The public spaces of the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown recently received a makeover – creating a fresh and welcoming atmosphere for its guests. Tasked with designing intimate areas within an expansive lobby, as well as pulling in local city culture, the design team at Jeffrey Beers International (JBI) of New York, NY turned to porcelain tile to meet the challenge for the hospitality design. TILE caught up with Principal Tim Rooney of JBI to learn more details about the hotel renovation.

TILE: What were some considerations before beginning the renovation of the Omni’s public spaces?

TR: The lobby for the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown is located within a 1980s-era glass atrium space with an extremely tall ceiling and very open feel. Our design had to be able to create a sense of intimate space, while still feeling natural in this open expansive space. The lower level walls and public flooring were bathed in now out-of-date dark red granite that needed to be renovated in an economical way. Creating a new fresh environment in these existing site conditions drove much of our considerations from the very beginning.

Also, our team partners from Omni were working simultaneously on a re-design of the guestroom and meeting rooms so we had to make sure we were creating a cohesive experience for the guests.


TILE: What was the inspiration for the hotel’s design?

TR: As discussed above, the existing site conditions drove much of the design considerations. We wanted to create intimate spaces at a human scale within the 16-story glass atrium, so we created a variety of trellis and canopies to create a sense of space. Each area of the plan was designed to be activated at all times of the day so the lobby always feels lively and engaging. We wanted to create several spaces within a space like pavilions in our outdoor garden.

The City of Austin itself also played a critical part in inspiring the design. We took inspiration from the casual luxury you find throughout Austin. It has a non-assuming nature, but the details and mixing of materials contribute to a rich environment. We used these inspirations in our selections of wood tones throughout, including the burnished wood details like the charred wood bar die at the bar. The youthfulness of Austin also played a key role. All of the spaces were designed to be flexible and multi-use for work, play and relaxation.


TILE: Were there any specific requests from your client that you had to adhere to?

TR: Our partners at Omni only requested that the new space be fresh, inviting and help to define the next chapter for the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown.


TILE: I understand porcelain flooring was used in many areas. What were some reasons for selecting porcelain over other material options?

TR: Porcelain is durable and very consistent. Both qualities are ideal for a hotel lobby where there is heavy traffic and large surface areas. Natural materials have variations as they are created in nature and make it difficult to control the end result. The new modern porcelains that are available today allow us to create spaces with the beauty of the natural material, but without any of the risks. Also, in an era of responsible sourcing, porcelain is the best eco-conscious choice.


TILE: What was one of the most memorable moments about working on this project?

TR: There are two memorable moments on this project. The first, for me, was when I walked into the space for the first time with the steel framing erected for all of the trellis and canopies. It was the first time that the character and scale of the space could be felt to be sure what we had designed would feel correct in this large open space. It felt amazing, and at that point, I could be sure the space would look great in the end. The second was one of our lead designers on the project who was able to visit the project with her family after it had opened. A proud moment to show her loved ones what we do every day and share in the joy of creating space.


TILE: Is there anything else you would like to share about the renovation project?

TR: I mentioned earlier that the lower walls and public areas of the flooring were bathed in dark red granite. Our biggest challenge was to change this material, as we knew it would have the biggest impact on the feeling of the space. Understanding that removing and replacing the granite was not an option in the project budget. With a lot of research and teamwork with Omni, we found a faux wood wallcovering that could be adhered to the stone and gave the look and feel of real wood wall panels surrounding the newly created lobby spaces.