McLEAN, Virginia—Next door to Hilton Worldwide’s headquarters is Hilton McLean Tysons Corner, a “test kitchen” where Hilton tries out new prototypes and ideas to implement in future hotels.
At its Tysons location on Wednesday, Hilton unveiled its Hilton Design Studio website, a new Hilton Valet and Hilton’s Connectivity Station.
The launch signified Hilton’s commitment to design, style and sophistication that is pervasive throughout all of Hilton’s brands. The company has a “huge commitment to design, guest expectations and great design at every touch point,” said Andrew Flack, Hilton’s head of marketing.
A strong brand identity
Design and technology go hand-in-hand these days, and with Hilton's new design website, its technology lounge, new community lobby and Hilton Valet, Hilton’s transformation to provide more connectivity and brand consistency remains its top objective.
Dave Horton, global head of Hilton Hotels & Resorts, said the brand continues to grow with 550 properties in 80 countries and 148 more in the pipeline, which is the “largest in the history of the Hilton brand,” he said.
Hilton also has a three-year, $3-billion property-renovations plan across its portfolio. The strong imprint Hilton has all over the world from China to the Middle East and India to South America harkens back to Conrad Hilton, a man who “believes in style and the importance of style,” Horton said.
Hilton’s storied history is part of its strong brand identity. Great brands such as Hilton, Horton said, have a strong, well-defined brand DNA.
“Being a design-led brand adds cachet to the brand and builds style,” he said, adding this “surprises and delights” the guest.
The “key thing about branding,” Horton said, is “brands have a strong personality.” Hilton’s new design follows five general criteria to achieve this personality:
an authentic design relevant to the culture inside and outside the hotel;
a worldly brand that has a sense of style and sophistication;
a brand generous to the guests, which includes a technology lounge that offers work stations, Apple computers and PCs;
a refreshing concept that makes every hotel experience unique; and
a competent brand with longevity.
Horton said global brand growth is led by style and ambience, and implementing that design DNA is absolutely critical. “Design is the sweet spot of where we want to be,” he said.
The key area of focus is giving physical manifestation of each of the brands unique identities, said Larry Traxler, senior VP of global design services for Hilton Worldwide.
“The design of the hotel starts outside the hotel,” he added.
A new, innovative website
The Hilton Design Studio, which launched Wednesday, is an online tool that transforms how owners, developers and design firms implement the brand’s design narrative. The new design platform streamlines the design process while minimizing costs. Owners and developers sign up for the site and from there can create their own guestroom through Hilton’s furniture, fixtures and equipment section, which includes seating, tables, lamps, flooring, artwork options in three styles including classic, transitional and modern style palettes.
“The most exciting part of the website is you can build a guestroom in three minutes,” Horton said. And there are millions of possibilities. “The site keeps you in the swim lanes of what we’re trying to do (as a brand),” he said.
The site shows renderings, specifications and technical documents of the design. The design specifications and the computer-aided drawings can be applied to different room sizes and specs; the website provides a foundation, Traxler said.
“This is to educate, not make designers obsolete,” he continued. “We’re not telling you what to do. We want to educate and help you by speeding up the process by making it seamless.”
The website gives owners and developers a better tool and more ideas to better design properties.
While the developer or owner builds the room, Hilton offers supplier and vendor information about each product. The owner can choose to stick with the Hilton products and designers, or take the dimensions from the supplied blueprint of each piece of furniture and have an outside create a similar product.
Design flexibility and community
Adding more flexibility and organizing space for a seamless efficiency are key elements to Hilton’s new design studio and the focus of Hilton’s Valet. The Hilton Valet is a new FF&E concept that combines a closet and refrigerator. The customizable, modular and multifunctional armoire offers three components that keeps things clean and adds more space: the amenity with a refrigerator and tea service, a bench used as a luggage rack and a utility space that includes an unfolding closet space, a built-in ironing board and safe for valuables positioned at standing height. Each owner can pick and choose which of the three pieces of the Valet to add to the hotel.
Horton said it’s all about de-cluttering the rooms and creating a “smart, clean design with colors that are long lasting.”
There is no requirement to add the valet when designing a room.
The main principles of the new guestroom, lobby and technology design are to provide a space for community and connectivity, Traxler said. Hilton wants to “create a platform for better and more interactive communication,” he said. “The basic structure of the Hilton brand is to be consistent throughout.”
Part of the design philosophy is creating the Hilton Design Studio as an education tool for owners and developers to know the Hilton look and feel, Horton said. The microsite offers walk- through views of the different room and lobby iterations.
The ideal Hilton lobby is about community. It’s an “aspirational design” Horton said, which focuses on relaxing, socializing and a personal retreat that connects people socially or through technology.
The technology stations come in three structures: the smaller connectivity station; the larger technology lounge, which offers dedicated technology and is a separate room; and the larger library and information space, a more advanced combination of the technology lounge and a seating area. All three spaces offer technology convenience to guests who want to hang out in the lobby.
“People like technology, and like being around it,” Horton said. “I can be connected at Hilton either by talking or being online.”
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