It goes without saying that beautiful architecture, interior design, and furnishings are at the heart of every design hotel. A great design hotel is thoughtfully planned, meticulously executed, and creates an environment unlike no other. Each is a place where tactile materials, craftsmanship and distinctive, avant-garde design all come to the fore. As an extension of the unique personality of each property, design hotels often celebrate local flavour with a strong sense of place by incorporating locally sourced materials and artwork.
While there is no hard rule, design hotels are generally located off the main tourist throng. In urban centres you’ll find them in the most hip and fashionable urban areas or in the lively, up-and-coming sections – they may well be one of the factors of an area’s rejuvenation. They’ll nestle in high-end residential neighbourhoods that are away from the crowds, but convenient to city highlights. Or you’ll find them in remote, tranquil alpine locations or overlooking sun-bleached beaches. Where ever the location, the new wave of travellers are looking to interact with the hotel itself, and the passionate people
who drive it and provide great service, not a company or an international brand.
As urban centres are becoming more densely populated and small-scale hotel stock becoming scarce, innovative hoteliers are looking to other building typologies to create unique experiences. Design hotels are particularly suited to conversions of historic, industrial, or run-down office buildings. By re-interpreting with sensitivity to the original materials and structure, they can be among the most authentic, atmospheric, and sustainable hotels in the built environment.
03 Social Spaces
Design hotels are rethinking social spaces by making them multifunctional and moving them off the ground to an upper floor, as a true extension of the guest rooms. These areas are often awash with comfy chairs and tables making them an ideal place to work, meet, have coffee, or unwind with a cocktail in the evening. They are often of a domestic scale and style, providing guests the comforting feeling of a home away from home.
Innovative hotels are also rethinking the check-in experience, making it more personalized, more high-tech, more seamless—or just more fun. It is becoming commonplace for design hotels to simply have an informal desk or kiosk in lieu of the standard, staffed reception. And while this could sound impersonal it is often anything but. At many design hotels, guests will be met by a host who offers a seat and a glass of wine whilst they enter their details into a handheld tablet. At others, guests can check in at their leisure at the bar over a glass of Prosecco making the experience more of a private club than a hotel.
Savvy hoteliers are seeing new opportunities within their own communities. Whereas the traditional hotel model caters solely for a traveller from out of town, design hotels are catering for a market far greater: the local inhabitants. Hotels are reclaiming the role they once had as community centres, only this time they’re evolving to solve challenges unique to modern times. Community engagement can be as varied as assisting locals with supportive tasks such as holding packages, to providing communal workspaces and studios, hosting cooking or creative workshops, or creating community festivals with night-markets or ice skating rinks. According to The American Hotel & Lodging Association 85% of hotels are contributing to local charity. This conscious engagement is not only welcomed by the local inhabitants but also felt and appreciated by hotel guests who are seeking unique and authentic accommodation that is entrenched in the local community.
06 Personalised Technology
With advances in technology, hotels have been presented with new opportunities to offer their guests a smoother experience. Through a smart-phone hotel guests now have the ability to check-in, adjust lighting or air conditioning, or even draw their window blinds. And while this is becoming commonplace across the entire hotel landscape, design hotels are keeping ahead of the curve by focusing on technology that create a more personalised, bespoke experience. Pre-arrival customer surveys whet guest’s appetite for pampering long before their hotel experience, and can include everything from dietary and activity preferences to a pillow menu or toiletries, flowers and room scent options. Some hotels are even sussing out guests’ taste in music, movies, fruit and cookies prior to their arrival.
07 Food and Beverage
As hotels are becoming more integrated with the local community so too are their food and beverage offerings. When Rande Gerber opened the Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel in LA, the stage was set for hotel F&B venues to become the go-to local hotspot. Ever since, design hoteliers have continued to lay rest to the traditional ‘hotel restaurant’ and in its place create hip bistros, enotecas, and cocktail bars that have become buzzing neighbourhood hangouts, with locals-not just hotel guests-seeking them out.
Design hotels are partnering with innovative restaurateurs, club, and bar owners to create an F&B offer that not only competes with other venues in the area but eclipse them in terms of patronage and design execution. To cast a bigger net and have greater street appeal these venues will
generally have a brand and identity unique to the affiliated hotel. From an outside perspective they’ll often appear to operate independent to the hotel altogether. This also allows the hoteliers to focus on what they do best – provide world-class hotel service and leave the F&B to the experts.
While the mainstream and chain hotel industry has become disparaging of their underperforming F&B offer, design hotels are flourishing. We are seeing a trend in design hotels out-sourcing the traditional hotel offerings of gym, business centre, and conference rooms to nearby businesses in order to offer more and varied F&B venues to cater to this expanding market, or in the case of Sydney’s The Ivy, purchase surrounding properties to expand the F&B offer.
The Standard Hotel located above New York’s High Line in the Meat Packing District epitomizes this F&B phenomenon: top shelf restaurant and bar on the penthouse, 80’s discothèque on the sub-penthouse, hip bar and grill on the ground, and a German beer hall to the rear each with their own distinct brand. Other than crossing the road for some unique retail therapy or taking a stroll in the connected High Line Park, guests often never leave the precinct. In 1976 The Eagles sung, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” in their hit Hotel California. And while they weren’t singing about the new wave of design hotels they may as well have been. With the multitude of food and beverage offerings within the leading design hotels no words could be more apt.
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