With a background in financial analytics, one could argue that Mulberry Development Principal & CEO Michael Buono was as equipped as anyone to weather the economic collapse of 2008 that tore through the construction and real estate industry like a Category 5 hurricane.

One thing is undeniable: The close-shave timing of his entry into the hospitality development business couldn’t have been worse.

“The word on the street was we were the last project that was funded [as a lender] in Manhattan by HSBC before the financial meltdown took place,” Buono said of his Ace Hotel New York project. “What I saw was fear and lots of instability because the market just imploded.”

Buono, who served as a senior executive for Sydell Group, GFI Development Company and prominent international firms KPMG, Booz Allen & Hamilton and Hoffmann-La Roche before coming to Mulberry, said he had no intention of becoming a developer/quasi-general contractor.

“It was tough,” Buono continued about entering the development and commercial construction world during the 2008 financial meltdown. “I ran up against a couple of walls and was taught to really think on my feet really quick, and because I started in that era, I’m more conservative.”

“But now obviously times have changed dramatically,” he said. “It was a really dark period in time as it related to development and construction in general.”

Style and Substance in Modern Hotel Design

Mulberry Development now counts some of the most stylish, leading-edge design hotels among its portfolio of successes since, including Manhattan’s NoMad New York, AKA Central Park, Freehand New York, The Plaza Hotel and Residences and Long Island, N.Y.’s reimagined Sound View Hotel.

The firm has also developed retail locations for top-shelf brands such as Bally, Yves Saint Laurent, DITA, Bottega Veneta and Tory Burch. Along with partner Robert Lavecchia, principal and COO, a construction industry veteran who oversees general contracting operations, Mulberry prides itself on a portfolio that represents some of the most highly crafted hotel properties in Manhattan.

[Related Content: Renowned Hotel Designer George Wong Sees Beauty in Simplicity]

Buono believes that the rise of lifestyle-focused hotels is a trend that sees no sign of abating, as witnessed by the major hotel chains jumping headlong into the segment in the last few years. This also creates an opportunity for Mulberry on the smaller side of the segment.

“The lifestyle properties are a force to be reckoned with,” Buono said. “You see the bigger names trying to adapt. I see that continuing being the trend, and some folks do it better than others.

“I see tremendous opportunities in small properties that the bigger boys don’t have any interest in.”

Ace Hotel Lobby, Ace Hotel New York
Ace Hotel Lobby, Ace Hotel New York

Modern Hotel Design Trends Are Increasingly Environmental

Buono said some key hotel design and construction trends include using repurposed materials, such as installing floors made from recycled rubber or using reclaimed hardwood from, say, a 120-year-old textile factory, which adds character.

“In terms of the evolution of materials, a lot of attention is being paid to the environment—our footprint,” he continued. “What are we doing to the world as a result of building a new project?

“A lot of attention is being paid to that, and I think that will continue to shape the space in how we use materials,” Buono said.

[Related Content: Benefits of Natural Light for Attendees]

Another trend is the increasing use of synthetic materials that mimic lumber and stone.

Sound View Hotel, Long Island, New York
Sound View Hotel, Long Island, New York

Buono gets his design inspiration from number of sources.

“There are a handful of designers that have shaped me as an individual because of where I was with my career and being exposed to them,” he said. “I’ll follow and keep an eye on what they’re doing. Roman and Williams for sure—I did the Ace with them—and Jacques Garcia, who is just incredibly talented.”

Buono also cites British architect David Chipperfield and up-and-comers Studio Tack as inspirations.

“But you can also be inspired by an amazing dinner somewhere,” he added, citing the various muses that inspire him, such as what he sees during his extensive travel schedule.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to take that moment and pay attention to it,” Buono said.

The Breslin Gastropub, Ace Hotel New York
The Breslin Gastropub, Ace Hotel New York

5 Modern Hotel Design Trends to Watch in 2019

Mulberry Development prides itself on a portfolio that boasts hotels on the leading edge of design, in the fiercely competitive Manhattan market. Following are five hotel design trends to watch:

  1. Guest rooms curated with welcoming details and high-touch elements that mimic the most luxurious bedroom suite in a personal home.
  2. The repurposing of materials in unexpected ways to immediately shift the feel of a space from institutional to interesting.
  3. Incorporation of materials that have a high design and a low environmental impact.
  4. The infusion and celebration of multiple cultures and global design elements all within a single space.
  5. Properties that provide “tech for a purpose” in an unobtrusive way, ensuring that it meets the guest’s every need and still allows them to unplug and recharge.

Before You Go: Check out more industry profile articles on our Movers & Shakers profiles page.​