Designing for micro hotels doesn’t mean sacrificing the essentials; rather it means being strategic and making more functional choices, sources said.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—As the micro-style hotel trend grows, designers at these properties have found effective ways to make them as functional and spacious as the infrastructure will allow.
But that doesn’t mean eliminating the essentials, sources said. All of the key elements that consumers want in a hotel should still hold true, even if it’s on a smaller scale, said Bob Kraemer, principal and co-founder of Kraemer Design Group.
Identify the essentials
Before beginning a micro-hotel project, it’s key to identify who is expected to stay at the property, for how long, and the level of service (full or select) that the hotel will offer, said Michael Suomi, principal and interior director of New York-based Stonehill & Taylor. Then comes the brainstorming of clever solutions to problems that might occur with a smaller guestroom.
“For example, can the space below the bed become something other than empty space? Or instead of the chair taking up space on the floor, can we hang the chair from the ceiling? Or can the window itself become more than a window; can we push the window out and make it a seat? Those are some clever solutions for small hotels that we’re currently working on,” he said.
Javier Egipciaco, managing director of Arlo Hotels, a micro-hotel brand with two locations in New York, said his team researched what the essentials were for the brand’s guests. Those top needs included a mini-fridge, TV, large shower heads and a flip-down desk, he said.
“We had a lot of debate about if a desk was necessary in the room. Many of us work on the bed with tablets or phones …. To suit a range of work styles, we created a small desk that could flip down when needed, but took up no floor space if guests didn’t use it,” he said. “In its closed position, the top edge of the desk serves as a console, allowing guests to rest personal items on it and to charge their devices at the integrated outlet.”
Arlo Hotels’ guests tend to either use it or lose it when it comes to closets, which don’t exist in the traditional sense at its properties. Instead of closing off the space, the closet doors are removed and opened up to the rest of the room, increasing useable space. There is also a peg wall in the room, allowing guests to customize how they hang their belongings.
Smart furniture choices
Less space means looking at furniture in a more creative and intuitive way, Stonehill & Taylor’s Suomi said. He suggests multifunctional furniture, narrow furniture that can be attached to the wall, or furniture with parts that can easily collapse to be stored under a bed to increase floor space.
Bunk beds are also becoming more popular for smaller rooms, he said. For lighting, options include swag lamps, which hang high on the ceiling, so they don’t take up floor space, Kraemer said.
Consider location for design
With in-room amenities, the consideration is a lot more particular, Suomi said, because those need to be geared to the guests, as well as the location.
For example, he said, the Pod D.C. Hotel, in Washington D.C., does not include an iron and ironing board in the rooms, but those items can be retrieved from the front desk.
“We decided … that location, which is near Chinatown, a part of D.C., … is more geared to tourism rather than business,” he said.
The overreaching design ethos for Arlo Hotels is refinement and simplicity, Egipciaco said. While its SoHo and NoMad properties are small in size, he said, designs are carefully considered based on the city setting.
“We know many travelers come to New York to shop,” he said. “We made sure that the room can accommodate a very large suitcase in an open compartment into the bed platform; a smaller suitcase can also be slid in an open position …. There is also a large drawer under the bed with a laptop safe in it, as well as more storage.”
Windows for ample openness
Several micro hotels that are new builds have purposely created floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize the feel of space in the guestrooms. While that may be a more costly option, it’s the easiest solution for smaller rooms, Suomi said.
“If you’ve got great views, in an urban situation, you want to expand the view with floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall glass,” he said. “That makes the room feel essentially outside and then it doesn’t feel small at all. We’re doing that with a lot of hotels.”
Sometimes it’s less about the room and more about the window, said Kraemer, of Kraemer Design Group.
Suomi suggests window treatments that extend all the way down to the floor, accentuating the height of the room.
Windows are a major feature for Arlo Hotels, Egipciaco said, and the oversized, floor-to-ceiling glass is meant to bring in more light to increase the sense of space in the room. The SoHo location has one guestroom type that includes a custom, king-sized bed placed in a wood-wrapped window seat, allowing guests to sleep parallel or perpendicular to the large windows.
Keep certain elements continuous
The design focus with smaller rooms is on creating as much continuous space as possible, Egipciaco said.
One way to do that, he said, is to make the path from the bathroom to the bedroom more open.
“Having a larger than normal opening to the bedroom or to the entry expands the size of the bathroom and makes the entry of the guestroom feel like part of the bathroom,” Suomi said. “Or having glass or a curtain or something so that you can really open the bathroom up visually. If you’re a (solo traveler), you don’t necessarily need a wall between your bathroom and bedroom.”
Arlo Hotels chose to use sliding glass doors and walls in its bathrooms for a few reasons, Egipciaco said. The glass is much thinner than a standard drywall partition, he said, creating more useable space in an already small footprint.
“We frosted the majority of the glass panels, but left clear glass at the top and bottom to allow the guest’s eye to perceive that the space continues beyond; a subtle way to make the space feel larger. The sliding door doesn’t block circulation, but also creates a more open feeling in the bath area when left open,” he added.
Another element that effectively makes the room more fluid and open is the flooring, Suomi said—specifically hard flooring, such as porcelain, vinyl or engineered wood, and eliminating carpeting all together.
“If you put all of the same floor finish in the bathroom and into the guestroom, it makes the room feel bigger by continuing that same floor finish everywhere,” he said.