Designers say boutiques allow more creative flexibility
Designers say boutiques allow more creative flexibility
22 JANUARY 2020 1:12 PM

In this Q&A, designers share trends that will play into boutique hotel design in 2020 and how they differ from trends at branded hotels.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Successful design elements tend to find their way into hotels whether the property is independent or under a brand flag, but there are overall trends that set boutiques apart, designers said.

In this Q&A with Hotel News Now, designers discussed what those trends are for 2020.

1. What design trends are you seeing in the independent/boutique space that might not translate to branded hotels?

Dwayne MacEwen, principal and creative director, DMAC Architecture
“In my opinion, it’s the brand hotels that are trying to be more like the boutique hotels, in which design considers every touchpoint. Just as brick-and-mortar retail has shifted to be experiential, this trend is alive and well in many boutique hotel brands. The opportunity is also there for branded hotels.”

Ashley Stempler, director of design, Provenance Hotels
“A more lived-in, accessorized approach to both public and private spaces. Less utilitarian and built-in furniture, like a traditional brand would have. This has been a trend for quite a while, but recently, it’s gone from residential, one step further, to decorative/borderline ornate. We incorporate this by speaking to the brand story of each individual rather than our corporate umbrella. We do have few set standards that give us the freedom to approach each new space with specific design story in mind. Traditional brands need to operate with a larger demographic in mind.”

Josh Mason, design director, Monogram at BBGM
“Vintage: Some boutique hotels have started offering small libraries of vintage books and vinyl records with turnstile record players in guestrooms. Millennials bring their own tech, but offering vintage alternatives helps create character in the space.

“Social Drive: We’re seeing boutique hotels offering spaces for independent podcasts, poetry readings or performance arts, which all help to integrate the hotel into a shared community space.

“Retail: Some boutique properties are expanding beyond the typical retail offering with unique alternatives such as tattoo artist studios.

“Size: Smaller food-and-beverage spaces, like unique gastro cafes instead of larger restaurants, are becoming more prevalent. We’re also seeing small individual pubs instead of bars and smaller multifunction spaces instead of ballrooms.”

Mark de Reus, founding partner, de Reus Architects
“The independent hotels seem to be more adventurous in their approach to architecture and design. They do not impose the same limitations on their design teams. Perhaps this stems from a motive to differentiate from the brands or maybe it’s driven from seeing the current trends deployed over and over, which become cliché so quickly. In some ways, I believe the adventurism is inherent in their independence and their non-corporate nature. Either way, for those of us in the design profession, it is great to see that design has value, and innovation is encouraged.”

2. Do independent/boutique hotels follow design trends more or less than the brands, or do they design in ways that are timeless?

Leslie Schultz, SVP of design, Interior Image Group
“Independent and boutique hotels are the leaders in setting trends for hospitality design. Because there aren’t any brand requirements to adhere to, they allow the most freedom to create custom and unique designs.”

Darrell Long, managing director, Wilson Associates’ Los Angeles, Dallas and Las Vegas studios
“Independent hotels, at least the great ones, create the trends. Everyone else plagiarizes them. Let’s look at history, the facts, and devoid of opinion. Ian Schrager’s first few hotels in New York City defined what a boutique hotel was and is. Everything after that was a diluted rip-off. It’s like anything brilliant; the significant shines and then every prominent right-side-brain thinker steps on the idea and voila, you have a 568-generation-removed, water-downed idea of what Ian originally conceived.”

3. Pantone released its Classic Blue as its 2020 color of the year, and Sherwin Williams announced Naval as its color, so it seems like blue hues are trending. Do you expect to see these colors incorporated into boutique/independent hotel design?

Lesley Hughes Wyman, co-founder and principal, MatchLine Design Group
“We’ve been using blue consistently for quite some time—almost any shade of blue is classic, and it’s typically a ‘safer’ color to base a scheme on according to many of our clients. While we’ve been using navy shades for a while now, the deeply-hued ‘Naval’ has a sophistication to it. The tone makes for a more palatable high-contrast instead of a stark black, and we consider it a new neutral. Also to note, ‘Naval’ makes for a great backdrop to saturated accents like fern green, bright paprika and warm cognac colors.”

Schultz: “Blue is a classic color that seems to stay relevant through many changing trends. We continually see blues incorporated into boutique and independent hotel designs, across many regions. The color works in warm and cool climates because blue is complementary and works well with other colors. Depending on how it’s used, blue has a way of acting as a pop of color and as a neutral.”

Stempler: “I personally believe Pantone colors of the year are based on trends in interiors and fashion. It’s more confirmation on a trend they already see emerging. Salmon was a Pantone ‘color of the year’ a few years ago, a color that was having a moment across existing design palettes. It’s a color we had chosen for Hotel Murano’s lobby in advance of the announcement, as it’s something we were seeing in the design space.”

4. What’s one unique challenge and opportunity you’ve faced when designing boutique/independent hotels and how have you overcome that challenge?

Anurag Nema, Nemaworkshop
“As a designer, we get a lot of technical support from the brand team, which is helpful. While designing an independent hotel, we get more freedom in the process, but the design role expands into many other aspects.”

De Reus: “The distinctive unique opportunity with the independents, for the architect or designer, is that they are more willing to encourage us to use first principles of design, rather than using analogy for design. The brands, in general, tend to want to just tweak past models (the analogy), and have their design team apply what they see as the latest trends of the day. It feels safe to the decision-makers, however, this approach stifles creativity.”

Mason: “Usually budget. Some of the boutique/independent hotels have a more conservative budget. However, this can lend itself to thinking differently about how to approach design. We can explore exposed closets in guest rooms instead of closed millwork, ottomans instead of desk chairs, or mobile transferable tables instead of desks.”

Long: “The principal challenge is landing the project type. Everyone wants them, and they justly are where the best creative work is represented. In most cases, you have a client that wants creativity and understands the value of originality. The opportunity to stretch your wings and challenge industry practices is ever prevalent and encouraged. You truly have the ability to demand a new way of looking at things. It is, without a doubt, my favorite project type.”

Stempler: “Taking risks and trying new methods that allow me to potentially reach a new audience drawn in by the design aesthetic. Larger brands operate under well-documented and tested methods that fall in line with their standards with only slight deviation. For us, we have room to experiment. For example, try out a high-top table concept within a guestroom in place of a traditional lounge chair in a high-energy location like New Orleans. It speaks to the function of the space and better plays into the entertainment factor that the audience is seeking in that location.”

1 Comment

  • Hotel Brand And Developer June 8, 2020 10:01 PM Reply

    Wilson Associates and Darryl Long have you worked on an independent hotel to write such venom? So this assumes all the great brands out there can only follow suit of the one and only Schrager. As a developer, I will not be working with firms like you, as you jump the band wagon and have no boutique or independent portfolio experience to show this type of opinion. Try to be more authentic. P

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