1) The Flexible Lobby as a Focal Point
First impressions mean a lot. As the space where initial contact is made, the lobby plays a major role in setting the tone for the guest’s expectations and experience. Serving as reception area and gathering place, the lobby is one of the most important focal points of a hotel. And that importance is growing as social encounters become more and more an element of the hotel experience. Hotels are no longer just a place to stay. They are a place to meet and socialize both from a business and social perspective. Lobbies must serve a variety of needs and therefore must present a flexibility of use, aesthetic and mood. With new business traveling trends, hotel lobbies provide a multi-use space for both casual and formal encounters, space for laptops, and charging stations to plug in various devices. Creative use and division of space is necessary, providing both intimate and social zones. Furniture, lights and finishes must provide for the variety of moods and groups as well. While more extravagant entrance features in today’s emerging hotel market include large green walls, indoor waterfalls, large chandeliers and multimedia stations, function and flexibility are the primary focus.
Hotels are trending towards social places first and sleeping places second. The dining experience is also becoming more central to the lobby experience and design. Eating around a table and sharing food builds upon the focus on community and socializing in the lobby. Dining and bar areas are often an extension of the lobby. And flexibility is key in the dining experience too. Provisions must be made for casual eat and recline, intimate dinners and formal celebrations. Similar accommodations are made to the menu as well. Craft cocktails and locally sourced foods add authenticity, creating a unique, local experience.
2) Local Art
Hotel owners realize that adding art in their design scheme will improve guests’ perception and create a more engaging experience. Similar to food and beverage, sourcing that artwork from local artists can turn interesting into authentic and unique. Local art truly expresses the flavor of a community and can reveal histories and community stories. From small sculptures and photography to large-scale installations, integrating an art project into the image of the hotel provides a much richer experience for the hotel guest. The options out there make walking the show floor like a trip through a gallery. And, we’re talking not just about art in the conventional sense, but also artistic wall coverings, fabrics and carpets with eclectic looks, bold graphics and optical illusions, as well as light fixtures with sculptural forms. Art and architecture captures the attention of the hotel guest, engages them, and invites them to engage the space rather than simply pass through it.
3) Technology & Science
More and more, wireless and web based controls are being utilized. New hotels offer the possibility of checking in, entering your room, adjusting lighting, air conditioning and even window blinds through smartphones and tablets. Another trend is placing PC tablets at check-in for printing boarding passes, as well as for ensuring other self-helping processes requiring online connection.
In addition to the ever-growing importance of technology, science is being brought in to the design process. Designers are using psychology and scientific research to create the best ambiance, using décor and design elements that enhance the guest experience.
4) Blurring of the line between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’
Hotels are offering a closer connection to nature by bringing natural elements—through color, texture, material—to the interiors and, at the same time, creating the indoor experience outside. Comfortable, exterior-friendly furniture is used to create an outdoor living room using a sofa-and-coffee-table configuration. Indoors, wood paneling and stone objects are used to create a seamless transition between out and in.
5) Home away from home
Whether Boomer or Millennial, luxury or midscale, tech-friendly or family-friendly, comfort is key. Materials and amenities selections are made with the guest’s comfort in mind. Hotel stays are becoming experiential and social. The hotel is a place to get away. The hotel is a place to relax. Wood additions that add warmth, carpet and curtains with a feel, fireplaces, fire pits—all of these add up to creating that familiar feeling for the guest. Lots of metallics (as accents on casegoods, for example) and medium-toned, rich woods create the cozy, right-at-home feeling guests want when they’re traveling. And guestroom configurations are being rethought at many hotels. These designs can include innovative workspaces, giant/plush linens, waterfall showers, and grooming items all to ensure the nurtured guest feels at home.