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How To Be Hospitable

(May 2017) posted on Mon May 01, 2017

Hotel signs beckon guests, attract tourists and can become local landmarks.

By Robin Donovan

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Yosemite park rangers were confused. The sign that always greeted guests of the park’s well-known Ahwahnee Hotel had disappeared from its usual perch. The circle-shaped, Art Deco-style metal sign, mounted atop a stone wall was “a part of the park’s historic fabric,” the Park Service’s Scott Gediman told in late February 2016. The sign was set to be switched out due to an upcoming name change when it mysteriously disappeared.

Despite a weeks-long investigation, the sign hadn’t resurfaced by April, so park officials offered a $1,000 reward for its safe return, no questions asked. But the reward was left unclaimed.

A single line from a follow-up story on says it all: “Whoever took it came prepared, because the sign was bolted down and would have required tools to pry free.”


Not every sign starts out as a masterpiece, and not every location is an instant icon in the way that Yosemite’s historic lodging has been. According to Australian designer Hilary Lancaster, sometimes you have to make something out of, well, very little. Lancaster founded the London-based Fusion Interiors Group (FIG), providing design services to clients in hospitality, retail and corporate settings.

Last September, FIG completed a sleek design for Amsterdam’s Urban Lodge Hotel. The design concept marries a contemporary urban feel with a rustic lodge, yielding a minimalist lobby that features poured concrete, reclaimed wood and a spate of signage.

Lancaster’s client, a Chinese developer, asked only that the budget be streamlined with a simple exterior and guest room designs, saving the “wow” for lobby spaces. Geography gave Lancaster few hints; while the hotel is located just a few minutes from both the city center and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, it had few defining traits. So she pulled from the surrounding land’s farming roots, adding a splash of modernity; she even gave the hotel its distinctive name, drawing directly from her design vision.

And though not every hotel requires such breadth of creativity, many expect a more personal touch. According to Jason Nattrass, founder of Mixit Signs & Visual Ltd. (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), “The hotel owners want you [on site] when they’re going to be there. If they’re managing numerous other venues, their time is very important to them; meetings on time, on site are crucial whereas with a retailer, most of the correspondence is via email.”


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