Matters Of Exquisite Taste
When it comes to furniture and furnishings, hotels live to keep things minimalistic with touches of of rusticity and splashes of fun
In recent times, the brains that devise the aesthetics of high-end hotels have broken away from the conventional approach of making these establishments look like palatial affairs. Instead, the way they have designed these properties is to let it shine for their well-appointed amenities, as well as the striking use of furniture, artefacts and furnishings.
The choice of these arrangements is made keeping in mind the interests of guests who are likely to visit it. Needless to say, it is eye-catching and makes for many Instagram and Snapchat moments! Is it any wonder then that many hotel chains now have a special executive committee or corporate design team that plan, source and maintain these styles all year round. After all, who does not want more social media likes!
Inspired by local art
While some interior designers and architects play around with upholstery, drapes, and blinds; others like to accentuate wall coordinates, art pieces, fixtures and even furniture. They emphasise merging boutique hotels with modern oeuvres
flawlessly such that it becomes a hub for not just the older generation but even the youth.
From customising and sourcing the right artefacts, furnishings and furniture, to conceptualising every area available such as the lounge, bar, cafe, guest rooms, poolside, and theme-based restaurants, hotels showcase their love for design. These spaces not only for enthuse art patrons who visit these precincts, but also portray the art-inspired transformation that the hotel has gone through to the ordinary folks, with the hotel’s staff happy to inform them about this journey.
Interior designers always try to source local artwork that accentuates the overall design of the hotel and the brand. One example of this is jüSTa Hotels and Resorts. Ashish Vohra said how his designer sourced tiles Mangalore tiles for jüSTa Turtlebay On Sea, Kundapur from nearby houses to give authenticity to the premises.
Another classic example is ITC Chola, Chennai. The property is an exact depiction of its name and is heavily inspired by the architecture of the magnificent Thanjai Periyakovil. Traditional Mahabalipuram sculptures, carved elephants and four-petalled flower motifs are some of the design elements at the property. The choice of intricate artwork and furniture completes the look and feel.
“Furnishings and furniture are designed or selected according to the interior design, which in turn is based upon the concept of the space. Except for the brands that are replicated across the chain, furniture and furnishings are unique to the hotel,” said Anil Chadha, VP, South, ITC Hotels and GM, ITC Grand Chola.
THE SEASONAL APPROACH
Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa follows a thematic approach as per the four seasons of spring, summer, winter and autumn. For decades, the group have procured their artefacts from dealers such as Karabi Artworks. These artworks and sculptures are sourced from rehabilitated tribal in local areas. Some of the artefacts and fixtures are made out of white and black metal, glass, fiberglass, black and white aluminum, sculptures made of resin, mural paintings, artwork on handmade papers and more that depict both modern and vintage styles.
Subash Chand, executive housekeeper, Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa said, “Hotels are diversifying their portfolios to cater to guests of all segments of the market, which impacts the decor they choose to use. Currently, hotel furnishing trends feature more dynamic guestrooms, more natural light through the use of windows as design elements. Hotels the world over are moving towards more minimalistic furniture and rustic design, inspired by the local culture and traditions”.
The resort has extensively used waterproof plywood that is coated by veneer in indoor areas and wooden tables made of Brazilian teak wood with natural polish. Specific for Mahabaleshwar, to withstand the heavy monsoons, weather-proof furniture is used for all outdoor venues. All furniture and furnishings of the resort is fixed as per the location and design of the property. “In the guest rooms we use light grey color heavy curtains with white sheer curtain, rooms have leather writing chairs and upholstered sofas,” Chand added.
The Hyatt Group, also, follows a similar style where every property is customised as per segments. It has a long-standing reputation for featuring some most fantastic art, fusing traditional themes with artworks depicting everyday life of the metropolis.
“We have chosen furniture based on the segment we cater to and in line with the Regency Brand. We are uncomplicated, contemporary yet stylish, hence our furnishings are not jarring but subtle and we use neutral colours. We use high table and chairs in the Lobby Café, creating uncluttered, easy and contemporary seating. Our restaurants have their own theme – the Italian eateris have a rustic feel with old wood furniture with subtle colours, whereas the all-day dining has a fresher appeal with vibrant colors used for upholstery. Gucchi, our specialty restaurant, has a intimate seating and setup that creates an ambience of the Lavish North-West Frontier cuisine. Every location has its own setting and has local touch added,” said Harkaran Singh, director of rooms, Hyatt Regency Kolkata.
Hotel chains with spas specifically focus eco-friendly furniture and sourcing this locally makes it more durable and valuable aesthetically. Sustainable and cost-effective methods are followed where furniture that wear out are recycled or modified and used.
Singh from Hyatt Regency explained, “For example, certified sustainable wood, furniture made with reclaimed materials, furniture that has low toxicity are used. You would be amazed that just like the food on the dinner plate, when it comes to buying local pieces of furniture, how many miles the constituent parts might have had to travel in order to reach us. If possible, we source furniture close to our property. This supports the local economy, small craftspeople, and decreases the environmental cost of shipping.”
The ITC Group also follows a similar method where wood and/or plyboards are sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified vendors directly or specified through a turnkey vendor. On completion of product life cycle (outlet/room), the furniture is reused at guest houses and accommodation for hotel associates.
Wood still remains the favourite material for furniture across hotel groups. Style inspirations are drawn from what is more functional, yet stylish, owing to the millennial mindset.
Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa uses leather and upholstered furniture for indoors and weather- proof cane furniture and sunbrella furnishing for outdoor areas keeping in mind the climatic conditions in Mahabaleshwar. This is maintained year-round, irrespective of the season. A complete overhaul of furniture is usually carried out only every five years.
Rooms furnishings is basically 80% cotton and 20% polyester mix. This ratio is maintained as it is easy to maintain and has a better longevity. It is changed every 24 to 36 months on an average.
Logistics is an important segment of hotel design. The housekeeping, administration and design teams come together to follow standard operating procedures for procuring or material sourcing of furnishings, furniture and even artwork, and maintenance.
Typically, while choosing furnishings and furniture that go with a property’s overall look and feel, the size and space for decor, colour scheme of the property, texture and style, appeal and functionality, and durability and maintenance efforts are kept in mind. High-end hotels designate 4% to 5% of the overall revenue for maintenance and replacement of furniture and furnishings, also considering the product lifecycle.
Some hotels also look at the reorder status and easy re-procurement and availability. Maintaining brand standards is important for brands like Hyatt to stay consistent in their product offerings. Hence, the product’s lifecycle is analysed considering the reorder availability to ensure that they are able to repair and replace before the change cycle as required. While change is welcome, the same has to be practical keeping in mind its financial aspect.
While most design elements are customised, there are certain common sources, vendors and brands that cater to specific requirements. Vendors are identified through continuous search and verification processes, including visits to their factory and background checks. The selection is strictly through competitive bidding. There are no preferred suppliers. During renovation or Greenfield projects, outlets are usually contracted out as turnkey jobs. The principal contractor may source them as per individual hotel specifications.
According to Singh of Hyatt Regency South East Asia is a good market to procure furniture and fixtures. Trade shows provide a wide platform to both the sellers and buyers to interact and discuss new ideas under one roof. “One can explore latest market innovations and gain knowledge about the latest trends in the furniture industry in India and all around the world. Hence attending such fairs definitely helps hotels to source vendors and get an idea of the market offerings in line with current trends. Suppliers are qualified based on economics and logistical convenience,” he said.
Some well-known brands such as Tai Ping and Brintons supply the best carpets for the hospitality industry. For the traditional touch, Bhadohi is known for hand-tufted rugs and hand-knotted carpets and is known as the carpet city in South Asia.
“By virtue of our hotel being part of the Marriott International, we mobilise our vast base of approved suppliers and vendors for any requirement for the hotel, as these suppliers are well versed with the brand standard specifications. Apart from that we have extensive policies on specific design requirements, performance parameters, and materials of construction, tolerated deviations that are taken into consideration while procuring the items,” said Subash Chand from Le Meridian Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa.
Interior designers prefer sourcing their materials painstakingly from the most remote places that are locally rich in culture. But the worry always for most hotel groups is reorder.
The greatest challenge they face with regards to customised furniture and furnishing is that in the long run it becomes difficult to source replacements or spare parts. However, every property has specific vendors, who make customized furniture for them.
According to the ITC Group, this problem has almost been tackled with more vendors using Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) machines. This ensures lesser time for the manufacture of custom-made furniture, consistency in a batch and reorder.
When it comes to furniture and furnishing, the underlining messaging is simple – it should be so suble that the guest should not notice the dramatism that it is meant to imply. At the same time, it should be so vibrant that it should not escape the guest’s attention either. That is the balance that interior designers and architects constantly strive to attain, and in most cases manage to achieve.