8 Design Tips to Steal from One Hip Hotel

This East Village San Diego hotel plays it cool. Here's what to steal (and we don't mean mini shampoo bottles).
moxy san diego if you love me let me know neon light hotel design

Neon pink greets guests at Moxy San Diego. Photography courtesy of Moxy San Diego.

Building a design around a theme often yields very predictable (and often boring) results. That’s not the case for the interior spaces of the East Village’s new Moxy San Diego, a boutique hotel under Mariott International’s experiential brand. Yes, there are nods to San Diego’s naval history in the 126 rooms, lobby and bar. A brick wall wears camouflage subtly, there’s a shipping crate lining the fitness center, porthole mirrors hang in a common space and Navy “dungaree” denim headboards live in the rooms. But then there are so many unexpected moments that take this nautical theme to bold, funky, Instagram-worthy new heights: Fish and topographical maps pair so well with neon signs, bright pink accessories, arcade games and more.

Brad Criswell, an interior designer with The Society—the creative team behind these inventive spaces—shared his advice, giving us more than a few takeaways to inject this fun, smart, relaxing vibe in our homes.

Be purposeful in your accent color selections.

For Moxy San Diego, pink is part of the branding. It’s in the sign out front, neon verbage throughout, even the hair dryers and toiletries in the rooms, but we’re obviously not branding when decorating our personal spaces. For color with impact and staying power, Brad suggests choosing a hue that inspires you. Maybe it’s a shade in a piece of artwork or fashion item in your closet; maybe it’s a color you’ve spotted in nature; or maybe it’s the color you gravitated to in the Crayola box as a kid. Pick one and pepper it here and there, not everywhere.

moxy san diego hotel design pink light fixture

The stacked light fixture paints everything in a pretty pink hue.

Observe balance on the wall.

“Gallery walls can be tricky,” Brad cautions. “In addition to making the installation work compositionally together, there needs to be harmony in the use of color and black-and-white images. Pick pieces that speak to you and bring you joy or emotion.” Hone the selections by opting for one or two main colors—such as yellow and blue, for instance—to mingle with the black-and-white artworks and keep the frames and mats simple and neutral.

moxy san diego gallery wall

The gallery wall behind the indoor-outdoor lobby seating frames the space.

Challenge the theme.

When you’re letting a theme be your decorating guide, “it’s important to look beyond the obvious choices, what I call the low-hanging fruit,” Brad explains. The nautical theme, here, ignores the typical shell and anchor motifs in favor of edgier installations such as the LED chandelier over the lobby bar that undulates like an ocean wave as it makes its way through the open space. Need help thinking outside the box? Search “edgy,” “sophisticated,” or “hip nautical” as examples.

Moxy San Diego Marriot hotel design nautical portholes mural

Porthole mirrors, an underwater mural and industrial touches make work a lot more interesting in the business center.

Create a conversation starter.

Whether it’s adding a pattern with paint or paper to an accent wall or picking a furnishing that functions more like a piece of art, you want to select something that draws visitors all the way into the room. Several of those moments exist at Moxy San Diego, such as the black-and-white painted brick wall and benches that look like they collided with wooden chairs.

moxy san diego

A view of the Moxy San Diego lobby.

Maximize every room.

Brad says because space is at a premium in hotel rooms, his team looked for inspiration in other small places like planes, ships and trains. If you have an area that’s lacking in square footage, take a cue from the rooms at the Moxy San Diego, and hang peg hooks on the wall (to keep bags, scarves, hats, and other accessories from piling up on a table or chair); find fold-down desks and tables; benches that can function as a seat, a luggage rack or a footstool; and hang lighting on the wall to free up valuable surface area on tabletops.

Moxy San Diego hotel design marriot jenga

Games and graphics greet guests at Moxy San Diego (plus those mind-boggling benches!)

Pick textures that wear well.

Hotel rooms are built to shine against normal wear and tear. You can adopt that same philosophy when picking fabrics for your furnishings. The headboards in each room at Moxy San Diego, for instance, are actually vinyl that looks like denim, but leather, microfiber, nylon and velvet all stand up to lots of use and can look more refined.

Moxy San Diego guest rooms hotel marriot design

Each room packs a lot of function into a small space.

Light in layers.

“Don’t rely on decorative fixtures to provide all of your lighting in any room,” Brad advises. “It should be used in conjunction with architectural lighting to balance the space and add warmth.” Also, think about installing dimmers so you can control the amount of light you get at different times of day and to create various moods in the room.

Add some whimsy.

Some of the rooms at the hotel feature graphic shower curtains. “The selection was based on having fun,” Brad notes. Plus, they are easily and inexpensively replaced, so do something surprising in a room that may not be seen by everyone.

Moxy San Diego hotel design marriot bathroom graphic shower curtain

Guest rooms with tubs get unexpected shower curtains.

Categories: Home Design, Tricks of the trade