Roundtable: wellness & sensory experience in hospitality design

For Hotel Designs’ latest roundtable, in association with GROHE, Editor Hamish Kilburn welcomed renowned designers onto the rooftop of Ham Yard Hotel to explore wellness hospitality in 2022 and beyond…

Designs sitting on sofas on rooftop of Ham Yard Hotel for roundtable discussion

Interior designers, architects and hoteliers have, for years, aimed to call out ‘well-washing’ in hotel design and hospitality. With the demand for wellness to be injected in, more or less, all touchpoints of a hotel experience – from the spa down to sensory design in public areas and the bathroom – the topic has been difficult to define in recent years.

In order to make sense of the free-flowing subject, Hotel Designs, in association with GROHE X, brought together experts from the hotel design and hospitality landscape to explore the latest technology, materials and finishes in order to create a more holistic setting.

On the panel: 

  • Kirstin King, Senior Project Designer, Muza Lab
  • Beverley Bayes, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Sparcstudio
  • Joey Goei-Jones, Senior Design Manager, IHG – premium brands
  • Eric Jafari, Chief Development Officer/Creative Director, edyn
  • Yi-Zhen Jones, Associate, Twenty2Degrees

Starting off the conversation, Kilburn asked the designers how the buzzword of ‘experience’ was shaping design decisions in their own projects. Kirstin King, Former Design Director at Bergman Design House and now Senior Project Designer at Muza Lab, explained designs role when setting a scene. “In any design that we create, we’ve always tried to incorporate the wellness aspect of the interiors,” she said,” because the trends have moved towards the home-from-from [look and feel].” King went on to explain that design now is moving deeper into wellbeing properties, such as materials, finishes, colours, and so on.

Closing in on what is a fairly broad topic, when discussing wellness in tomorrow’s hotel scene, sensory design became a key area of interest for the panel. Yi-Zhen Jones, Associate, Twenty2Degrees, believed it was a subtle way to inject sense of place. “It’s not something people necessarily notice,” she said. “it adds something unique; something they [guests] wouldn’t get anywhere else, and you get that sense of locality.”

Adding context when it came to wellness under hotel brands, Joey Goei-Jones, Former Design Director at GDC Interiors who has recently become Senior Design Manager, IHG – premium brands, believed that wellness can be used to amplify more than just a look. “Some brands, for example, will have music as a core pillar, ” she explained. “So, when you walk in you are hit with an experience. This works for certain brands. Others, especially in the luxury sector, have their own scent.”

It’s all well and good injecting sensory characteristics into a hotel project, but when it comes to brands, often cost and budget dictates how far designers and operators can go. Offering his perspective on this topic, Eric Jafari, Chief Development Officer, edyn, explained where the line should be drawn, which, in his words, meant questioning how meaningful the experience is for the end consumer.

Filtering the conversation back into the spa territory, Beverley Bayes, Director, Sparcstudio, discussed how this multi-dimensional element in hospitality has helped to elevate holistic spa design and experiences. “Smell is so important,” she said. “As a spa designer, I would go as far to say that [properties] should undertake an aroma audit of their unit, because it’s such a flaw to design a beautiful spa without that element.”

You can watch the full panel discussion over on the GROHE X platform. GROHE is one of our Recommended Suppliers and regularly features in our Supplier News section of the website. If you are interested in becoming one of our Recommended Suppliers, please email Katy Phillips.

Main image credit: GROHE