Hotels and their interior design are similar to a sailboat, the slightest touch of the rudder can bring it safely to port or take it off course into unknown waters. Whether business or boutique hotel; it's all a matter of planning and style. Here are the latest trends, inspiration and tips from design experts.
By Laura Myers // fotos: Stephan Lemke / Eric Laignel / Steve Herud / Steffen Jänicke
The hotel trend continues: the lobby becomes a living space. Gone is the time when it was an intimidating, echoing, entrance hall. More and more lobbies are now offering a variety of areas for working, relaxing, drinking, waiting and checking in. Each zone may have a different atmosphere created by lighting, plants, furniture, open spaces and private nooks.
The reception desk is no longer the dominant feature, but might just be tucked away in a less conspicuous place. Small tables can replace the large reception counter inviting guests to sit and relax while checking in. The lobby is the central hub and its mix is crucial. Offering quiet more intimate spaces, such as varied sofas combined with unique chair sets, encourages relaxing guest interactions. Long wooden tables provide an area to work or read while enjoying a drink. These open work zones are similar to our modernized office environments, providing familiarity away from home. From Hamburg, Germany, the renowned designer Thai Cong Quach sums up the new lobby logic in one sentence; "A lobby should feel like your own place that you are coming home to, not like a place for a business transaction." With that in mind, there has to be a smart compromise reflecting the trend that the divisions between the once rigid private and public areas are melting away.
A picture says a thousand words. Social media is visual, so the lobby is your business card on the web. Think Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest - they are all picture driven. People are inspired by those cool images posted in their circles of friends or followers. That's why the smartphone in your guest’s pocket is a marketing tool that should not be underestimated. Anything can become a photo object, whether it is a sculpture or paintings by local artists, a graffiti wall, special table lamps, an intricately designed parasol, a cool water carafe in the café area or a colorful cocktail in an ambitiously stylized glass. Ideally, images show your guests in the context of your hotel. These photos are shared more frequently and are able to demonstrate in a split second that your guests consider the hotel, or a particular aspect of it, original and recommendable, or instagrammable.
Actually, it is an old story, re-invented. Organization expert and bestselling author Marie Kondo propagates minimalism and pure design. Simplify-your-life gurus have been preaching the same thing for decades, clutter has to go! Efficiency and clean lines remain elegant and hip. Micro hotels best exemplify how new ideas make room for refreshing visuals. Most hotels have bid farewell to the bulky wardrobe closets and dressers. Your carry-on bag now fits snugly in a strategically-placed drawer under the bed. Wallpaper is out, unless it is exceptionally beautiful, made in the region and offers an original value-add to the ambiance./p>
A clear trend is localization. A hotel which showcases local character is attractive to guests. On one hand, this happens through the involvement of local artists, musicians, photographers and staff, as well as, the hotel’s usage of locally produced brands e.g. craft beer, roasted coffee, food or luxury bath products. Scott Dahl, Senior Lecturer at the Hotel Management School Lausanne, says, "Personalization and specialization are key. It's good if the barista in the lobby café comes from the place where the hotel is located. He brings his own style, which in turn is characterized by his origins and his experiences.” With interior design, too, originality overrides interchangeability. A design winner is a property who stylishly integrates local art, foods, drinks and idiosyncrasies. Designer Thai Cong Quach: "A hotel should rest well in its surroundings. For example, in a hotel in Bangkok, Tuk-Tuk flashing lights and sequin-decorated Thai boxing gloves are used as design elements. In Bavaria, Germany, integrating Lederhosen into the design can be advantageous."
Technology is the ultimate servant, in the hotel, as in our daily life. It performs a myriad of tasks, entertains, and informs. The best high-speed Wi-Fi cannot be fast enough! Wi-Fi is the drug that most of your guests are addicted to, whether in the lobby or when streaming a Netflix movie. Smartphone technology will continue its triumphant ascent as a personalization medium in 2019. It can be used as your guest’s hotel key, enable room service communications, constitute a repository of guest preferences, function as control units for room temperature, televisions or speakers. Be sure to make charging convenient, reliable and fast for guests. Integrate USB ports throughout the lobby and sleeping rooms in tables, lamps and bathroom fixtures.
Looking beyond pure design features, hotel technology providers are working on finding integrated solutions that allow hoteliers to tailor the entire experience to their guests, their ideal hotel criteria, or even their dining and music preferences.
The mantra of eclectics is often, “Dare to do something different.” Mix styles, shapes, colors, textures and materials, recommends Canadian star hotel designer Karim Rashid, or German LoftCube designer Werner Aisslinger in his design concept NYX. Not all rooms have to be carbon copies. Stephani Robson, senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, New York indicates, "There is a huge range of variation, especially in the case of seating, including chairs, stools, armchairs, and sofas. Smart combinations of hard and soft, wood and upholstery, as well as, bold and subtle colors bring energy into the room.”
Millennials hate to be pigeonholed as a homogeneous crowd, and admire the individuality displayed in boutique properties and many of the newer design hotels. Corporate identity-defined colors and patterns are out. It is crucial to create a sense of life, not only for vacationers but especially for the business travelers. Even at meetings, they increasingly prefer small, cozy rooms that can look like a bar or a living room and still offer the opportunity to effectively present a power point presentation.
So, create a living space, not just a lobby! What drives the appeal is a unique design, a relaxing environment that is not only efficient but captures the local character and utilizes the best of modern technology.