The Heart of the House

By Veronica Givone | Managing Director, Hospitality

The Heart of the House

By Veronica Givone | Hospitality Studio Managing Director

In almost every service-based business, there is the front of house (FOH) and the back of house (BOH). The FOH consists of all the customer-contact staff, and the BOH is comprised of those staff who are not as seen, but play a crucial role, including cooks, laundry attendants, dishwasher/kitchen stewards, and more. In many hotel environments, the BOH is called the Heart of the House.

Hotel interior design is a multifaceted discipline that goes beyond the mere aesthetics of guest-facing spaces.

The significance of the design should extend to the functional and operational areas of the hotel but frequently they are not sufficiently developed. Often there is no scope or budget from the start in developing team-member areas for employees, such as the staff entrance and circulation, changing rooms, lockers, restrooms, pantries, cafés, breakrooms, offices, training rooms, and relaxation and outdoor break areas, even though staff is considered the hotel’s most important asset. Employees are responsible for providing excellent service to guests every day, ensuring that the hotel is running successfully and for that reason we should be designing truly staff-centric experiences.

As workplace culture evolves, so should the spaces supporting that culture. Inviting staff to envision their ideal work environment sparks ideas and imagination. By listening to employee needs, hotels can construct BOH areas as uniquely customized hubs of productivity, unity, and empowerment. When staff feels truly cared for, it resonates during each guest interaction.

Rethinking the heart-of-the-house design goes beyond refreshing aesthetics; it means creating nurturing spaces where staff feel safe, comfortable, and purpose-driven. This uplifts the employee experience which ultimately uplifts the guest experience at the heart of every hotel.

A well-designed heart-of-the-house area not only ensures operational efficiency but also contributes to a cohesive and productive hotel environment. While guest-facing spaces often take the spotlight, the heart-of-the-house areas are the engine that keeps the hotel running smoothly, a crucial factor for the hotel’s success.

A hotel's interior design tells a story that sets the tone for the guest experience. To truly bring that story to life, the concepts and values that shape the interiors must also resonate with staff. Extending core design features throughout BOH and staff-only areas reinforces the hotel's culture and spirit.

Making staff areas feel like an extension of the hotel's concept identity fosters a seamless sense of belonging. Employees recognize how their contributions carry the hotel's heartbeat. They instinctively match the hotel's rhythm through thoughtful, intuitive service reflecting its values. Design's ability to connect staff to the venue’s purpose completes the guest experience, keeping it authentic from arrival through departure.

Thoughtfully designed staff spaces enhance comfort, workflow, and morale. Proper lighting, ergonomic workstations, organized storage, and amenities like breakrooms, outdoor dedicated spaces, and cafeterias demonstrate a staff-centric approach. This uplifts the employees’ level of satisfaction, health, and productivity. Ultimately, hotels are not static buildings but shared spaces nurturing human experiences. When design consistently incorporates and surrounds staff in an environment infused with the hotel's essence, they become true hosts guiding guests through a story. The resulting harmony elevates a stay from simply functional to meaningful and memorable.

Sharing the hotel's vision early on ensures staff input can inform choices to make spaces functional for them. When operation teams collaborate with designers, clever innovations emerge. Achieving a cohesive vision requires collaboration between the interior design team and the operations staff from the start. When designers invite participation at the project initiation stage, operations teams help identify potential challenges and provide ideas to optimize functionality.

Truly visionary design weaves together aesthetics and practicality. By valuing operations staff as partners from concept to execution, hotels ensure vibrant, harmonious spaces that support exceptional guest experiences. Seamless collaboration behind the scenes manifests in every guest interaction.

When team members understand and embrace the hotel's core vision and see their role in bringing it to life, a space gains an intangible energy and coherence that visitors can sense. Sharing the basis of design choices may happen behind the scenes, but manifests during each guest interaction to realize the hotel’s vision and mission.

Veronica Givone 

Managing Director, Hospitality

Veronica Givone, Managing Director of IA Interior Architects’ Hospitality practice, is based in IA’s London studio. A seasoned leader and design director with 20 years of experience in the boutique and luxury hospitality and residential sector, Givone has completed notable hotel projects such as JW Marriot Venice Resort and Spa, Hilton Barcelona, The Westminster Curio Collection, The Lowry Hotel, and The Mansion residential development in London, among many others. Her experience spans across EMEA and the U.S. Veronica holds a degree in Interior Design from the Istituto Europeo di Design.

Contact Veronica: [email protected]