Roundtable: translating trends in hotel design

Editor Hamish Kilburn gathered a cluster of designers inside the Sanipex showroom during Clerkenwell Design Week to moderate his most sensitive roundtable to date, translating trends in hotel design…

Wide shot of Roundtable full of designers and architects

Love ’em or hate ’em, trends have been shaping and reshaping the hotel design and wider hospitality industry for decades. Whether you choose to be a follower or not, certain movements in interior design are fast evolving the look and feel of hotel design. To understand how certain trends are translated in hotels around the world, during Clerkenwell Design Week 2023, I spoke to a handful of designers, each experts in their field, to help me understand globally how trends are being absorbed.

On the panel:

The conversation started by Kilburn asking the panel what made trends hit universally. “I believe that something is universal, long-lasting that has meaning,” said Trevor To, Senior Associate, Gensler. “When I think about this I think of Monet, because everybody knows it’s beautiful. I think biophilia is one of those theme that connect everybody because we as human beings just connect very much to and around nature – I really believe that the indoor-outdoor connection is really important.”

Watch the full panel discussion here (video credit: CUBE):

Approaching the topic from a different angle, James Dilley, Director, Jestico + Whiles, challenging the value of a trend that is accepted globally. “Sometimes a universal trend is not always positive,” he said. “I think what often we’re talking about is a reaction to the globalisation of design. Design is, all of a sudden, instantly accessible after being a bombarded with looks, styles and trends from social media. People, and clients, are seeing things that they like and reacting to them. It’s a bit like baking a cake. You may have all the ingredients in front of you, but to bake a cake you need to be a good baker. The people who know how to assemble a good design scheme are living in a world of Pinterest.”

two hanging chairs in spa in wellness hotel

Image credit: Jestico + Whiles

Diana Darmina, Associate Interior Designer at LXA, responded with a wider look at the social and emotional response to social media and hotel design. “I think consumers buy with emotion,” she explained. “But I would say it’s also this idea of escapism and people seeking new experiences. Especially in hospitality, what I’ve seen is that designers tend to go and create something a little bit more out there, in bathrooms for example, because of social media, which isn’t a bad thing. That’s something that is probably being influenced from the Middle East.”

Roundtable full of designers and architects

Image credit: Mel Yates Photography

Challenging pre-existing trends around wellness in the bathroom is difficult, given the practical need and nature of these spaces. Kilburn asked the panel what trends, in particular, are emerging in hotel bathrooms in 2023 and beyond. Brooke Radtke, Senior Associate at Woods Bagot, responded. “I’m not sure, beyond wellbeing being at the forefront of traveller demands, what is driving bathroom trends, but I would say that we have certainly noticed bathrooms becoming hero spaces in hotels,” she said. “We had this brilliant opportunity recently because in a building we converted from an existing office building to a hotel. And one of the really great things about the structure was the corner had a glazed facade. And so we very quickly pinpointed that as a great opportunity to create these really impressive bathrooms, drawing on the context of that land and feeling of theatre in with  big roll-top brass baths.”

Gold bath inside Amano Covent Garden

Image credit: AMANO Covent Garden / Woods Bagot

The demographic of the ‘luxury traveller‘ is changing rapidly. Claire Smith, Director, ABDA, injected the conversation with a view on how luxury trends are being translated to cater for multi-generations. “I think the definition of luxury is being challenged where ever you look,” she said. “We are in really early stages of working on a project that is pegged as a luxury eco resort, but not luxury in the sense of materials and finishes, but more in experience. So, the focus is on emotional elements such as the lighting and the in-between spaces as you walk through the hotel; the details, if you like. I think that’s where luxury is going. It’s more about how the space makes you feel.”

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Main image credit: Mel Yates Photography