Clean room design ups efficiency, perception
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A hotel’s guestroom design can lend to the efficiency of housekeeping operations and a higher perception of cleanliness, according to sources.
“When you’re an owner and an operator and you build, you think really hard about all the downstream ramifications of all your decisions, whether it’s maintenance or cleaning,” said Mike Varner, EVP of brand strategy and management at WoodSpring Suites.
The extended-stay hotel company’s portfolio includes the WoodSpring
and Value Place brands with about 25,000 rooms in 203 hotels, according to Varner. The company announced last April
it would change its name from Value Place to WoodSpring Suites.
“We developed for both Value Place and WoodSpring Suites a 99-point cleaning process, but in order to execute that efficiently, you need to have thought about the cleaning before you ever build the hotel or put a piece of furniture in it,” Varner said. “The labor model is absolutely fundamental to extended stay, in particular the value segment where we play, and so it’s making sure that we have efficiency and ability to clean together is truly at the core of our DNA.”
Sources identified some common design trends that aid in efficient housekeeping operations in guestrooms.
Furniture layout, design
While he admitted that for the most part guestrooms are primarily design-driven as opposed to operationally-driven, Mitul Patel of Peachtree Hotel Group said operations can influence guestroom design.
For example, the COO said executives will think of ways to position the furniture, fixtures and equipment so that housekeepers can move quickly and unhindered throughout the room.
Varner said his brands have moved to wall-hung furniture where applicable and possible. For example, in some of the brands’ guestrooms, the nightstands, dressers and desks are all wall-hung, which means housekeepers can clean right to the wall.
And when it comes to the brands’ beds, he said it’s all about mobility.
“We actually design headboards that are light enough for our housekeepers to remove them. In between every guest, we actually remove the headboard from the wall,” he said, adding that this ensures there’s nothing hidden behind the bed and allows cleaning staff to make certain there are no bed bugs.
Varner said beds also are built with a metal frame for cleanliness and movability. Metal frames are useful because bed bugs can’t burrow into the material, but the frames are also lightweight. Housekeepers will move all the furniture to the center of the room between guests as part of the brands’ 99-point cleaning process. To do this, it’s important that the bed is lightweight and not physically attached to the wall or floor.
“You have to design that upfront to build the system that’s easy enough for a housekeeper to remove it but it doesn’t impact the way that the guest sees it or the way that the guest views it,” Varner added.
Jacqueline McGee, principal and senior interior designer at CBT Architects—which works on many high-end hotels—echoed Varner’s sentiments. She said there needs to be a balance between appointed design, durability and movability.
“If there is a chair that has to be moved to clean, the chair is durable, but it’s light enough for the cleaning staff to be able to move so that they can clean behind it. Because otherwise they won’t,” she said. “So that’s a fine balance of making it look substantive and appointed, but they’ve got to be able to move it.”
Moving from carpet
Sources said luxury vinyl tile flooring is a popular guestroom design trend because it’s easier to clean and maintain.
’s Patel said LVT flooring is one of the hotel group’s initiatives that provides “the guest with a sense of cleanliness that carpet cannot.” The company has approximately 30 hotels with 3,500 rooms in its portfolio.
“We really believe the LVT solution will aid in quicker and easier cleaning and remove the need to have vacuum cleaners,” Patel said via email.
Varner also said LVT is a design aspect implemented at his brands.
“For WoodSpring Suites, when we went about designing, we did put in LVT throughout the room, and it absolutely is for cleaning. We have done that in our most recent design generation for Value Place as well. And it’s dramatically cleaner,” he said.
“Not only is it cleaner, our guests actually playback that it’s cleaner. We actually shampooed our carpets in our previous generation design. Our guests would never believe how clean they were. We literally shampooed between every guest. And with LVT it actually is clean, and they believe it,” he said.
The switch from carpet to LVT didn’t only lead to cleaner rooms and perceptions, but it also allowed the hotels to pick up more inventory because rooms can be turned faster.
“When we were shampooing carpets between guests, the amount of time it actually took a room out of service for the carpet to appropriately dry, we were losing a day between being able to rent out a room because the carpet was so wet,” Varner said. “In our case, we’ve actually picked up a lot more inventory in terms of rooms that are available to rent out.”
Guests spend a lot of time inspecting the cleanliness in bathrooms. Pictured here is a guest bathroom from Peachtree Hotel Group. (Photo: Peachtree)
Varner said guests spend a lot of time looking in the bathrooms. Thus, his brands’ design attempts to eliminate grout lines.
“It’s in the design; it’s not just in the cleaning,” he said. “Of course you’ve got to clean it well. But by designing upfront, that’s in your choice of materials for your shower or your tub surrounds or whether you even put in tub surrounds. We balance that design, but if it doesn’t work operationally it’s something we wouldn’t do.”
When it comes to guest bathrooms, McGee finds that metal sundries, such as trays or toiletry holders, are avoided because they are difficult to clean and can become spotty. Likewise, anything that needs to be polished can be difficult to clean and maintain. And sometimes, she said, it’s all about installing non-stainable materials in the bathroom.
“For instance, someone might dye their hair. … So just being able to scrub and clean so the materials don’t stain in the bathroom I think is something that (hoteliers) really appreciate,” she said.
The clean perception
A clean design look also can give more of a perception of clean, sources said.
“Guests expect hotel rooms to be clean, but they look for clues that it’s not clean,” Varner said.
“At the end of the day, the main ‘goal’ of guestroom design is to have a positive impact on the guest experience and perception,” Patel said, citing the duvet as a main example.
He said duvets are difficult to clean and maintain, but guests “love the feeling of a clean, ‘fresh’ white bed.”
Varner also has found that to be the case when it comes to guest perception. For instance, the brands’ floral-patterned bedspreads weren’t translating to a clean perception.
“We always have washed our comforters between every guest,” he said. “But some in the industry have propagated that nobody does that. And there are certainly many of our competitors who do not do that, but we weren’t getting credit for it.”
The bedding design was changed to all white, and while Varner admitted that a lot of hoteliers have done the same thing, the main goal for WoodSpring was to prove the brand’s cleanliness. He said guests have responded favorably to the change, citing the bed looks more contemporary and clean.
Varner pointed out that the change was a simple one: a decorative white top sheet over a blanket. But that simple change has led to higher satisfaction among guests who perceive the room to be more valuable.
“They’re willing to pay more but also the guest satisfaction among the guests who’ve stayed in our WoodSpring Suites rooms have been higher than our comparable Value Place rooms that don’t have those design elements,” he said.