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2021

Part 55: How design changed throughout Covid-19

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 55:
HOW DESIGN CHANGED THROUGHOUT COVID-19

“Let’s get real – it’s not about the plastic screens, it’s not about pulling tables apart,” says Yuna Megre, Founder of Megre Interiors, who explores how Covid-19 has changed the perception around hygiene and design…

If we are to address the pandemic safety issue in the hospitality business, we are to dig in much deeper – into our design process and, I am sorry to say, into our pockets.

Concepts

The hospitality industry with designers and architects alike has been obsessed with the idea of community for the past few years. It has been the loudest, most dominating theme throughout the world. To combat the psychological effects of the new digital era, industry creatives went far and wide in exploring ways to entice togetherness, community, and closeness.

The pandemic brought this to a screeching halt, with everyone scratching their heads. And if this “pandemic-prone” world is a new reality, how do we solve the dilemma of the community? It remains an open question for all public space industries, and especially for hospitality. As we search for answers, one thing is clear, we can no longer create concepts that are centred on sharing and closeness. Such as those that utilise communal seating, tight space programming, and open-access food displays.

It is also now evident that current and future concepts that will strive ahead are not solely brick and mortar based. Robust online ordering is a must. And the public spaces we design must be adaptable to this extension. It is now evident that brand identity just became essential for survival. Therefore, a wholesome, full circle brand-consumer-space experience must be created calling for deep integration from the industry specialists – designers, visual artists, marketers, digital specialists.

Space programming

Space-wise, simply put, everything must get bigger. Providing extra space for entrance areas to avoid crowding, extra space between tables, extra space for passages, and egresses… In an industry reliant on the effective use of each square foot, the new reality will be economically overwhelming and unless substantial rent adjustments happen, in many cities, surviving won’t be an option.

Space programming paradigm will also change as we must pivot from free flow, communal, integrative, adaptive spacing back to prescriptive and rigid. Fixed seating, partitions, private rooms, space separators will once again enter the scene. This does not only affect the conceptual flow of the space but directly impacts the bottom line – both in fit-out costs and lack of operational adaptability. An increase of 20 per cent to FF&E cost and a decrease of 15 percent to revenue would not be surprising.

Design implications

Public space layout implications of this new reality are significant. As an industry, we are still “kind of hoping this will all go away”. And thus, it’s hard for both clients and architects/designers alike to make the decision of whether to go soft of full-on “post-pandemic”. Unfortunately, none of us know. And thus, the advice is – rather overdue, than be faced with having to redo, reinvest once things become clearer.

So what exactly does that mean? Here are some tips:

  • Allow extra space – yes it’s a budgetary implication, but if all goes well, you can always move to tighter seating arrangements at a later date. However, plan for it now. Have at least 3 layouts for good, medium, bad situation.
  • Be creative with your partitions – no one wants to socialise in a plastic screen box, avoid using them as much as possible. Invest in decorative dividers, book cabinets, partitions, drapes. Create a cozy nook. Not sterile cubicles.
  • Let people see each other – just because we cannot be close to each other at the moment, does not mean we don’t want to. People are social beings and places like restaurants or bars are social “watering holes”. Arrange to seat in such ways that each table or couch can see at least 2 other tables while being safely distant. Design partitions and separators with seating eye level in mind. Use mirrors to create a sense of visual movement.
  • Use low-level lighting (table-specific pendants, floor lamps, and wall sconces) – this will create islands of cozy warm lights, enticing a sense of warmth, protection, and seclusion.
  • Colour schemes – be mindful of your colour schemes, consider their subconscious psychological effects. You are designing for people in a heightened state of anxiety and stress. Make your public space a welcome sanctuary.
  • Go basic or go overboard – difficult times call for extreme measures. When faced with difficult times humans seek two diametrically things: First simplicity, so that they “do not have to think about this as there are other, more pressing things to think about”. Thus make yourself understandable, direct, and useful. Or, go the other way. Extravagance. Be the bright, overpowering emotion that yanks your guests out of their daily worries and transport them into a different reality.
  • Finishes – be gentle, be clean. Again, in such times, people are drawn to soft, tactile, cozy materials, natural textures, and simple forms. They seek nurturing environments. Materiality becomes paramount. But, make sure that finishes that are used can be easily cleaned and sanitised.
  • What about the bar? – build them, but don’t rely on them in your business model. Most likely, no one will be able to sit at them for another year in most countries. Think about creating a “lounge area” near the bar, where guests can enjoy a cocktail in a “not so restaurant” setting. Another creative way to approach cocktail hour – the return of the bar cart.
Image of floral designs on the floor, ceiling and furniture - Sleep & Eat set

Image credit: Megre Interiors

HVAC

One of the most overlooked aspects of the post-pandemic world is the ventilation system in hospitality. And yet, this is the one thing that we should focus on. Especially in countries that utilise closed-circuit systems. Restaurants and hotels must endure the cost of hospital-grade filtration systems and UV sterilisation units. Unfortunately, the hospitality industry is known for its “relaxed” approach to HVAC, with many establishments operating with subpar quality equipment even by pre-COVID standards. This simply must change. And it is best if it does on the legislative and regulatory level. This will ensure the creation of safe environments.

“Once the dust settles, once we recover from the shell shock that has been 2020, new exciting players will emerge” – Yuna Megre, Founder, Megre Interiors.

Hygiene

Frankly, this is the silver lining. It’s safe to say, we all enjoyed the improved cleanliness of establishments with increased cleaning protocols, sanitising, clean gloved hands, and sneeze preventing face shields. We now must design for these good habits to become the new norm. This means providing cleaning equipment stations, rethinking finishes, and creating better, comfortable protective gear for hospitality staff. Because we all miss the staff’s smiles. After all, we are in the hospitality industry.

Rejuvenation

Like many restaurants, no matter how big or small, how new or established, will not survive this pandemic, the competitive landscape is bound to change dramatically. Those who will transition to a partially digital model, those who will adapt to the new norm, those who will cherish their guest relationships – will stand. As morbid as it sounds, for everything that dies, something is born. And the future is bright. Once the dust settles, once we recover from the shell shock that has been 2020, new exciting players will emerge. New paradigms will be created. New ways of doing things. New ideas will take hold. This will be an exciting time for the hospitality industry. A time where creativity and collaboration will redefine the industry.

Main image credit: Megre Interiors

image of woman in hotel with virtual reality headset

Part 54: How virtual reality can transform the hotel experience

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 54:
HOW VIRTUAL REALITY CAN TRANSFORM THE HOTEL EXPERIENCE

Agnieszka Wilk, Co-Founder & CEO of Decorilla Online Interior Design, reveals how virtual reality (VR) can transform hotel design and the hospitality industry…

Even before we were stripped of many fundamental aspects of our regular lives due to the pandemic, virtual reality (VR) was rapidly evolving – the launch of Google Cardboard, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and Samsung’s VR headsets triggered VR technologies’ inevitable move to expand beyond serving the gaming and entertainment industries.

Since then, VR has created a bespoke, immersive interior design experience for the hotel industry’s players and designers. After 2020, the value and relevance of VR to a variety of professional settings has solidified even more. Many more interior designers are also realising the power of visualisation and its functions for remote collaboration on projects.

Over the last few years, we have witnessed the technology being incorporated into the guest experience at hotels. Plus, with travel greatly diminished, the ability to simulate an environment using a headset, will become a big part of travel and tourism in the future too. However, less is known and discussed about how VR can benefit hotel designers. How does it work? Will it increase profit margins? How can we leverage it? Let’s dive in. 

Hotel owners should invest now to save later

Virtual reality is a computer technology that combines hardware and software to generate realistic images, sounds and sensations in order to immerse a user in a simulated three-dimensional environment. Using a headset that projects an image through goggles, users are able to see the projected image from a full 360-degrees. 

Integrate this technology into the interior design industry and it’s possible to create beautifully designed spaces that are affordable. Hotel owners and designers can instantly see the visual and financial implications for changes to their plans, saving hours of time and money.

Picture this; a boutique hotel owner wants to make design changes, has tight deadlines but can be indecisive. These upgrades will decide how their hotel will look for the next 10-20 years. With the help of VR and 3D rendering, top designers, regardless of location, can develop a clear idea of what they need to create this specific ‘contemporary chic’ interior. The hotel owner chooses from various photos of interior design spaces to decide on their preferred styles and favourite brands, as well as having direct input in the design process to move walls, change fabrics, and upgrade the carpets. Plus, the price bracket is dependent on the amount of design concepts required and the experience of the designers. 

This all prevents costly mistakes as the spaces can be viewed before they exist, which also allows hoteliers to build trust with the partners they are working with. They can make this investment early on to avoid misunderstandings and save more money later… and it’s all accessible through a mobile phone or goggles.  

A new Dimension for the client-designer relationship

Building trusting relationships is one of the major success factors in the work between designers and their clients. With transparent insight, they can overcome imagination limits and boost a client’s experience. 

Designers aspire to sell their vision and show their clients the high-end products that are trending. However, hotel owners may struggle to visualise proposed designs with basic 2D renderings of their 3D projects, and therefore may not get on board with the idea. With VR, designers are able to share their thoughts clearly so the clients feel informed and comfortable, without ever needing to go on site. 

Everyone who has refurbished or designed a hotel from scratch has reached that point where they could no longer imagine how all the textiles, pieces of furniture, or material would fit together. With VR, clients are guaranteed to be captivated; they can almost feel the materials, see how the light falls, check how the room works and figure out if a desk really fits in a particular corner.

Additionally, if designers create avant-garde hotel designs and pitch to their clientele using VR, the individual hotel owners can use the 3D renderings as marketing collateral. This could increase room sales and boost hotel revenue through enticing guests – they’ll know what to expect as the rendering of the rooms and communal areas would be identical to their potential holiday lodgings. 

Of course, it is worth remembering that this is a contentious subject with interior design studios in 2021 spending more than ever during pitch phases – a line will need to be drawn at some point to establish how much tech should go into the client pitch in order to not only make it a fair but also to keep the window open for the designer to introduce new ideas/fabrics/furniture once the pitch has been won. There are arguments out there to suggest that VR and too much tech will eliminate this luxury. 

Image of woman walking with VR headset on

Image credit: Unsplash/Stella Jacob

In regards to the consumer-facing experience, the “try before you buy” VR experience for potential hotel guests is already a tried-and-tested model. Hotels such as The Marriott IndyPlace provide virtual tours which allow guests to explore the rooms so they know what they are buying into and this has dramatically boosted conversion rates. The same could work for designers and their clients. 

VR offers a memorable and immersive experience where designers can brainstorm with hotel owners in a 3D environment – they can see their furniture and items to scale, spot mistakes before they happen, zoom, rotate and save time regarding quotes for contractors and suppliers. Not to mention the sustainability factor; VR minimises waste and surplus material. 

How can interior designers embrace VR further in 2021?

Let’s take one of the latest trends in the hospitality business: Home furnishing brands moving into the hotel business as design sources, partners or property owners. In other words, using a specific brand to set a design aesthetic in hotels. Many interior designers have already crossed into the hospitality industry like Kelly Wearstler with San Francisco Proper, or Roman and Williams with Guild Freehand Hotel.

The theory behind the trend is that customers will stay in the properties, have a unique hospitality experience, love the furnishings and want to mimic the look in their own homes. A handful of these hotels even supply a catalogue in the rooms to allow for fast and easy product discovery which some believe “connotes a sense of quality and luxury”. Normally, if we go to a hotel and like the decoration, furniture and accessories, we never dare ask where they are from, and we never find out. 

If these selected hotels had a VR section on their website for virtual tours, there could be an added feature allowing customers to click on any item they loved in their room; the shabby-chic chairs, fringed lamp shades, and those ridiculously comfortable king size beds, and find out exactly where they are from. 

The hotels would seem like a real-life catalogue and spaces to shop. Hotel design would immediately become more accessible for different types of interior designers too – they could pull items out of a hotel room and place that mid-century sofa, Pop Art painting, or geometric fabric into a design they are working on for a client on a VR application. It’s a powerful marketing tool for the hospitality designers, and ideal for residential designers too. 

High-end tech is not only changing the face of international hotel services for guests through virtual hotel tours, enhancing the relationship between hotel and visitor. It is also allowing designers to set themselves apart from their competitors and stay ahead of the curve. These innovations couldn’t be more topical as VR is on track to become an $80 billion industry by 2025. 

Main image credit: Unsplash/Vinicius Amnxamano

Image of blue and yellow modern room with close up of USB port

Part 53: Specifying USB charging sockets

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 53:
SPECIFYING USB CHARGING SOCKETS

Relax and recharge, as we speak with Hamilton Litestat’s Sales and Marketing Director, Gavin Williams, on how changing EU regulations will increase reliance on USB charging sockets, and why more than one type of USB port is needed to support devices and futureproof a hotel’s charging capabilities…

Today, ensuring your guests have access to the right electrical wiring solutions to recharge their devices is as important as them having a restful stay. Whether they are relaxing by watching a film on a tablet, or replying to important emails while on a business trip, those devices need to be powered appropriately.

Until now, block plug-in USB chargers have come as standard with battery-powered devices. In a move to reduce electrical waste and the impact this has on the environment, the European Union is looking to stop manufacturers from providing these with every device and move towards a standard USB-type charging connector. One of the first brands to make this change is Apple, which isn’t providing a charging unit with the iPhone 12. An increased demand for USB charging ports is an anticipated fallout from this. But not all USB connectors were created equal.

USB-A vs USB-C

The USB connector we’re probably most familiar with and is used in laptops and remote storage devices is the USB Type A, or USB-A. This has a reasonably large physical connector and offers charging of up to 2.5W. However, a new standard that enables significantly faster charging is on the horizon – the USB Type C, or USB-C. USB-C is physically much smaller and, more importantly, facilitates extremely fast data transfer of up to 10 Gbps and power transfer of 100W for rapid charging.

Unlike the early days of mobile phones where each brand had its own unique charging cable, USB-C is set to become standard across new devices. More than 700 technology companies, including Apple, Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Samsung, have done away with the charging block and adopted the USB-C standard for upcoming products. Demand for USB-C charging ports is set to soar.

Image of luxury clean room with a usb charging socket close up

Image credit: Jonathan Borba/Hamilton Litestat

Charging ahead

Hotels looking to support all visitors and their varied power requirements will need to provide charging options for both legacy devices and the new standard.

Hamilton is supporting the industry with combined double switched 2.4A USB sockets that feature both USB-A and USB-C charging ports. Available in four stylish and versatile plate designs – Hartland, Hartland G2, Hartland CFX and Sheer CFX – and up to eleven finishes, these solutions deliver functionality of the future while ensuring interior style and design aspirations are achieved.

Double switched USB sockets sit perfectly either side of the bed in a guestroom for convenience and style. And with Hamilton offering a vast range of flexible solutions in those plate designs, lighting and other functionality can be delivered with coordinated plates throughout the guestroom.

Since you’re here, why not read Hamilton Litestat’s recent case study, featuring Hotel Indigo Bath?

Power up!

However, faster charging needs more power more rapidly and there are still restrictions on the charging capability from a 13A socket. To deliver the higher rate of charge for high-capacity devices, such as the new MacBook Pro or iPad Pro, a Euro Module is required. Hamilton has recently launched a 45W Type C / 18W Type A Euro Module that is designed to deliver additional power, ensuring power-thirsty devices can charge at full capacity, ensuring guests will never run out of power.

The Euro Module works particularly well in bespoke plates, designed to meet the requirements of the international traveller. Often positioned alongside desk/dressing table areas, guests have everything they need to work, relax, and recharge.

For hotels looking to support their guests in the long term, Hamilton’s USB charging products provide stylish transitional solutions. Supporting legacy devices, along with providing the power needed of the latest high-capacity devices, all guests will be able to both work, relax and recharge without any worries.

Hamilton Litestat was a Session Sponsor at Hotel Designs LIVE in February 2021, and is also a loyal Recommended Supplier. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here

Main image credit: Edelle Bruton/Hamilton Litestat

Part 52: Spa design in the new era of wellness

730 565 Hamish Kilburn

GTHD

A GUIDE TO HOTEL DESIGN PT 52:
SPA DESIGN IN THE NEW ERA OF WELLNESS

In the next decade, spa design will seamlessly blend wellness, technology and touch to enhance the guest journey, future-proofing the business for years to come, as Sparcstudio explains…

The future of spa and wellness design remains positive. Out of crisis comes innovation and we have witnessed this in 2020 in the way that many spas have pivoted their business in response to the changing rules and regulations set out of governments around the world. During the year we have considered the impact of the pandemic for spa and wellness design and believe that spas of the future will have to be mindful of personal space for each guest, designing the wellness space to maximise comfort while embracing nature – connecting the inside with the natural world outside.

Sparcstudio has identified a number of design trends for hotel investors and spa operators to be aware of when planning their next project.

Spa in nature

Post-Covid I believe there will be an even greater emphasis on outdoor spa-ing and a link to nature. Guests will want to escape hermetically sealed artificial environments and will  embrace the outside. Natural pools and Spa gardens will be even more key such as the ones we helped to create at South Lodge Spa.

A spa garden doesn’t have to include expensive hydro pools and heat cabins. Maximise the use of any outdoor space as part of your spa experience. Be it a garden, courtyard or roof terrace or just a view through an open window. Outdoor sensory experiences could include individual relax zones dotted around an aromatic herb garden, daybeds arranged around a firepit sprinkled with cedar chips, or playful swinging seats alongside a beautiful trickling water feature.

Personalised and Individual spaces

Personalised spaces within large spa communal relaxation spaces will give way to smaller more intimate couples spaces spread throughout the journey. Expect to see pod changing rooms and spaces where guests can enjoy shared treatment experiences for two people or a small private group.

A glass door into a spa

Image credit: Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House

Free to roam areas such as pools and thermal suites and relaxation spaces will need to rely more on signage and other methods to inform about levels of usage. The new added transparency in thermal suite design is a great benefit in that guests can check via glass enclosures as to how busy a heat cabin is prior to entering. Where rooms are dark or enclosed it is possible to incorporate an electronic screen to the exterior of the room such as the one that was designed for the Meditation room at Sopwell Cottonmill Spa. The small screen communicates via sensors to indicate which of the beds are occupied. This has the added benefit of minimising disturbance of guests already in a room by opening the door to check to see if a bed is available.

A luxury pool and seating area

Image credit; Dormy House

Health is the new wealth

We think there will be a further blurring of the lines between wellness, spa and fitness offers and that there will be even more demand for these facilities post-Covid as we seek to be healthier in mind and body. We anticipate there being a move away from the concept of a ‘spa’ as a once in while treat, and that there could be an increase in the spa as a Private Members Club similar to the model that can be experienced at the Club at Cottonmill Sopwell House Hotel, where spa becomes as regular a  isit  as the traditional gym and incorporates yoga spin and fitness facilities.

Led by technology

Intelligent use of technology will be adapted to create safe spaces for guests – self-cleaning rooms, UV robots, anti-viral fogging, ‘Star Trek’ type sensor opening doors, and RFID Touch Technology for opening lockers and to pay for services for example. We don’t think this will translate into clinical sensory deprived environments – but tech should enable and facilitate in a discreet way. For example, Cottonmill Spa at Sopwell House has digital screens to indicate available space within the Relax Room.

The importance of clean air in spas will see the introduction of mechanical ventilation and air conditioning antivirus treatment systems. These will become commonplace as will the opportunity to naturally heat and ventilate spaces. Expect to see an explosion in the utilisation of outdoor space in spas where spa and wellness experiences in the fresh air will prove popular with guests.

Since you’re here, why not read our 5-minutes-with interview with Beverley Bayes, Director of Sparcstudio?

New build properties will rely on naturally antiseptic materials such as copper and include homogenous and large-scale floor and wall finishes which reduce grout and are easier to clean.

With all technological advances and design developments, spa designers must always consider how to integrate the human experience into a guest journey – perhaps drawing on the ‘barefoot luxury’ style we designed at the Spa at South Lodge design, this ideal must always maintain priority, so that it is elegant, beautiful, functional and people friendly.

Sparcstudio is one of the brands that has taken advantage of our Industry Support Package. To keep up to date with supplier news, click here.

Main image caption: Sparcstudio