Design experts who spoke on a panel at the Master Innholders Conference cautioned hoteliers not to cram unique design elements into their properties just to make a splash with guests.
LONDON—Recent hotel design has been transfixed on the idea of diminishing the size of guestrooms while expanding public spaces, most notably lobbies and F&B-sprinkled workspaces, according to sources.
But panelists at a Master Innholders Conference session titled “The future of hotel design” agreed that could be a worrisome trend.
Current philosophies of design are dictated by what is assumed or known to drive revenue and loyalty, but sacrificing value and quality for what is trendy can be problematic, panelists said.
“Too many people worry about that one TripAdvisor photo, rather than the whole experience,” said Chris Galloway, group managing director of Beck Interiors. “Often in hotels you see nothing of use, no touchpoints. I’ve checked into hotels like this and immediately checked out.”
Ed Ng, co-founder and principal of AB Concept Hong Kong, said designers can sometimes miss the basic needs of a space.
“Ultimately, we’re looking for something comfortable, an experience,” he said. “This is what design has been trying to do for years.”
Simon Rawlings, creative director at David Collins Studio, said it’s imperative that designers respect the building in which the hotel is located.
“Go there and see what’s available,” Rawlings said. “That is what is really interesting. I am not going to bring everything—textiles, materials, art—from Asia for a hotel in Portugal. Do not force something contemporary in a historic building.
“I design interiors, so absolutely not, I’m not there to design Instagram moments. That can be useful, but you can get too much of it. Concentrate on feel, touch, sound,” he said.
Rawlings added that hotel owners and designers sometimes overlook basic necessities to prioritize design.
“Also bed, linen, showers. And lighting is becoming a bigger issue in hotels,” he said.
But Ng said compromises often can be found.
“We try and do beauty, and then that becomes Instagrammable,” he said.
Constantina Tsoutsikou, creative director of HBA London, said it is possible for designers to be true to both the location and the brand.
“There is a trend towards simplifying things,” she said.
The panelist agreed that it’s uncommon for design concepts to fit exactly with the building and the brand’s vision.
But public spaces are becoming more and more important, Ng said. He added owners expect public spaces to energize guests and the building itself all day long.
Rawlings warned against that line of design thinking.
“I’m old-fashioned. There is a danger that hotels are not offering a choice,” he said. “It is either all calm or all energy. After a five-hour flight, I arrive at the hotel late, and there is no doorman and no receptionist, as there is no reception.”
Tsoutsikou said all hotel designers have the opportunity create something memorable, which aids loyalty far more than anything else.
Rawlings agreed. “We always think about design that people will love,” he said.
All the panelists said they try to create beautiful spaces that guests will remember, which is an ambition that might be at odds with brand and management efforts to increase revenue.
Restaurants are spaces that perfectly combine the wish lists of designers and hoteliers, Ng said. “Look at restaurants as standalones that draw in the neighborhood,” he said.
Galloway added design is critical to the goal of having F&B be a revenue driver from both guests and locals.
“I think that is important, certainly as hotels and restaurants often are two very different business models,” he said.