For the well-travelled business traveller or tourist, the hotel room experience can be dull. Usually the various hotel experiences become hazy - each guest room could be in any hotel, anywhere in the world. This is because the room configuration and experience is generally the same in most hotels. This negative experience is caused by lack of personality, banality and monotony.
For decades hotel rooms have generally included the same standard layout, with the enclosed bathroom (with shower over tub) in the corner of the room adjacent to the entrance, the wardrobe and mini bar area in the entrance hall, and a room with the bed facing a desk area and TV console. A loose armchair with a small coffee table is usually at the window facing the bed. Windows are usually sealed with two layers of drapes.
Boutique hotels have always tried to break away from this layout to create a different experience. However breaking away from the norm has been a challenge, with the usual problems associated with plumbing, housekeeping issues, and space constraints.
The first and obvious solution is to merge the bedroom and bathroom by removing the typical solid wall that separates the two areas, which creates a visual link between the two rooms and maximises the view. This is now possible with new technology and materials such as coloured or frosted glass for the toilet and the shower on the corridor wall. The bath and bathroom vanity can be integrated into the room space, creating an indistinct division between the bathroom and room areas.
The bathroom area can also be integrated into the room, but separated by a sliding screen that can be closed for privacy when required. As this creates a blurred division between the bathroom and bedroom area, it allows for the possibility of designing a more spacious and luxurious bathroom area, even within a small room space.
In some layouts, it might be possible to divide the bathroom area and room lengthways so there is an opportunity to enjoy natural light and views from the shower or bathtub.
The removal of the typical bathroom separating wall can have a huge impact on the hotel room experience in budget or luxury hotels, large or small rooms, businesses or resorts.
Integrated Room Design
In the bigger cities rooms are becoming smaller, so effective and interesting use of space needs to be considered. Yacht design is an inspirational example of how efficient and beautiful spaces can be achieved in limited confines.
By integrating furniture such as desks, beds, and seating into the interior architecture of the room, one can efficiently create a spacious and interesting interior by maximising available space, removing clutter, and introducing custom (built-in and room specific) furnishing. One then makes good use of small and otherwise redundant spaces within the room.
The current trend seems to favour smaller rooms with a focus on luxury elements such as beds, entertainment systems, and effective business facilities within the room. With more guests working from personal devices, large desks can be eliminated and replaced with smaller floating worktops or larger coffee tables, both of which can double up as eating areas for guests.
The hotel room is increasingly being used as an office, so the design of the workspace and connectivity are very important factors.
When guests work on their laptops or other devices, I expect most would prefer to see a view rather than face the room interior. They may want the option of opening a window or stepping out onto a small balcony to enjoy the city views and sounds. They may also want an area to do exercise in the room (with increasing on-line fitness and yoga regimes available).
If the room is appealing, guests will spend more time in their rooms relaxing, working, and taking advantage of available in-room services such as dining, entertainment and massage / spa treatments.
The focus of new hotel room design trends is mostly on the bathroom.
Hotel bathrooms are becoming larger, with smaller rooms that are being furnished with select, high quality pieces to create a feeling of spaciousness. Fewer physical barriers between the guest room and bath area, or having the bathroom situated on the outside wall for access to views and natural light, are simple and effective ways to transform a guest room and improve the guest room experience.
Showers over bathtubs are a thing of the past, as designers look at creating a bathroom space with spa elements and body jet and rain showers, and a free-standing tub within the room, if space allows for this.
Recently 12 British architects were shortlisted in a competition to design the budget hotel room of the future. The competition was organised byBDandBdonline.co.uk, the UK's leading architecture newspaper. The designers were invited to develop a scheme that would make a tiny space (14sq m) feel generous and luxurious. The shortlisted designers came up with innovative schemes such as a floating bed; pre-fabricated guest room 'pods'; removal of all the usual walls that separate work, sleep, relaxation and wash spaces; a 2m-wide bed that can be used as a lounge area; and movable elements that allow visitors to move floor-to-ceiling curtains around and change the space as it suits them. These ideas and schemes show that there is scope to move away from the standard room type, even if space is restricted.
The well-travelled business traveller or tourist will soon see a radical change in the guest room experience as hotel brands and their designers increasingly recognise the need to implement refreshingly new room footprints with simple but stylish built-in furniture and a spa-like bathroom experience, focusing on views and natural light, as well as the latest entertainment and connectivity technology.
Author: Deirdre Renniers, Associate, Asia Pacific | Deirdre provides interior design advice and direction from her Singapore Office in respect of the refurbishment or development of hotels to ensure that the overall vision and intended character is adhered to. She is an Interior Design graduate of the University of Johannesburg. Read Deirdre's full profile >>>
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