This month, AJC Design had the pleasure of talking to one of their favorite vendors, Melissa Smith, Director of Business Development & Hospitality for Model No., the upstart Bay Area company that designs and produces modern furnishings with zero environmental impact. In her role, Melissa works with larger architecture and design firms in the US and across the globe.
Breaking into the hospitality industry
Melissa’s exposure to the hospitality industry started at an early age. One of her uncles, an executive for Best Western, shared many hotel and travel stories over the years, inspiring Melissa to start exploring this exciting world firsthand. This led her to major in international hospitality management and have global experiences in Holland and Switzerland.
She officially started her career working for two major hotel companies, then on to publishing for several hospitality magazines, then worked in a property management company for vacation rentals. When looking for her next move, she had a passion for sustainability and loved working with creatives. Model No. was finally a company that opposes fast furniture and instead employs an intentional planet positive design and manufacturing approach. They utilize 3D printing with bio-resins in their manufacturing process, which are not only non-toxic but recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable.
During and After COVID
As Melissa started working at Model No. a year and a half ago, she can’t vouch for how the company was affected by COVID. However, she was working with a vacation management company, which experienced a big boomerang from the first months of COVID to about 6 months in, when people were itching to travel and wanted the safety of their own rental unit, versus a shared hotel space.
Best Aspects of Her Job
What Melissa enjoys the most is educating her clients on her company’s core differentiators – using 3D printing with plant-based resins to create modern, minimalist furniture pieces that enhance the built space but are also biodegradable and recyclable. Beyond elevated design that is eco-friendly, most people don’t realize that 3D printing increases the possibilities of custom design. 3D printing can produce designs that aren’t even achievable by traditional methods.
She loves educating her clients, but has to remind herself that digital manufacturing with plant-based materials can be a very new concept for most people to wrap their heads around. It’s important to help people understand this technology and how it can help make such a positive impact on the environment.
Hospitality trend projections for 2023 and beyond
Melissa expects to see more and more hospitality clients shifting to sustainable furniture. Furthermore, she is also seeing wellness prioritized for building users. This may create a demand for more biophilic design.
Melissa’s Travel Recommendations
Being a world traveler, Melissa had a plethora of places to recommend. Hotel-wise, Spain topped off her list. One of her all-time favorite hotels is the Hotel Caro in Valencia, Spain, which is literally a historical monument. Her other favorite was the Hotel Eugenia de Montijo in Toledo, a Marriott property.
Her local Austin, TX favorites include the Hotel Van Zandt, in downtown Austin, which has a relaxing and artistic vibe. For restaurants, Clark’s Oyster Bar is where it’s at for both an Old Hollywood vibe and delicious seafood.