed it to open up to a different group of guests. Now they get more westerners than that had previously had, and room rates are rising. For me personally I think that it was challenging because we redesigned it from an old style property –  we tweaked it and we gave it a new look”, Ith explained.

Ith understands that being a professional interior designer means that you have to be flexible with your style. When it comes to his ‘favorite style, this talented designer says “I like a more Classical Style but with modern elements. Classic in the present with mix and match and contrasts. Not contemporary. I’d call it Fusion style”. He also added that he enjoys localization and authenticity in designs.

One thing we see in hotels these days is that everyone wants to play it safe. Designs often fall into ‘simple’ and ‘safe’. What’s trends are we looking at for hotel design?

I think tha the trend is going towards appealing to niche markets. Hotel design usually involves needing to think of the mass market, that is settling for something that most people like so everywhere you go ends up looking the same”.

If someone wants to be different and take on a persona that appeals to niche markets, what kind of firm would be in the best position to serve that need?

Look for a firm that can be flexible”, Ith explained. “Whether or not you are looking to be different or the same as the rest, you have to be on the same page with your designer.”

He continues, “I usually like to go into a meeting like a blank sheet of paper and absorb what clients want and understand what their vision is. Then, I ask questions like where is the location? What are the surroundings like? Who is the target group? What is the rate that you will be selling at? And of course, What’s your budget?

I’m an architect by trade. I have trained in landscaping, building, designing and so on. That means that details are very important to me and the way to get all those details is by listening.”

As a design firm, we need to lose our ego and listen to what the client wants. Act as if you were water and adjust and adapt to changes. You need to be flexible. You design for others not for yourself. Listen to your clients’ needs. Don’t walk into a meeting acting like you know everything. Bottom line, what we design needs to give the client what they want.

I joked about how clients usually go big in briefing while budget isn’t so big. Ith laughed and said “As a designer you don’t just design. Sometimes you have to make it work within a tight budget. Not everyone who wants marble gets marble. But it’s your job to find other finishings that can give clients a similar look to what they had envisioned. Again, we have to be flexible and understanding. If they can’t afford it then your job will never finish and you just won’t be able to move forward. At the end of the day, it is not just about designing a space. It is about what they want, who they are and what’s their budget. We are a customer centric design firm”.

We are a small firm. I’m involved in every project that our firm takes on, from attending meetings with clients with my team, to doing research, running workshops,, brainstorming, and of course, designing”.

Up until this point, I think we can all agree on one thing. To get customers, you have to make them happy by doing your job well, and by giving them what they want.

You may not understand design and you probably don’t need to, but, make sure you find someone who does know design, and who is willing to give you what you want – That’s it!