Inviting Spaces

Inviting Spaces secret bookcase

How hotel interior design can create one-of-a-kind guest experiences.

By Abigail Plonkey and Laura Hilpipre

As designers in the hospitality industry, we’re always conscious of design trends and the next hottest thing in interior design. However, while everyone wants to be a trend setter, it’s easy to fall into the trap of following the latest trends, which can all too quickly become outdated.

Instead, we strive to keep the guest in mind. Rather than simply following the latest trends, we aim to create memorable experiences for the visitors. Design has a big influence on how people experience a space, from large-scale resorts to boutique hotels, and there are many ways that the right design can help set the stage for an extraordinary experience.

Revitalized Food and Beverage Offerings

For many, a great meal can be just the experience guests are looking for. In days past, hotel guests would quickly step away from “hotel restaurants,” searching for more authentic dining experiences with more interesting character and ambience. Today, designers are creating hotel restaurants that feature local appeal, artistic elements and a pleasant ambience that attract guests and passersby alike. In fact, many hotel restaurants are now authentic and unique enough that just attract local residents, not just hotel guests.

One example is Henley in the Nashville Kimpton Aertson Hotel. Rather than relating directly to the design of the hotel, the restaurant was designed with its own identity to enliven and activate the space. Design elements such as custom wallpaper, vintage hand mirrors, handcrafted details and items made by Nashville artisans lend a unique look and feel, and make Henley destination-worthy. Another interior design element in Henley, a false bookshelf, reveals an intimate private dining room called The Rabbit Hole, which contributes to the one-of-a-kind experience. Local makers provided design inspiration as well, from reclaimed wood to local iron works helping to create a sense of place.

Henley is just one example of how hoteliers are curating interesting and accessible interior design spaces to attract a crowd and challenge the hotel restaurant stereotype.

Lobbies as Social Destinations

Inviting Spaces loungeAt one time, hotels focused on the luxury of the guest rooms above all else. Now, it’s more about the experience of the public space, where people are invited to gather, linger and enjoy more public centralized amenities. Rather than the hotel lobby being a bland, uniform space, hoteliers are seeking well-designed, comfortable areas that add value to the guest experience.

The 2017 redesign of Denver’s historic Magnolia Hotel is a one example, which involved renovating the hotel lobby as well as the historic Harry’s Bar. By removing the walls between them, the space gained much more natural light and greater free-flowing accessibility. What’s more, a wall installation featuring re-purposed deposit boxes immediately grabs attention, encouraging any traveler with an Instagram account to reach for their smartphones.

A similar philosophy guided the renovation of The Study in Denver’s Hotel Teatro, where the intentional intersection of lounge, library, coffee bar and restaurant elements were driven by all the ways the guest and passersby alike could experience the space—whether reading the paper, ordering a cappuccino, conducting a business meeting or enjoying breakfast with a companion.

Flexible, Sought-After Event Spaces

Interior design opportunities abound in hotel meetings and events spaces, which are evolving from traditional conference and meeting rooms to more flexible, social and creative spaces, modern-day collaboration and co-working spaces. These involve more casual lounge seating options such as low chairs and couches, interactive spaces with marker-board table tops, and small-group meeting rooms. More and more, we are viewing hotels as living/working spaces, which incorporate fitness amenities like yoga classes and treadmill desks, and even daycare amenities for working and traveling parents.

Additionally, meeting and working spaces are being incorporated into public lobbies. When lobbies feature interesting art, comfortable furniture and tables, plenty of places to plug-in and even a café or coffee kiosk, guests as well as locals feel invited to enjoy the space and work side-by-side in a designed environment rather than a generic meeting room.

Woodlea, a rooftop outdoor events venue the Kimpton Aertson Hotel in Nashville, flips the script on the traditional banquet hall with a design that more closely resembles a rooftop bar. When guests arrive, they encounter luxurious, comfortable outdoor seating, interesting design elements including a wall adorned in doorknobs, and strategic murphy tables to transition the space’s arrangement for different types of events.

Northern Michigan’s luxury ski lodge, Boyne Mountain Lodge, includes meeting spaces that are inspired not by typical hotel ballrooms, but by wine bars. The more elegant design aesthetic gives guests a more interesting and elegant setting for weddings and receptions.

New generations of hotel guests are seeking character and distinction in their destinations. They’re looking for elements of culture, fashion and flavor that they can talk about and share both in real life and virtually. Successful interior hospitality design taps not into trends, but into delivering one-of-a-kind experiences, uniqueness and authenticity to give the visitor a truly memorable and comfortable experience.

Abigail Plonkey is the director of brand experience design at OZ Architecture and is deeply involved in developing unique brand experiences within OZ Architecture’s roster of restaurant clients. She can be reached at aplonkey@ozarch.com.

Laura Hilpipre, LEED AP ID + C, is a senior interior designer at OZ Architecture and works primarily with hospitality and resort clients. She can be reached at lhilpipre@ozarch.com.

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