The influence of art in hotel design
The influence of art in hotel design
20 JUNE 2018 7:12 AM

Art in hotels has moved beyond aesthetics to create real connections with and provide experiences for guests.

Today’s travelers are a savvy group fueled by a desire for something new—something authentic in the cities, towns and hotels they visit.

Hotel design continues to evolve to create unique, memorable ambiances that help properties differentiate themselves. Once viewed as an accessory, the art within these hotels now tells a story and helps craft that distinctive experience.

No longer is art just a passive framed picture behind the front desk; it is an interactive part of the guest’s journey. The industry has recognized the importance of curating unique pieces into the property’s overall design that will enhance the feel and vibe of the hotel. Art can range from graphic murals, photography, sculpture, furniture and interactive digital media. If the art creates conversation and provides a connection to the guest, it is doing its part in enhancing the guest experience.

Not only has modern technology changed the way that artists create art, but it has also changed the way that the public experiences art. Art can be experienced at any level and can be shared with no limits. The ability to have an experience with art in travel, and not just in a museum, is shaping what people are looking for in their travel.

Connecting with a place, creating a neighborhood feel and providing a journey that is not the obvious path is what we as designers set out to accomplish. To accommodate these needs, we are customizing properties to give guests a unique experience that reflects both the brand and the hotel’s geographic location. Art, sculpture and sometimes historic/reused artifacts play vital roles as key architecture and design elements to enliven the lobby and public areas.

The recently opened Hampton Inn and Suites located in Waltham, Massachusetts, accomplished just this by telling part of the town’s history through the art program within the lobby area.

The lobby design of the Hampton Inn and Suites Boston/Waltham tells the story of Waltham, Massachusetts, and its history as “Watch City.” (Photo: Hampton Inn and Suites)

Waltham is commonly referred to as “Watch City” because of its association with the watch industry. Waltham Watch Company opened its factory in Waltham in 1854 and was the first company to make watches on an assembly line. It won the gold medal in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The company produced more than 35 million watches, clocks and instruments before it closed in 1957.

Based on this piece of history, the design team established an art program throughout the public space that showcased the evolution of clocks throughout the decades in a colorful and playful manner. Creating works of art from unique found objects that tell a story that is not readily obvious to the traveler. It is this unique experience that will create conversation, establish an Instagrammable moment, and elevate the story of this property for all guests, present and future.

There is a larger movement among hotel brands that have made art the ethos of the brand. Take AC Hotels by Marriott for example. AC categorizes art as modern artifacts that connect the hotel to its location. They set out for each of their properties to tell a unique story, which involves curating individual pieces specific for each location.

In addition, the AC by Marriott brand goes one step further by referring to their guests as “curators.” A curator is someone who is creative, entrepreneurial and well-traveled. They are careful about what they allow into their lives and seek to make a difference in the world. By defining their guests, the brand can create that curated experience and provide that authentic sense of place. Because of this, art in hotels is not only viewed as aesthetic, but also as a cultural phenomenon that the curators can connect to and learn from.

Providing an experience and a curated art program may add emotional value for the guests, but does it add true value? Through the recent years and the generational shift towards millenniums, value is not only viewed as the standard amenity package, but the emotional and personal value as well. Travelers will not only choose this curated experience over a more standard design; they will pay the commensurate rate.

Overall, we are in the midst of an evolution in hospitality design and will continue to explore the increased importance of art and design to meet the demand of modern-day travelers. To adapt to these needs, desires and expectations, art will continue to play a huge role in offering guests a personal experience and connection with hotel brands. By creating viewing areas and architectural elements to frame this art, we are immersing travelers in their cultural surroundings by giving them a hotel with a personality that celebrates its place in the world.

Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners, Inc., an award-winning hospitality design firm based in Boston that specializes in architectural, interior design, and purchasing services for hospitality properties. Wheeler is a registered architect in 10 states and a member of numerous architectural, lodging, and marketing associations. For more information visit or email Wheeler at

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