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Improving guest wellbeing with fire

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Improving guest wellbeing with fire

Jonathan Smith, product marketing manager – Flame Technology, Glen Dimplex Heating and Ventilation, explains the wellness benefits of incorporating fire in interior design… 

Fire has always played an important part in our lives. Evolutionary speaking, it was vital for our development as it provided a source of light, warmth and protection from predators.

Move forward a million years and fire still featured heavily in domestic lives. It provided a social gathering point for families, all heating and lighting, and the ability to cook.

With the innovation of the chimney came the fireplace. Often, these fireplaces were used as a symbol of power and wealth, but still, their main function was to provide heat and warmth, as well as remaining a focal point of the room. With the advent of central heating and cookers, the fireplace was no longer a necessity. However, we find it hard to break our evolutionary ties with fire — it’s something which still gives us a strong sense of well-being.

This is certainly true in the hospitality sector. Hotel lobbies can often be grand and overwhelming spaces, but some hotels do use fireplaces to create a dramatic and welcoming feel. These lobbies are spaces which can either make visitors feel relaxed and welcome, or intimidated and anxious. Obviously, the first emotions are preferable in creating a positive experience for guests — a fireplace can help to achieve this.

Indeed, the hospitality sector is witnessing a trend towards smaller, more welcoming and intimate spaces. Think of it as guests getting more of a ‘living room experience’.  Malcolm Berg, founder of EoA, a hospitality design firm, says: “What this means for hotel design, especially hotel lobbies, is more spaces of cross-pollination, spaces that offer a blend of public and private options for people who want to be in a public area but also have their privacy, to spaces where people can gather as a group to eat, dine, work or communicate.” Again, a fireplace can help to create a focal point for people to gather, relax and socialise.

Health benefits of flame

A wealth of evidence exists to support the positive psychological effects of fire. Research scientists in Japan found by investigating alpha brain wave patterns, that watching flame movements helps to improve levels of human comfort and satisfaction.

“The longer people watched the fire, the more relaxed they became.”

Additionally, in a study for the University of Alabama, Dr. Lynn discovered that watching a fire, complete with sound effects, consistently lowered high blood pressure. The longer people watched the fire, the more relaxed they became, and the experience also seemed to make the participants more sociable. This could be related to prehistoric times when keeping a fire going would have been a very important job that required cooperation. Dr. Lynn suggests that because of this, when we’re sitting by a fire, all our senses become absorbed in the experience. This focus of attention could explain our reduced blood pressure and anxiety.

With this ability to make us more relaxed, more sociable and therefore more likely to linger, surely all restaurants and hotels should make fires a focal point within their common areas. However, its not always easy, or even possible to install a real fire in some spaces. And that’s before the potential health and safety issues are even addressed.

The problems with real flame

Fires can enhance the aesthetic appeal of a space. However, in recent research commissioned by Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation, 79 per cent of architects and designers stated concerns about using fire and flame within their projects, with health and safety, energy efficiency and cost among their primary worries.

These health and safety concerns are not unfounded. Aside from the obvious issues around installing an open fire in a public space, there are also less obvious threats to health. Burning wood in an open fire releases small particles which can be absorbed by the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Scientists in Italy found that these particulates can lead to dangerous heart problems and King’s College, London has found a link to particulate pollution and Alzheimer’s. Asthma is another health problem made worse by wood combustion.

So, while fires may help us psychologically, do these benefits outweigh the physiological issues to our health?

Mitigating the negatives with flame technology

One way to alleviate the concerns posed by fire, while still achieving the desired psychological benefits, is through the use of electric flame technology. Modern electric fires provide all the same effects as real flame — a focal point for any room and they go a long way towards creating the right atmosphere for a space, making it welcoming and hospitable.

Three-dimensional flame technology gives such a believable illusion that the same state of relaxation and comfort can be achieved as with any real fireplaces. However, because there is no combustion, there are no open flames and no particulates produced — meaning health and safety concerns are no longer a worry.

Another benefit of electric flame technology is that these fires are quick and easy to install. They don’t need a working chimney or flue or create any heat; they can be installed in any space and used all year round to add ambience, character and a welcoming feel to any space.

Electric flame for the future

When fire was first “invented”, it played a very simple role; it was a lifeline. You needed a fire for warmth, for safety, to cook, to live. Today, the concept of a fire or fireplace isn’t any of these things as they’ve all become secondary function nice-to-haves. And yet, when we see a fire, we feel warm and not just in the physical sense.

While electric flame effects do not provide a living flame, the cost, safety, and flexibility benefits considerably outweigh this. They add ambience and warmth; allowing hoteliers and restaurateurs to put their own creativity and style into a space that will be enjoyed, and remembered, by many, now and in the future.

Mandarin Oriental lobby

Top 5 stories of the week: London fire, summit success and first looks

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Here are our top 5 stories of the week…

1. Mandarin Kensington Fire: Hotel issues statement

fire at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel London

Image credit: Twitter @Watersun555

Not surprisingly, our top story of the week was the Mandarin Oriental London’s devastating fire. It happened on Wednesday afternoon, one week after completing “the most extensive restoration in its 115-year history.”

2. Hotel Designs celebrates record-breaking success at this year’s Hotel Summit 2018

Delegates and suppliers at Hotel Summit 2018

This year’s 20th anniversary of Hotel Summit becomes the most successful event to date in Hotel Designs history. You can read all about this year’s summit and what the delegates and suppliers thought via the link above.

3. First look: University Arms, Cambridge

Large suite wtih bookcase diver and bespoke furniture

Ahead of the opening of University Arms, Cambridge, we went behind the scenes to find out how the design concept developed between interior designer Martin Brudnizki and architect John Simpson.

4. Technology: Is Alexa welcome in the hotel industry?

In-room software

Image credit: Alice, info.aliceapp.com

This has been the most shared story of the week. In our technology feature this month, we’re discussing how tech, placed thoughtfully, can help create a relevant and modern in-room experience. With 73 per cent of travellers wanting in-room voice commands, should hotels offer Alexa in guestrooms? One company believes so.

5. designjunction announces new home for 2018

London Southbank

designjunction is set to transport to the cultural hub of London’s South Bank with a showcase of world-class design for the annual London Design Festival in September 2018.


Mandarin Kensington Fire: Hotel issues statement

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Just one week after completing “the most extensive restoration in its 115-year history”, the Mandarin Oriental London yesterday suffered a devastating blow when a fire broke out on the top floor…

The Mandarin Oriental has made a comment after a fire broke out yesterday afternoon.

“Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the five-star Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge just before 16:00 BST,” reported the BBC. Among the guests that were evacuated from the burning building was singer Robbie Williams who described the drama to the BBC: “I went on the balcony and looked up and there was just billows and billows of smoke.

“I came back in from the balcony and said, ‘The hotel’s on fire,’ and then the next thing a knock at the door came and there was a bellboy there and they said, ‘Get out’.”

The fire was believed to have spread across a vertical façade of plants and vegetation and into several floors of the hotel but was quickly extinguished, as reported by FT.

It happens after the hotel last week announced that its recently completed renovation, overseen by internationally renowned designers Joyce Wang and Adam D. Tihany was to confirm this historic hotel’s position as one of the best in the world.

In a recent press release from the hotel brand, the renovation was described to have given all 181 guestrooms and suites a more luxurious and comfortable feel than ever before. The designers took inspiration from art deco and included carefully curated artworks, and custom-designed furniture. The hotel had also installed a green living wall which surrounds the inner courtyard.

Since the fire broke out, the hotel has made a comment: “We would like to express our appreciation to everyone who has conveyed their concern about this sad incident.

“It is too early at the present stage to assess the full extent of the damage. A full investigation is under way and will take time to complete.”


Our thoughts are with the hotel and the Mandarin Oriental brand at this time.

Image credit: Twitter @Watersun555