AHL Insider:

Michael Suomi

Principal at Stonehill & Taylor

  • What do you do and how did you get here?

    I love design. I love new ways of thinking about design and learning new things. This curiosity gets me up every day. I enjoy exploring and discovering new things about the world to use in the creation of new experiences for people through design. I started my career designing buildings. My background is in architecture as a licensed architect. Along the way, I worked with a firm that designed restaurants and bars – everything from the details of forks and knives to the entire building. That experience inspired me to look at design in a fresh new way compared to the way I was used to – from 5000 feet away when designing a high-rise.

  • Was hospitality something you always wanted to do? What did you want to be when you were growing up?

    My first job was in catering back in high school. I guess you can say that hospitality was always in my blood, but I took a circuitous path to end up in the industry from 2001 onwards. As a kid, I loved art, loved to draw, and had always wanted to be an architect. In middle school, I took a class in mechanical drawing and relished in the feeling of putting lead down on empty paper to create something. Then in junior high school, I designed a geometric dome house that ended up being built by a friends’ family. From that point, I was hooked.

  • Who or what is your greatest inspiration in the industry today?

    Anoushka Hempel, for the beautiful things that she created: the hotels she designed, her sense of style and her incredible performances as an actress in many 60s and 70s classic exploitation firms.

  • If you could throw a party for anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and what would it look like?

    I would be thrilled to throw a party for Buckminster Fuller, the American neo-futuristic architect and inventor, and invite Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and social reformer, to experience their interactions in The Goetheanum – the world center for the anthroposophical movement.

  • You’ve been involved in some of the most fabulous hotel openings of the past decade, what’s the wildest thing you’ve seen?

    Turbaned yogis riding golden elephants in a parade of a hundred drummers for the opening of Dream Hotel in Cochin, India. And that was before we started drinking!

  • What's the next big idea in hospitality, what are we missing?

    A unique personalized experience that connects the guest with the locale and its people. Years ago, I went on vacation and stayed at a small inn on Orcas Island, San Juan. During that trip, the hotel owner connected me with the locals and I got to know one family in particular, The Nutts. Maria Nutt invited me to come over to pick out a sheep from her farm flock; she then sheered and spun the wool to knit me a sweater. The island is covered with artists and artisans. I got to spend time getting to know the people who lived and worked there and truly connected with the community. This is something invaluable that’s hard to find and experience when one travels for leisure.

  • What’s your favorite mini bar item?

    An ice-cold beer, which is surprisingly hard to find in modern mini bars; those beers are never cold enough.

  • If you had the day off today, where would you be?

    We just had a day off because of the Winter Storm Juno here in NYC. If the roads weren’t shut down, I would have loved to have taken my daughter skiing upstate.

  • Do you have a favorite hotel in the world?

    Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portfino, Italy is out of this world. It is classic, beautifully proportioned, offers unrivaled service, and is one of the most stunning and tranquil escapes in a one-of-a-kind location.

  • What will you be doing 10 years from now?

    More of what I love to do! Exploring the world, working with friends and colleagues and designing wonderful places for people to experience.