Smaller guestrooms and prominent public spaces are among the more influential trends shaping the boutique and lifestyle segments.
SANTA MONICA, California—A hotel’s design can affect not only how guests view the property but whether they choose to book there in the first place.
“Design has enormous power to self-select,” said Stephen Perkins, principal of design firm 3north. “You can target who your guest is and provide those cues.”
Design experts laid out five of the biggest trends affected that segment of the hotel industry.
1. Authentic authenticity
The concept of “authenticity” comes up a lot in design talk, but it’s not something hoteliers can create out of thin air, speakers said.
“It’s about referencing what’s already established,” said Dayna Lee, principal designer for Powerstrip Studio. “You have to think of the building and personify it. You anchor that as a root then place it in the city you’re in. Then you have to decide if you want to celebrate that city or do the opposite. … If you take that route, you’ll always design something that’s original.”
Perkins pointed to a project his firm worked on in New Jersey that is built around a working farm.
“The idea of becoming authentic is a farce,” he said. “You don’t become authentic. You create a space … that helps you better understand the place around it and the topography.”
2. Modular design
Marjorie Feltus Hawkins, owner and principal of FH Design, said spaces that serve multiple roles are becoming increasingly important.
“It’s about taking spaces and making them multifaceted,” she said. “It might be a breakfast area in the morning and then the same space will be a bar in the evening. It’s so important to transcend that space and make it work from one to the other.”
Perkins said that trend is extending into the guestroom, where furniture and spaces are being designed to more easily rearrange based on guests’ needs.
3. Communal public spaces
Lee said public spaces in hotels are more vital to create the appropriate atmosphere, and those spaces are drawing increased traffic.
“I find we’re mostly focused on making changes to public areas for how people work and how people live and how they meet,” Lee said. “Now our professional work is social as well.”
That means more hotels are offering easy meeting spaces such as tables in public areas rather than expecting guests to book meeting rooms.
“This is all incorporated in various areas, all very easily in little pockets without making a big deal of it,” Lee said.
4. Smaller guestrooms
One change that has gone hand in hand with the push for more attractive public spaces is a move to shrink guestrooms. Perkins said this shift is often made deliberately to push guests into public spaces, and that isn’t always the best decision for hoteliers.
“I like working in the guestroom,” Perkins said. “I don’t want necessarily to be driven into the lobby. I would rather it be my option rather than it be an obligation or being compelled to leave.”
Molly O’Keefe, VP of VOA Associates, said that push to public spaces isn’t the only motivating factor for smaller guestrooms, though.
“When we’re talking about designing rooms for the millennial generation, it’s not as much about designing small rooms for them to go to the lobby as designing for them to go experience the area they’re in,” O’Keefe said. “I understand that experiential piece needs to be part of it, but as a hotelier, I’d be concerned about how we keep that designed to keep them in house a little bit more.”
5. Residential bathrooms
A push for a more “residential feel” in guestrooms is leading to larger bathrooms at the expense of the rest of the space, O’Keefe said.
There also has been discussion over whether bathtubs are still a useful amenity for most travelers. And while many can get away with just a shower, Enrique Vela, principal for Wilson Associates, said hoteliers should not to be too quick to dump tubs.
“There will always be a market for families,” Vela said. “You can’t neglect them, and babies are really hard to bathe in a shower.”
By Sean McCracken