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Vibrant lobby design

7 unconventional hotel lobby designs

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
7 unconventional hotel lobby designs

To launch this month’s spotlight on Lobby Design, Hotel Designs’ editorial team has scoured the globe to identify some of the world’s most unconventional – and most fascinating – hotel lobbies… 

A first impression is a lasting impression, especially when it comes to checking in to the modern-day hotel. And considering it takes the average person just seven seconds for their opinion to be anchored, ultimately right up until they cast their feedback after checking out, designing a hotel lobby is a balancing act worth getting right.

Vibrant lobby design

Regardless of a hotel’s theme, style and to a certain extent target audience, a well-designed lobby is an effortlessly functioning space – and in most cases considered to be the most vital working organ in the hotel’s body that is most relied.

Today’s modern traveller demands for the lobby to be an all-encompassing flexible portal; a home-from-home meeting place, which shelters a social atmosphere. And yet it must also include private break-out areas and accents of personality and sense of place in its design – just enough for something to catch their eye and be included in their first impression. While it is important to ensure that the lobby is multifunctional, ensuring that its design stays in its lane regarding its style is fundamental.

Here are some hotels that have gone further to challenge the conventional lobby design – and as a result designed their own lane.

1) Rosewood Bangkok

Earlier this year, Hotel Designs exclusively unveiled the design story of Rosewood Bangkok. Designed by Celia Chu, her task to design the 159-key hotel was made that much more daunting when having to create a hotel lobby that creates as large of an impression as the exterior does. Instead of competing with the architecture to be bold, Chu looked inwards to sensitively tell the story of Thailand in the words of locals. “The reception space is relatively small,” explains Chu, “but in this area we layer different eras from a timeline that represents Thai culture, with antique craftsmanship, modern polished luxury and artistic contemporary elements all piled up into one cohesive and welcoming space.”

2) Hard Rock Hotel London

Hotel lobby with memorabilia hanging on the wall

Image credit: Philip Durrant

Designed by Scott Brownrigg, The hotel lobby’s walls are plastered with memorabilia that reference the legacy of legends who stayed in Hard Rock Hotels in decades past, including Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and Madonna. Balancing the history and heritage of the brand in a timeless style to avoid cliché moments was the first task for the design firm when confronting the motifs that will be sheltered in the new hotel. “We knew we had to represent the Hard Rock brand in an innovative way for the contemporary London market,” Senior Designer Kate Jarrett explains. “The hotel scene here is competitive so we knew we had to create something that tied into London and Hard Rock’s music heritage, while still being completely contemporary.”

3) Matetsi Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

soft lobby area, which is open to the elements - and full of natural materials

Image credit: Matetsi Victoria Falls

There are two entrances at Matetsi Victoria Falls, East Camp and West Camp. Both are framed by three traditional Mokoro (dug-out) canoes, which hang from wooden beams and sway in harmony with the soft Zambezi breeze. With no need for a traditional lobby, guests are immediately welcomed into the indoor-outdoor public areas complete with a copper bar and durable outdoor sofas and chairs scattered in a home-from-home setting that has been designed around nature, and not the other way round. “We didn’t take out a single tree when designing these camps, because we wanted these areas to remain as close to nature as we could,” said interior designer Kerry van Leenhoff , a previous graduate from Cape Town University of Technology who was hand-selected by Gardiner and totally supported in all her decisions. Using the striking vista of the Zambezi River, which flows towards the tremendous Victoria Falls, dining tables are placed in such a way to make every meal one to remember. “The lobby areas have been designed in order to encourage guests to connect with people and nature,” adds van Leenhoff.

4) Plaza 18, Vejer, Spain

Almost one year after Hotel Designs started following designer Nicky Dobree’s journey to complete her first ever hotel design, Plaza 18 is now open. With a distinct residential style, the lobby sheltered inside the six-key boutique hotel is unlike any other in the world. “This entrance challenges the conventional ‘hotel lobby’ because there is no check-in at Plaza 18,” Dobree explains. “Instead, check in is done at the adjoining Hotel Casa del Califa enabling guests at Plaza 18 to enjoy the space as if it were their own home, which was my aim.”

5) 1K Paris

Strong vibrant colours and plants in modern and quirky hotel lobby

Image credit: 1K Paris

Bringing the lush forests of South America’s Andes Mountains to Paris, 1K Paris has a hotel lobby that will take guests into a new world. Complete with vibrant walls, ceilings, floors and furniture – and finished with tropical plants and timeless Peruvian artefacts – the area is cleverly also flooded with natural light. The lobby’s strong blue backdrop sets the ultimate tone for the abundance of colours that await guest’s unique journey ahead.

6) Raffles Singapore

Light and bright grand lobby

Image credit: Raffles Singapore

Reminiscent of extravagant parties that were once held there, The Grand Lobby inside Raffles Singapore, which has been sensitively designed by the New York-based Champalimaud Design, is a truly a legend reborn. The lobby includes floor-to-ceiling Victorian pillars and is bathed in soft daylight streaming through the skylight.

7) Ruby Leni, Dusseldorf

Darkly lit modern public areas

Image credit: Ruby Hotels

Taking inspiration from the theatre that With large, expansive public spaces that filter into plush private break-out areas, the hotel is designed for both locals and guests checking in. The character and soul has been channelled into the lobby/lounge, where the real story of the iconic 1900s building, which sheltered the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus theatre, comes to life. “We looked at the materials, shapes and forms that you would associate to a theatre of that era,” says Lead Designer Matthew Balon. “We then separated that into front-of-house and back-of-house. We wanted to challenge that idea by merging those areas. For example, we have included stage cases in the lobby to really create an authentic feeling of being part of the production, behind the scenes.”

Hotel Designs is spending this month with Lobby Design and Furniture in the spotlight. If you have a story, or would like to submit a comment, please contact the editorial team. 

Main image credit: 1K Paris

Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton Hotel completes $12.8 Million refurbishment

Hamish Kilburn

Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton announced today the completion of a $12.8 million renovation…

Following Hotel Designs’ Miniview on The Holiday Inn brand and its direction, Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton has completed a renovation that included 298 guestrooms; 20,000 square feet of meeting space; 3,210 square feet of public spaces; and the hotel’s restaurant, Burgers & Crafts.

“After much anticipation we are excited to reveal our newly redesigned property and restaurant concept,” said Brian Lenfestey, Complex General Manager of Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton. “With a design unlike any other in the brand, this renovation elevates the guest experience while creating a familiar at-home feeling, giving us an edge in Denver’s growing hotel market.”

Built in 1974, Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton sits in an area where the original Denver airport was located. A remaining control tower seen from the east facing balconies serves as a visual reminder of the hotel’s unique history. Today, the hotel serves as a convenient option for travelers, located midway between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver in the Stapleton neighborhood, an area that has become a destination in itself with a plethora of new restaurants, walking districts, and residential neighborhoods.

Large guestroom with white bedding and large headboard

Image credit: The Holiday Inn

With the renovation overseen by InterServ, Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton has been renovated with a grey and white color scheme accented with orange tones. Designed for the contemporary traveler in mind, the new design offers familiarity, reliability and excitement paired with a smooth guest experience whether traveling for business or leisure.

  • Guestrooms: Renovated guestrooms create a familiar experience like entering a home with residential carpet patterns, residentially-inspired surface mounted or wall sconces, a welcome nook that provides the guest a place to store their belongings, charge their devices, and settle in, and a living zone with a TV, dresser, additional storage and a moveable table.
  • Meeting Space: The meeting spaces have been revamped with new lighting fixtures, wall coverings, and grayscale carpet accented with blue tones.
  • Lobby: The Lobby of the Holiday Inn has set the modern yet simple tone that the rest of the hotel emulates. The renovation brought new modern couches, chairs, and local photography throughout the public space.

As part of the $12.8 million renovation, Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton has also revamped its casual, all-day restaurant, Burgers & Crafts, which officially re-opened in November 2018.

The centerpiece of the restaurant is the craft centric bar which smoothly conforms with the design of the restaurant to feature an inviting “open” feel with communal tables and soft seating. The bar will provide a retail “to go” selection of espresso drinks, pastries, fresh fruit, parfaits and breakfast sandwiches, as well as casual dining with a wide selection of craft beers and whiskeys.

“We are thrilled to be reopened for our guests with a new design and dining concept,” said Keith Falco, Executive Chef of Holiday Inn Denver East – Stapleton. “Our team has thoughtfully crafted a food menu using regional ingredients and a drink menu that highlights the strong history of our region’s breweries and distilleries.” 

Main image credit: The Holiday Inn

Art outside the frame in the hotel lobby

800 423 Hamish Kilburn

As Hotel Designs continues to focus the lens in and around the hotel lobby, editor Hamish Kilburn investigates the importance of art outside the frame in the public areas…

Earlier this month we discussed how the hotel lobby’s purpose in international hotel design has changed in recent years to cater to the increasing demands of modern travellers. What once was a place to sit and wait when checking in and out has now opened new possibilities to provide meeting areas, lounges, bars and even – in some extreme circumstances – nightclubs. At the forefront of this shift is the overall attention to detail when designing the lobby to create a lasting strong first impression – and much of this detail is focused on the walls.

As manufacturing technology improves, the gap between what is art and what is a wallcovering narrows. To challenge pre-existing design conventions, artists have begun painting outside the lines to reflect their inspiration onto the walls, and what a difference it makes.

Bespoke wallcoverings

As we prepare for London Design Festival, there seems to be a strong focus on bespoke structured – and colourful – wallcoverings. One company that seems to be owning this space is Colourgen, which will launch what it calls a ‘unique 3D technology for the production of bespoke, structured wallpaper’ at 100% Design.

Until now, designers needed to source specialist, pre-textured media to create 3D style effects on wallpaper or go through a complex printing process to create the effect using standard printers. These methods add cost and time to a project and limit the designer in terms of what they can do creatively. The Dimense printer from Colourgen simultaneously prints and creates the structure of the wallpaper in one pass and is ready to hang immediately, technology that simply hasn’t existed until now. With Dimense, the designer has 100 per cent flexibility to create the bespoke wall covering effects they desire.

Dimense offers output that won’t fade in direct light, can be cleaned without scratching or damage and is C1 fire rated, making it perfect for high traffic areas such as hotels, retail and corporate environments.  It can print at speeds of up to 20sqm/hour with a print width of 1.6m.  Dimense is an environmentally friendly technology based on latex eco-friendly inks and PVC-free structure-forming Ecodeco media.

Go big or go home

Artists are, too, seeing the walls of the public areas as a blank canvas for creativity. In addition to curating powerful art, the experts at Kalisher, led by David Winton and Helen Kalisher, use in-house state-of-the-art technology to create and print exceptionally designed wallcoverings, suited to each client and each hotel. The talented team and experience is unmatched in the industry and is the key to both creating and curating a comprehensive art collection that will inspire guests while working seamlessly with the interior design and architecture. Kalisher’s EMEA team create, curate, and commission meaningful art packages for international properties.  Recently completed and in progress projects include: Hotel Scribe Paris Opera by Sofitel, InterCon Sofia, Hard Rock Davos, Address Fashion Avenue Dubai, Sheraton Miramar Resort El Gouna and a 5* resort in Qatar. As quoted on the company’s website, “the end result is a stunning visual enhancement of the properties, encompassing work from our own Kalisher studio artists, along with commissioned pieces from locally-recognised artists around the globe.” Example work in its portfolio, such as the walls at the W Las Vegas, strongly suggest that Kalisher believes that art as we know and love it today does not have to be restricted to a frame.

W Las Vegas, Kalisher

Image credit: W Las Vegas, Kalisher

Creating a sense of place

With creating a sense of place being one of the most – if not the most – important roles of a hotel lobby, the appropriate use of art is synonymous in the overall design of the hotel lobby. One British artist, Beth Nicholas, was commissioned by the Address Downtime hotel in Dubai with the brief to revitalise the hotel lobby. Nicholas answer was a series of 8.5-metre which are now the centrepiece of the newly-refurbished 63-storey Address Downtown hotel in Dubai. “I’ve never had a commission that was 8.5 metres,” said Nicholas in a recent interview with myself. “Soho Myriad, the art consultants for the project, like to challenge their artists, but I don’t think they have ever commissioned anything on this scale before.” Beth, who believes that her work is best suited in public spaces like the hotel lobby, agrees that she has seen a big shift in the aesthetic of the hotel lobby. “They have changed massively. Hotel lobbies were always places people moved through and left, whereas now what we have is a multi-usable space,” she said. “And that is really fascinating as it’s obvious that hotel designers have realised that people need places to congregate.

art commission at Address Downtown

Image caption: Beth Nicholas art commission at Address Downtown, Dubai, June 2018 © Nicolas Dumont, courtesy of Address Downtown

As the two markets – art and wallcoverings – tie closer together, it seems as if the possibilities for hotel design in the lobby are written on the walls – and if the above image is anything to go by, those walls are almost endless.

Hotel Designs will be live from London next week at London Design Festival to further investigate key trends and discussions circling international hotel design today. 

Main image credit: Colourgen


SPOTLIGHT ON: Storytelling in the hotel lobby

800 566 Hamish Kilburn

Hotel Designs editor Hamish Kilburn and Richmond International’s Fiona Thompson together investigate just how the hotel lobby has evolved in recent years and why, perhaps, the modern hotel lobby is having to work harder than it ever has done before…

I believe the best way to describe how a hotel’s design experience to a consumer or guest is to compare it to a novel. The front cover, or the façade of the building, is the first element that a reader or a guest will see. Despite having been taught throughout my childhood to never judge a book by its cover, my argument is why disrupt the inevitable? Guests are going to judge, consciously or subconsciously, what’s on show in- and outside the physical building. Once first impressions have been established, and readers and guests open the book, the real story can begin.

The first element of drama tends to be locked into the first chapter, or in our case, the hotel lobby. Fiona Thompson, the Principal of Richmond International knows all too well the importance of getting this narrative right to not only fit the theme but also slot nicely into the practical requirement in order for it to fulfil its job (and fulfil it well). “The lobby is key, it always has been. It’s the first thing people see so it sets the tone for the whole hotel,” Fiona explains. “The world has changed, as have peoples’ expectations. It [the lobby] is the most important part of the hotel, followed in my opinion by the guestrooms in terms of what the hotel is all about.”

Fiona makes a valid point, one that has become common knowledge in our industry and should not ever be forgotten: the world is changing, and design must continue to be prepared to deal with modern travellers in which ever form they check in as. “Beforehand, it was a lobby and a reception – a very functional space – whereas now it is anything but that really,” she says. “It can be a bar, a nightclub, a restaurant, a meeting space. It fulfils so many different functions. It’s also a valuable space when you consider that all areas of the hotel these days need to work a lot harder. If you think about it, it’s the only place that everyone goes to. Therefore, the lobby – the social hub, the heart, whatever you like to call it – has been designed in order for the hotel to utilise it in a commercial way.”

As someone who has passed through many hotel lobbies around the world, the ones that stand out are those that have a layer of subtle personality and charm to them. The Miami Beach Edition, for example, is a clever yet simple illustration of how to breath natural life into the communal area of the hotel – especially with sustainability being such a hot topic at the moment, with no indications of that changing any time soon. “I think it’s key that the lobby is referenced to its surroundings,” Fiona adds. “The environment and its location is absolutely integral to the design theme. People don’t want a big bland empty space anymore. Instead, it has to work for its location. I believe that W Hotels was the first major brand to really change things in the hotel lobby in terms of putting the bar and the community centre stage.”

Image caption: The Miami Beach Edition lobby/bar

If we were to further explore the metaphor of the hotel lobby being the first chapter in a novel, then, while there are great examples, there are also wrong way to engage your readers and guests. “It’s easy for boutique properties to create a lobby that has a great vibe and that is very interesting,” explains Fiona. “I think it’s much harder to create those vibes in a luxury hotel, because some guests still want the formality to be met by the concierge and having the privacy. The balance is to combine all of those elements, to give guests checking in the opportunity to have those facilities, keep the privacy but still making the lobby an energetic space. Otherwise you can risk alienating half of the people.”

As Fiona is talking, I can’t help but feel as if in my mind she is describing The Beaumont in London. The entrance is grand and for the likes of people like me, dashing into the hotel for a meeting, it naturally opens up to the bar and restaurant so that you never feel as if you are intruding into a guests’ personal area. However, guests checking in to the hotel can veer off to the right to be met by a private check-in desk and concierge. The design in the hotel is as seamless as the guest experience.

Let’s talk about themes of our novel, to explore a sci-fi motif of robots taking over, for example, which a few years ago the robotic arm started to turn the pages of the guest experience. “I think the first time robots were introduced into the hotel it was actually quite interesting because it’s different, I suppose,” confesses Fiona though I can’t help but notice a subtle grin, hinting there is a ‘but’ coming. “But I think that people want to interact with other people. I don’t really want a robot to escort me to my hotel room. The robot thing is impersonal and I don’t generally think that’s what the majority of guests really want.”

The once extensive novel of hotel design is probably best reflected as that of a picture book in the modern world. As we’ve explored recently in our Designing Instagrammable series, hotels that are ‘gems’ have carved out the opportunity for guests to experience striking moments. One way to do that is to bring the outdoors indoors. “If you’re in the right location then fantastic,” says Fiona. “Environmentally, an eco-friendly lobby will make guests feel fresher and cleaner and generally better for you. I will go further to say that the more you can open up the space the better. The natural environment is growing a lot, right through to air conditioning. Wellbeing is another big thing that is already coming through. The younger generation are much more conscious about that.”

As with any good story, we all have our favourites – ones that really connect with the reader and guests, usually as a result of challenging conventions. “For me, 1 Hotel Brooklyn and South Beach are really great examples of a hotel being location-specific,” says Fiona. “They are green, hotels designed with sustainability in mind, but they are very sophisticated. The lobbies are also hip, but not trendy and when you go there you see many different demographics of people and generations experiencing the hotel’s facilities alongside each other, which is a real sign of success in my books.”

And with that, I have my eye on the next book that I want to explore. Someone book me a last-minute flight to Brooklyn!

Richmond International are recognised as a Hotel Designs recommended suppliers. 

Main image credit: Nick Ingram
Main image caption: The lobby at The Beaumont Hotel, London designed by Richmond International