Stacey Howlett, Hotel Ignacio

The idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk or “total work of art” refers to an orchestrated experience in which different areas of the senses mingle together and heighten the joys of everyday life.  From the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, this idea has informed everything from Opera to the layout of grocery stores. It’s all “In The Details.”

Stacey Howlett, Hotel Ignacio

Stacey Howlett, General Manager
Hotel Ignacio

We recently sat down with Stacey Howlett, general manager of Hotel Ignacio, in order to find out the ways that she integrates music into the overall guest experience.

She believes that “hotels are interesting, because they can quickly impact each one of our senses. The physical design speaks to our sense of sight and touch, the music to our hearing, and the restaurant component to our sense of smell and taste.” Howlett’s goal is to link these sensory stimuli in a harmonious fashion to contribute to the Ignacio’s projection of a unified and unique experience.  Since it opened in April 2011, the Ignacio has become a premier destination for both its quality lodgings and its approach to integrating art, music, and architecture.

Enhancing client usage without being invasive is a sign of successful music design integration.  Howlett’s convern with this matter places her work at the forefront of this emerging industry.  Moreover, her attention to the details and demands of different spaces on the hotel property inform her choices of music.

As she makes clear, music always exists in a space and the two properties of experience can play off each other in a manner that enhances guests’ experiences.  For instance, for a restful spa experience you would not have overbearing, jarring music.  Yet, as Howlett is quick to point out, not all spaces are immediately associable to certain kinds of music.  At this stage, it is crucial for a skilled designer to learn the uses of space and compose a compatible music experience that can meet those unique demands.

Successful design remains focused on the big picture and doesn’t fall victim to granular thinking.  The optimum technique to creating a brand experience lies in successful orchestration that presents harmony to guests.  Howlett explains that within this framework, the best implementation of music design lies more in composing an experience into which individuals enter, rather than attempting to meet the needs of every single individual, and thus losing sight of the big picture.  She makes the crucial point in our interview that music design is not simply a gloss that one can overlay after a project in finished – but instead a key component of the design itself.

Orchid: Music is very human in the emotion and feeling it can bring to a space.  At what point in your projects do you begin to think about the music you will play? 
Stacey: Music is such an integral piece of the overall feel that my preference would be to incorporate music design at the same time, or soon after the concept is conceived. In the case of Hotel Ignacio, I became involved a year into the project. I knew I wanted to change the music the first time I stepped into the lobby.


Hotel Ignacio Lobby

Orchid:  How do you decide where in your hotel music will be played?
Stacey: Walking the property, both inside and out, gives me a good feel of where we need to consider music. We also consider how our guests are going to use different spaces in the hotel. We want to enhance their experience without invading their space.

Howlett’s concern with this matter places her work at the forefront of this emerging industry. Moreover, her attention to the details and demands of different spaces on the hotel property inform her choices of music.

Orchid:  Is there a methodology to deciding what music you will play?
Stacey: This is where hiring a professional is so important. Some spaces already have a “feel.” A spa would be a good example of a space where you know the music should be serene and relaxed. Most people visiting a spa are looking for that calming atmosphere and in this case the music can be implemented fairly quickly. In a hotel, different guests use the space differently. Some want a place to work, while others want a place to gather. Figuring out what works for the space and the guests can be a bit more challenging. A music designer can really help in identifying what works for both.

Orchid:  What is the importance of music in your projects?
Stacey: I like to constantly be surrounded by sound. When spaces are silent, I get the feeling that something is wrong. And if I hear a song that is completely not right in a situation, it drives me crazy. Needless to say, I think music is as important as the physical design of a property.

Orchid: Can you share with us your most memorable moment where music impacted you emotionally?
Stacey: I actually had a really tough time convincing the employees that changing the music in the hotel to fit the space was a good idea and even possible. It took a bit of trial and error to get the music to where it sounded and felt right. Not too long ago, several of the staff were at the front desk and a song started to play. One person started to snap, the next started to hum, one started to sing and the next thing you know they were dancing and singing. That’s when I knew that the music goal was achieved.

Hotel Ignacio

Stacey Howlett
General Manager, Hotel Ignacio
3411 Olive Street
Saint Louis, MO 63103
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(314) 977-4411