Behind the Design

How an Eye for Hotel Carpet Made a Loyal Traveler Insta-Famous

It was a simple holiday wish made on a whim. All Jill Young wanted for Christmas was for her dad’s Instagram account, @myhotelcarpet, to go viral. And so, the Internet responded.

Before the wish, Bill Young’s account of whimsical hotel carpet pics had a mere 82 followers. Post wish, it has reached over 500,000 followers.

“I had my phone on vibrate, and all of a sudden, my phone just starts going nuts because I had notifications activated on my phone,” Bill says of the moment his account went viral. “So every time I got a follower, my phone would vibrate … I looked down, and I had thousands of followers all of a sudden. In the course of probably three days, I went from 82 followers up to, at one point, I think I had 682,000 followers within a week.”

The Young family couldn’t have imagined what would come with this immediate Instagram fame — features on ABC News, Buzzfeed and PopSugar.

Then they got the call from Marriott International. After all, most of the carpets featured on Bill’s Instagram feed were a result of his frequent travel as a Platinum Elite Marriott Rewards member.

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The Internet is full of a lot of things, and a lot of them are not so positive, so it was good to see that kind of happy side of it and all of that support.

Jill Young

There were the intricate leaflike swirls on the floor of the Cincinnati Airport Marriott that first captured his attention, meriting a snap; the graphic print of the Long Beach Marriott carpet that reminded him of Pink Floyd; and all the circle motifs at Marriott Hotels from Amsterdam to Japan (we’ll come back to that later).

“I always thought that my dad’s page was funny and kind of pure in what it was, so I thought that it would be fun to see if more people thought the same thing about it,” Jill says. “And I think I was kind of surprised at how much positivity there was surrounding it, and so many people were so determined to get my dad’s page seen and viral … the internet is full of a lot of things, and a lot of them [are] not so positive, so it was good to see that kind of happy side of it and all of that support.”

So when all the attention landed the Youngs at Marriott Headquarters to learn how these carpets get their swirls and spots and then design their own carpet with help from Marriott’s Global Design team and the floor covering company Royal Thai, Marriott TRAVELER caught up with Bill to talk shag swag and the inspiration behind his very own carpet design, appearing at the Aloft Austin Downtown not far from where his daughter Jill attends college.

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[Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.]

I like circles, so I admit to it. I'm Bill. I like circles.

Bill Young

So, Bill, what really catches your eye when you look at a carpet?

When I see a carpet that I want to take a picture of, it’s usually not your standard one that you might find in your house with a repeating symmetric pattern. What catches my eye is when there’s a non-symmetric pattern that looks like it was planned particularly for that space.

For me, I’m not that complicated, so if it’s got a lot of colors and it’s very eye-catching, that would be one that I would more likely take a picture of to share on my feed.

When we were watching you help with the design for Aloft, we heard you say that you liked circles.

Do I like circles? I like circles. And this whole process for the collaboration was amazing — I showed up and they had a board with a lot of my pictures from my photography Instagram. The designers had pulled images that they thought were interesting and mounted them on a board so that they could come up with a theme.

And I was blown away and humbled by that. I thought that was very special. And the ones that they picked had a lot of circular elements in them. And then I kind of looked through my feed a bit afterwards. I’m like, “Oh, I have a lot of circles in my pictures,” which, I like circles, so I admit to it. I’m Bill. I like circles.

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Design blows me away because it's not something that I particularly am good at. I'm impressed by people who can do that kind of thing.

Bill Young

Design blows me away because it’s not something that I particularly am good at. I’m impressed by people who can do that kind of thing. To take a picture and turn it into a mood, to turn it into an element for design, I thought that was amazing.

What’s something that you learned about carpet design that you did not know before?

Well, the Royal Thai team brought videos and everything to kind of show me how the whole process worked. I personally did not know much about how carpet [was made]. I figured there was a machine somewhere that you could throw a picture at and it would kick out a carpet.

But I didn’t know a lot of these big carpets have a large handcraft part to it. Different kinds are woven in different fashions. And then there’s actually hand tufting that goes into the process. And then on top of that, they have people who shave it with shears like you’re giving a haircut basically to the carpet, where you’re creating different levels and texture to the carpet itself.

I always love to learn something new, and to see that was a lot of fun … Before this, I was a little nervous. I don’t know how to design a carpet. But basically, they had everybody there and all the pieces in motion … It was neat to see everything come together.

Listen to the full podcast with Bill Young of @myhotelcarpet.