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OS&E Design Takes Center Stage, Successful Brands Don’t Let it Become an Afterthought

Cara Federici

Imagine a hotel is a doll house.

Go ahead. Pick it up, shake it around and turn it upside down.

What happens?

Well, it’s likely that anything not glued down will fall out onto the floor.

Most of these fallen objects are commonly referred to as OS&E, short for Operating Supplies and Equipment, or, the non-consumable small design elements and accessories in a space that do not require installation.

They often consist of soft goods and decorations, or functional items like coffee makers, table lamps, and trash cans that are set up in a hotel room or hospitality space and manufactured off site, but not officially mounted or attached to the physical area.

Furniture Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E), on the other hand, are movable pieces that have no permanent connection to the structure of a building or utilities but are heavier duty or mounted and secured to a space, like bed frames, desks, chairs, tables, or bookcases.

Why does this matter, one may ask?

Well, a room or space is literally empty without FF&E.

But, without OS&E one might get by…

In light of this, it’s easy to see why OS&E has always been the underdog to FF&E. Since it can easily be viewed as a want, and not a primary need, it quickly moves down the
priority list.

OS&E is sometimes handled at the last hour by the operations staff, or, by an interior designer who’s never worked in a hotel as an employee.

Choosing a bathroom towel set or a under desk trash may become a fill-in afterthought, often times taking a backstage to the FF&E big brother when it comes down to interior design planning.

Now, however, times have changed and OS&E takes center stage.

With today’s surplus of hotel supply in the marketplace and the emersion of a multitude of new independent, boutique and lifestyle hotel brands, OS&E design decisions are proving critical to the guest experience and vital to carving out a brand’s competitive advantage.

Customer acquisition costs are rising and the excellence of a customer journey is paramount to whether or not they’ll generate repeat business for a property.

Hoteliers have also realized that guests interact across numerous touch points during a stay, while dining or when socializing in various spaces, resulting in exposure to OS&E selections on a regular basis.

Whether it’s intriguing storytelling displayed through artwork flanking the walls as guests stroll through room corridors or the embrace of a beautifully selected cashmere throw blanket draping the end of their beds, to the ambient lighting of an intricately modern portable folding lamp placed just within arms’ reach to read a book before bed…OS&E designs have the ability to make or break a magic moment.

Stakeholders, designers, owners and management companies must truly think analytically about what guests will use when they’re in the hotel room. They should consider how these items not only look, but feel, smell, and move.

For example:

  • Are they too heavy?
  • Are they too light?
  • Will they break?
  • Do their design features last over time, or are they too trendy?
  • Would a guest enjoy them visually, as well as, use them functionally?
  • Do they have a purpose and intention?
  • Do they complement each other as a whole, and are they unique to what the hotel down the block has in their rooms?
  • Have they been tested and trialed?

All of these questions, and more, are an integral part of the evaluation and OSE sourcing process.

OS&E is taking the center stage and in many ways FF&E should be asked to adapt, not the other way around.

Thoughtfully planned OS&E procurement helps designers deliver a better guest experience when it’s planned into their FF&E design decisions. This allows for modifications that support the OS&E functional need, and the guest experience, ultimately supporting the brand direction.

For example, if a brand has decided one of its principles is to encourage relaxation, they may select an ultra-luxurious bedding package with an extra high mattress, overly fluffy bed pillows and a plethora of different textiles around the room, such as throw blankets on chairs and oversized bath-towels. It would be a miss for the hotel guest if the bed frame is too deep and a guest can’t easily get out of it, or if the towel rack is too tight to the wall and towels can’t easily be pulled to dry off.

With effective planning and coordination, design execution is seamless and all moving parts work together in harmony.

All and all, OS&E and FF&E designs require foresight, planning, and a thoughtful approach to deliver compelling experiences. When OS&E is a focal point of the design process, loose ends are minimal and guest satisfaction is at its highest.

Give it the center stage, don’t let it become an afterthought.

Let’s make this dollhouse, the best on the block.


Cara FedericiCara Federici is Principal and Founder of The Madison Melle Agency and consultant with Cayuga Hospitality.  Cara demonstrates performance excellence in hospitality, specializing in branding and operations management within the boutique and luxury-lifestyle sectors. Her extensive leadership skills acquired from on the ground management include launching multiple, highly sought after hotels and luxury residences across the globe. She is a trusted Senior Advisor, often acting as Owner’s Representation in support of Capital Partners, Real Estate Developers, Independent Owners, Management Companies, and various other Stakeholders who are focused on capturing the highest return on investment. Cara is a visionary and seasoned hotelier with a proven track record of success.