Interviews.

The changing landscape of hotel design

In advance of the 15th Hospitality Design Awards, design expert Stacy Shoemaker Rauen shares her thoughts on the state of the industry

by Ben Lerwill, Click. Travel Writer

Topic: Guest experience Innovation

Click. Takeaway

  • The role of the lobby has grown in importance
  • Many modern designers use simple materials to create spaces that are understated but beautiful
  • Residential design and hospitality design continue to influence each other
  • The most eye-catching new hotels are those that sit naturally in their environments

As with all creative disciplines, hotel design needs to change with the times. The average new-build property has a different look and feel to its predecessors from earlier decades – but which trends are currently at the fore? Stacy Shoemaker Rauen is the Vice President of New York-based Hospitality Design Group, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of the brand’s magazine. Ahead of the 15th annual edition of the Hospitality Design Awards, which recognises the best hospitality projects from around the world, she shares her thoughts on the state of the industry.

Stacy Shoemaker Rauen, Vice President, Hospitality Design Group

Stacy Shoemaker Rauen, Vice President, Hospitality Design Group

Click.: Is this an exciting time for hotel design?
Shoemaker Rauen: Absolutely – it’s an exciting time for hospitality in general. There’s so much innovation going on. The whole ‘we’ culture is really influencing how hotels are being used and designed. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in recent years has centred on the hotel lobby. It used to simply be a pass-through of the hotel, but it now has to serve multiple functions. It does double duty as a working space, a social hangout, a place that ties into the community. It should be a spot that locals want to go to. It has to transform throughout the day – from coffee and lunch to a bar that people don’t want to leave. Those places that get it right capture something authentic, a place that feels good and creates a memorable experience.

Micro-hotels are also on the rise – affordable properties with smaller rooms in places like New York, San Francisco and London. They have the essentials – a big bed, a nice shower, but that’s about it. The concept is said to be geared towards millennials but I think it appeals more to a certain mindset than a certain generation. Older travellers don’t necessarily want to spend a ton of money.

Click.: How are designers altering the look and feel of hotels?
Shoemaker Rauen: Design-wise, where do I even begin. I love this new wave of designers using simple materials – things like concrete, plywood and metal – and elevating them in such a beautiful way that the hotel becomes warm and inviting. There have been some great restorations recently that have been exciting to see, with designers really honouring the old and the new – but while there’s definitely a place for that old-world luxury, I don’t think you’ll see it being built today. Even if you look at Banyan Tree, Aman or St Regis, these luxurious brands that create beautiful things, they’re more understated than you might have seen in the past.

There’s always been this push and pull between residential and hospitality, with influences from one informing the other. One really interesting metric is to gauge the appeal of a hotel room by how long you could tolerate it for. A hotel room that you could stay in for a week and really enjoy, somewhere that has that residential flair to it, will appeal to people. I don’t mean tassels on pillows and that kind of thing, I mean comfort and quality. It’s about aspirational living. When people book into a hotel, they want it to have everything they have in their house, but better. They want technology and materials that speak to them.

Click.: Do design trends take hold in different parts of the world at the same time?
Shoemaker Rauen: Yes and no. In Asia there are usually bigger budgets, for example, and in general terms what you do in Chicago, you aren’t going to do in a site outside of a remote town in China. Or you shouldn’t. Technology trends are tricky too. A hotel takes five or so years to become a reality, from conception to opening day – that’s a big challenge where technology is concerned, because who knows what big tech brands are going to come out with that’s going to change everything? The bottom line is technology should be easy for guests to use and seamlessly integrated. It’s still something that our industry is figuring out.

Click.: Which hotels have really impressed you recently?
Shoemaker Rauen: I love what Ian Schrager has done with the Edition Hotels, how he’s married luxury with lifestyle. It’s been super-interesting and fun to watch – he just has a knack for setting new standards. The Mist Hot Spring Hotel in China is gorgeous, as is The Retreat Hotel at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland – both have really captured the environment that they’re in and created these beautiful spaces that let the outside speak to the guests. Our winner last year was Singapore’s Hotel Mono, which is super-cool and budget-friendly. It’s designed entirely in black and white. The designer showed what could be done with creativity – he took the challenge and really ran with it.

Hero image: credit to Daniel McCullough, Unsplash

Ben Lerwill is an award-winning freelance travel writer based in Oxfordshire, England

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