Powering Up: Designing HIEX Gurugram was no mean feat for Studio IV

Building on right strategies for success, the interior landscape and design of the country’s first ever Holiday Inn Express lives up to its commitment to excellence

Holiday Inn Express, HIEX Gurugram, Studio IV, Design, Hotel design, Hospitality, Space planning, Architecture

Holiday Inn Express has arrived, and they have arrived with panache. You will agree too when you take a look at their Gurgaon hotel — the very first HIEX property in the country from the British multinational hospitality chain, InterContinental Hotels Group. What makes this launch remarkable, especially in the hospitality segment, is the fact that it marks the brand’s initiation into the country, and its design stands out for creating an heightened experience in a compact space. The Gurgaon-based designers Studio IV primarily focuses on interior design in the hospitality space — who were entrusted with the design.

Essentially a brownfield project, the new hotel has broken away from the mould in many avenues, even as it ensures continuity in the brand’s global identity. The biggest challenge was dealing with the space crunch in the existing hotel space given that minimum structural changes could be carried out. “It isn’t a cookie-cutter design,” emphasises Vandana Saxena, Principal, Studio IV (Designs), who was glad that the brand was supportive of the distinct look and feel. Of course, certain brand demands had to be met: the design had to follow the material palette which requires a particular shade of navy blue and orange, used alongside neutrals. Its prototype also dictates the position of two table lamps over the reception. Interpretations of these requirements weren’t rigid, however.

As you walk into the reception space, the vibe is sophisticated with a hint of homely ambience. You soon find yourself in ‘The Great Room’ — the quintessential, multifunctional space in all HIEX properties that combines lobby lounge, all-day dining, and leads to the meeting space. In Gurgaon, the room enables different layers of interaction and seclusion so that guests can engage with the space as per their need. The communal tables with in-built charging points, eclectic shelving reminiscent of a residence, quiet corner sittings coupled with vintage salvaged accessories, a high-low seating mix, quirky lights, create a whimsical yet smart atmosphere. Diversity in function has been key in the design. That’s why the meeting space can open up and become part of the breakfast zone when needed. Saxena highlights that while HIEX properties do not have F&B and only serve breakfast, in the Gurgaon space a new concept called The All-Day Bite has been introduced. A curated snack menu is served through the day and a small kitchen has been provided to support this facility.

It is the HIEX rooms, however, that make the design overhaul of the brownfield property impressive. Typically, HIEX rooms would be 18 sq-m but the original space had compact 14 sq-m rooms that could not be structurally modified. Studio IV chose to visually enlarge the space by clearing “all the noise of guest rooms” and still provide critical elements such as a plush bed, a large TV, spacious toilets and provision for necessary amenities. Open wardrobes with add-on storage, deconstructed washroom (“the minute we box the washroom we were consuming too much space,” explain Saxena), the monolithic feel rendered to the space with the addition of full-length curtains visually makes the space feel plush and much larger than the previous rooms. “Everyone was amazed how the small rooms have been truly transformed. Design demonstrates that size doesn’t define the experience,” shares Saxena who was initially skeptical about the rooms until the mock-up was ready. Now, it’s her favourite part of the project!

“When we dived into this design exercise to transform a budget property into a new plush mid-scale hotel product, we went in with the understanding that spaciousness is not the necessary character we were going to achieve given the scale and dimension of the product. We focused our energies on creating carefully orchestrated design interventions; which, in a modest space, help lend a unique tactile quality since objects are closer and there is more involvement of the senses. The touch and feel of surfaces became more important,” explains Saxena.

When it comes to the material palette, the resultant ambience resonates more with the Holiday Inn model as opposed to the Express model. There is a good mix of unexpected elements such as a pop of brand colors and artwork that complement the material palette of natural wood, stone, rich textiles, and carpet. Oakwood, Grey Serpeggiante Marble and veneers form the fundamental canvas on which additional layers such as grey subway glossy tiles, leather finish grey granite and antique grey mirror add levels of intrigue and also allows guests to discover more as they ease into the space.

Art has been re-interpreted through custom-designed wall art and graphics. An artwork of Connaught Place in the reception area, for example, provides local flair to the global property — without being kitschy. Its perspective-style print also offers an illusion of space and matches perfectly with the grey flooring. Similarly, towards the meeting room, antique mirrors clad the wall — with floating jaali above — and gently disappears into the artwork. “Overall, the feel is contemporary, Indian elements are abstracted into the design,” explains Saxena.

While the design opportunity itself was exciting for Studio IV, transforming the guest experience was the biggest challenge in this portfolio conversion. “The overall aim of the design, was to make the guests feel welcome into a more residential scale hotel, through creation of a warm and engaging vibe.” says Saxena. The new Holiday Inn Express boasts a balanced and intelligent design achieved through use of a warm inviting material palette, a product that is high on functionality yet multi-dimensional, technologically sound and modern yet residential.