For much of the 2010s, guestrooms were designed in a way that encouraged guests to spend their time in other, more profitable areas of the hotel. Largely a place for sleeping, showering, watching television and not much else, ever-shrinking footprints caused by the rising cost of space saw operators embrace reduced amenities and sacrifice features that could be made up elsewhere.
That’s not to say these spaces were badly designed; the constraints and limitations of this era forced designers and architects to make much more from much less, driving a revolution in foldaway furnishings, modular fixtures and biophillic infusions that would offset that which was omitted. As such, an agreement of sorts was struck between guests and operators; given enough reasons to occupy the restaurant, the bar, the lobby and the surrounding locale, guests would only ever need to use these spaces for necessities and ablutions. After all, time spent in the guestroom is time that could otherwise be spent enjoying a holiday or conducting business.
However, since the turn of the decade and the onset of COVID, all of this changed. The first signs were major chains renting out vacant keys as temporary day-rate office spaces. Then came the aparthotel surge, and a shift towards a hybrid guestroom/living space model better suited to lockdown logistics.
Even now, with much of the pandemic’s turbulence behind us, designers have continued to imagine how else this space might evolve, outlining guestrooms with the ability to transform themselves at the touch of a button, or in some cases given license to roam and entirely detached from static hotels. But whilst this evolution is still very much in progress, and no one innovation will suit every guest profile, the guestroom nonetheless finds itself in a period of immense change, and the status quo of the pre-COVID hospitality landscape no longer applies.
In the second instalment of our Spotlight Space column, we take a look at the ways designers and operators can take to future-proof their projects, and explore what’s next for the hotel guestroom.
More fluidity, enhanced transmission
Hotels have been leaning into workspace functionality for some time now in an attempt to draw the growing work-from-anywhere crowd, outfitting their lobbies with freelance-friendly nooks or setting aside significant portions of their floorpan to dedicated office facilities. However, recent openings like the Phillipe Starck-designed MOB House in Paris’ Puces de Saint-Ouen neighbourhood have taken this a step further, and we now see the office making inroads in private guest space.
Billed as a 3-in-1 concept, Mob House’s guestrooms feature all the expected elements of this space alongside a meeting room and office area that allows guests to work as they might at home. “This is where work and rest, professional and private intersect without ever being confused,” a statement from the brand states. “This is where, for the price of a night’s stay in a hotel, the travelling entrepreneur now has a large bedroom, an authentic meeting room and a real office in one and the same modular space.”
But not every hotel will have the footprint necessary to implement this degree of flexibility, and the co-hito concept by Baranowitz and Kronenberg is built around the idea that any vacant guest-room can be retrofitted with a few select pieces to increase the quality and quantity of its use. Think a bed that doubles as a pull-up blackboard, and a desk table and stackable chairs suited to both business meetings and dining. Crucially, the system allows for stays as long or short as needed, meaning empty rooms can be rented out much in the same way as private co-working space.
“It’s much bigger than design. Everything from colour to architecture is moving beyond one-size-fits everything, because above all what these guests most value is the freedom of choice,” says Alon Baranowitz, who will present a keynote exploring narrative design as part of this year’s HIX Talks. Register today and join us on 17 November at 10:30am at London’s Business Design Centre to hear more.
Tie ins & spin offs
Recent research by Marriott has found a significant swell of interest in themed hotel rooms, and the group’s partnership with ideas platform TED Talks is a direct response to this. Creating guestrooms instilled with interactive activities like decor puzzles, discoverable clues and a certificate of completion at the end of the trail, these spaces generate a guest journey that extends the asset’s usage and resonance. In essence, the room stays the same size, but is made much larger by the scope of its game-ified interactivity.
At the same time, the fandom industry that has emerged around major media franchises like Stranger Things and Marvel has been valued at over 4.2 billion dollars in Australia alone, with fans willing to spend 87 per cent of their disposable income on products tied to these shows and films, and increasingly looking to engage these licenses beyond the screen. There’s already a batman themed restaurant on London’s Park row, and it will not be long before hotels join the fray – pop-ups have become commonplace in lobbies, but guestrooms so far remain an untapped resource.
The themed rooms and customisable guestroom/offices outlined above orbit a core of personalisation; guests want to engage with spaces as an extension of themselves and truly take ownership of what is inherently a temporary environment. The use of data in this regard will be key, and if guests are willing to give over insights into their usage of energy, their entertainment preferences and even their biological readings, then the guestroom can orient itself to be ever-closer to this intimate ideal.
This is especially pertinent for wellness-based hotels and resorts, and gym brand Equinox’s New York hotel is already using health assessments, data collection and behavioural insights to craft curated stay packages geared specifically to an individual guest’s needs. But whilst this data is mainly used to inform amenity curation and spa treatments, it could just as easily guide a changing slate of lighting levels, ambient colours, music and temperature to meet a single guest’s needs.
Whilst this personalisation revolution takes form, new products like Northern Lights’ portable Helios range – set to be unveiled on the HIX show floor this November – allows guests to curate their own in-room lighting set ups with custom metal finishes and remote control operation. Indeed, affording guests the freedom to bring their own fixtures into the guestroom can make it feel more like a home. Likewise, the deployment of voice-activated assistant software – see the volara-powered guest room systems at Manchester’s The Alan – means guests can take more command of their surroundings than ever before.
Takeaways & tables made
The rise of food delivery apps has inevitably driven an increased demand for in-room dining. But whilst hotels might not appreciate guests bringing a competing operator’s fare into the building, going as far as to ban this practice would likely not endear guests and send them looking for more accommodating accommodation.
Though where much has been written about persuading guests away from delivery platforms in favour of the restaurant, embracing the opposite might be a more resonant option. Giving guests the facilities to cook their own food is one method, though a closer focus on the dining space itself could be a more productive alternative.
Guests are rarely going to eat every meal at a hotel, but having them order in and stay within the remit of the brand is always more favourable than losing their presence and attention entirely. If a delivery order is on the cards, then providing a suitable space to eat this meal in comfort and style will ensure the guestroom is the star of the show rather the competitor’s meal.
Speaking to Skift, Ryan Grande, General Manager of Four Seasons Jackson Hole explains how the hotel’s guestrooms are set to evolve to facilitate more F&B experiences. “Desk areas today have to be more comfortable than just a workspace — they have to be multipurpose areas that allow for both work and play… Those areas used to be a place to have a laptop open and take some notes. Now we want to be able to quickly convert them for a comfortable evening with a glass of wine.”
: Guests won’t always want to work in public-facing spaces. Providing the privacy of a guestroom with the functionality of an office that allows users to work as if they were at home is equally important.
: Target key demographics and guest profiles by partnering up with the franchises, brands and cultural institutions they value most. Take this a step further with dedicated tie-in designs and guest journeys that reflect the partnership’s specifics.
: If guests are willing to give over personal data and tell you exactly what they want, guestrooms should be oriented towards these preferences. If not, then allow guests to take ownership of this space with alterations of their own.
: You don’t need a Michelin-starred restaurant to create a memorable F&B experience. Outfitting guestrooms with considered cooking facilities and purposeful dining spaces can result in a more intimate and resonant culinary experience.