See And Be Scene
From independent hotel owners to hospitality chains, everyone is finding innovative ways to create unique design-led experiences for their guests
By Vinita Bhatia
Consistency is a virtue in the hospitality industry, but not when it comes to design. Homogenity in design is nothing short of harakiri â€“ something that hoteliers, architects and interior designers are well aware of. Hence, even while they adhere to the overarching design standards that apply to their respective brands, they strive to have intriguing and alluring aesthetic appeal in all their properties.
It could be a distinctive chandelier in the lobby, a locally sourced sculpture in the F&B outlet, a mystical photo that explains the propertyâ€™s design ethos; the idea is to find elements that will convey a brandâ€™s story to travellers. Hoteliers across the board, from independent property owners to chains, are finding innovative styles ways to create unique design-led experiences for their visitors.
A METAMORPHOSIS IN PROGRESS
Designers are seeking new inspirations while conceptualising designs in a highly competitive market where new hotels are being built, and launched, every year. They need to push the envelope to create inimitable destinations that combine aesthetics, comfort and function.
It is not just the design, but even the spaces that matter. As hotels demand that non-revenue generating spaces be used for multiple purposes â€“ such as self-check in kiosks or self-serve delis â€“ architects and designers have to be highly inventive when it comes to integrating it with other domains like F&B to maximise ROI. At the same time, the glamour and luxury aspect cannot be ignored, because hotels are places where guests ultimately come to relax and enjoy.
â€śToday, haute designers like Gucci, Bvlgari and Yves Saint Laurent are integrating their designs into the hotel industry to create extra revenues for the hospitality companies. Modern hotel designs are bolder, more colourful and imaginative, creating better architectural class,â€ť revealed Karann Seth, director, San Royal International Furniture LLC.
However, to ensure this, an integrated approach needs to be adopted. Interior design consultant Ritu Bhatia-Kler, MD of Total Integrated Design India said that a well-designed space doesnâ€™t only refer to the materials and colours used, but a well co-ordinated space between aesthetics, lighting, ambience and functionality.
â€śWhen a hotel works functionally, it means the guest comfort is taken care of because of ease of staff operations. Besides that, hotels that give attention to design and dare to be different are catering to a knowledgeable customer who is well travelled and appreciates a good lifestyle. A discerning guest would frequent a hotel that matches his lifestyle expectations,â€ť she pointed out.
Guests are more inclined to experience their travels than merely stay in a hotel. Hence, the space, the amenities, the design impression have to narrate a story that will resonate with them.
Seth outlined how by designing variations in layout and adding unique elements throughout the space â€” such as unexpected textures, mix-and-match furniture, diverse wall treatments and tiles â€” hotels can offer guests a more personalised and fresh experience that they will seek to relive. Another way, properties are adopting the home-away-from-home concept is by re-designing their lobbies and other public areas from business-like, pragmatic spaces to living room-like spaces that are warm and inviting.
â€śIn 2017, more front desks have been, and will be, replaced with sit-down, comfortable concierge desks and sofa check-ins handled by staff equipped with iPads while guests sip on wine, coffee or soda. Additional design changes will aim to move guests out of their rooms and into dynamic social spaces,â€ť he conjectured.
GETTING DOWN TO BRASS TACKS
Coming to more practical aspects, a projectâ€™s completion is the focal point of most hotel design projects. And architects and interior designers ought to work backwards to ensure that the schedule is adhered to; whether it is a new property or a conversion.
â€śFor a renovation project, adherence to timelines is even more critical in an operational hotel. It can also be planned from the construction perspective,â€ť opined Kler-Bhatia. â€śToday almost everything can be made off-site and brought to the space to avoid minimum shut down time of the hotel space.â€ť
At the same time, in her opinion, for new projects, better co-ordination should be warranted with different agencies that are involved so that each can ensure that their delivery is on time. â€śClients need to ensure decisions are taken in the time stipulated and purchase and other negotiations are done when required. Vendors have to be given realistic timelines for imports or surface transfers and installations,â€ť she emphatically stated.
When it comes to import of products, a contingency schedule should be drawn up, as items could get stuck at customs due to paper work or other unforeseen reasons.
A strong sense of design is emerging as a driving force for most hotels, heralding a multi-sensory experience amongst guests. Creating it is not an easy feat and it takes more than throwing together some locally gathered kitschy stuff to make the property look spectacular.
Hoteliers have woken up to this reality and are endeavouring to make their properties homely, yet memorable, using an integrated design process. While we at Hotelier India wish them the best, we will continue to highlight hotels that take a leaf from the finest architectural and cultural context to create hospitality sensations.