Ms. Locke

Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment

Hotels are Becoming Even More of a Home Away From Home

By Amy Locke, Director, Interior Design, Hatchett Hospitality

Analyzing the Similarities Between Hospitality and Residential Design

Hospitality and residential design have been borrowing heavily from each other in recent years, but now the trend is becoming even stronger as travelers want a hotel room that's especially cozy, comfortable, and homey.

That's because with the economy limiting expense account spending, business travelers are spending more time in their hotel room and less time out entertaining - while leisure travelers want a hotel that offers a little fantasy, a little sense of adventure, and a whole lot of luxury.

As a result for example, seating in guest rooms is more plush and almost theatre style, enabling travelers to be more relaxed as they work on their laptop or text on their PAD.

Designing for hospitality is about providing guests with more than just a place to stay - it's about offering them an experience, emotionally and physically, that's beyond their daily lives.

One way for me as a designer to achieve this objective is to "package" the amenities guests enjoy at home and want on the road - such as flat screen TV's, comfortable bedding, plush bathrooms, iPod docking stations, and reliable internet service - in an environment that is cutting-edge, energized, and exotic, yet still useful and inviting.

My job is becoming easier every day - don't tell my employer that, please! - thanks to new materials, new products, and especially perhaps to new thinking by hotel owners and FF&E buyers.

New materials - such as fabrics for bedspreads, window treatments, and decorative pillows - that are plusher and available in more colors, patterns, and textures just like residential offerings, but that are designed to be "hospitality specific" in durability, ease of maintenance, and meeting stringent fire codes.

New products - especially case goods, seating, and lighting - that are being brought to market more frequently by manufacturers - often as much as twice a year compared to once every few years as was the case for a long time.

New thinking by hoteliers and FF&E buyers, who are making "value" the hot buzz word in hospitality purchasing because they - like astute consumers, especially those with disposable income - are choosing FF&E products not just based on the lowest price but rather based on the best value. Even as budgets tighten, certain other factors are increasingly part of the purchase decision - such as product durability, design, construction, delivery times, and customer service for repair or replacement.

Let's look at four specific examples of how hotel and home design are moving closer together:

Bedding

When Westin Hotels introduced their "heavenly bed" a decade ago, it opened the door to an entire new era of bedding upgrades in the hospitality industry. Products that at one time were reserved for residential use and were a hotel "extra" have now become standard in most properties - products such as higher thread-count sheets, pillow top mattresses, and top of bedding touches like decorative pillows and throw blankets.

While the quality of many bedding elements has been raised, bed bases and frames have literally gone up - they're typically three inches higher than they used to be. The result is a bed that's more attractive to look at and that's more comfortable to get in and out of - in short, more like home.

And to prove that residential design borrows from hospitality design as well, many hotel bed packages are now available for purchase online by consumers. So if you like your hotel bed, you can now sleep on it at home

Fabrics

As noted earlier in this article, the selection of fabrics available for hotel design has increased dramatically in recent years to more closely match the selection available to consumers for their homes. This has opened an exciting world of opportunities for designers and owners to make hotel space more comfortable and inviting - and to feature new color palettes not just in fabrics, but also in wall paint, carpeting, and artwork.

Technology

It's not uncommon today for a guest to travel with three or four electronic devices that all need to be charged as needed and ready to go at any time. People don't want to search a guest room or move furniture to find the plugs they need, so manufacturers are responding by adding more electrical plugs to light fixtures such as table lamps as well as to case goods such as night stands and desks. This is a small improvement that's paying big dividends in satisfying guests - and in building the loyalty that generates return visits.

Given our dependence on technology, both business and leisure travelers want reliable - and free - high speed internet service, preferably wireless. This is as standard now as cable TV was a few years ago.

Accessories

Art and accessories have become increasingly important ways to combine a look that's "uptown" with a feel that's "down home." In the past, these items may have been overlooked or just an after thought - but now they are necessities used to add personality to a property and to enhance its appeal with travelers.

Just as the right belt or piece of jewelry can "make" a clothing outfit, the right accessories are the little touches that can finish space, "make" your hotel, and put you ahead of the competition. In short, accessories can enhance both a hotel's environment and its bottom line - all while providing a strong sense of home.

Of course, any discussion of accessories and amenities would be incomplete without mentioning that perhaps a hotel's ultimate amenity - and most valuable resource - are your hardest working, most customer-oriented personnel. These people are your stars for this value-added service economy.

In summary

Hoteliers are becoming more sophisticated in their design decisions. Hotel styles are following suit and are not only changing the way we travel, but changing the way we enjoy travel surrounded by the comforts of home.

Amy Locke is director of interior design at Hatchett Hospitality. She works with franchisers and franchisees on a wide variety of hotel brands, styles, and themes Ė from economy to luxury, from resort to business conference, and from traditional to modern. Previous to joining Hatchett, she held a position in interior design with Ethan Allen Interiors. Ms. Locke earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She is completing a degree in feng shuiand is an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Ms. Locke can be contacted at 770-227-5232 or Amy@HatchettHospitality.com Extended Bio...

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