Design experts share how they make guest-only hallways a safer, more memorable experience for guests.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Guest corridors might not be the most memorable part of a hotel stay, but they are areas that every guest frequently walks through.
In the past, owners and developers didn’t want designers to focus on hallway design as much, but that’s changed, according to Tamara Ainsworth, principal/partner at Matchline Design Group. Designers can now have more fun with hallway design elements, she said via email.
“As designers, we want these spaces to have a residential feel,” she said. “As the spaces are essentially an extension of the lobby, designers are wanting to produce a more connected, cohesive design than they had before, treating both areas as continuations of one another. One fading trend we’ve seen across the board is that these spaces no longer have borders and broadloom carpeting, a once popular flooring option.”
Melba Santos, design principal at MONOGRAM Hospitality Interiors at BBGM,* agreed that guestroom hallways are an extension of the lobby, which makes them part of the guest journey, and provide “a storytelling opportunity that continues the vision of the lobby through not only the guest experience, but also by what the guest will experience,” she said via email.
“As technology has expanded, the designer has many more design possibilities, but at the same time it is less about the decorating and more about the whole interior architectural balance with thoughtful key elements that speak to the concept and make it memorable,” she said. “Today, you might see trends that also involve the guest experience such as hydration stations, unique signage/art opportunities, architectural lighting approach and hard surface flooring materials. The designer is able to create more impact with the ‘less-is-more’ approach.”
Susan Cordovilla-Gorton, assistant director of design at HVS Design, said “guest corridors used to be utilitarian, a means to an end, so they needed to be bright, cheap and cheerful.” Some of that “ethos still exists,” she said, but hallways are now increasingly becoming part of the experience and building “anticipation of what’s to come.”
“The spirit of the guestroom flows into the corridors and the elevator lobbies, upgrading the wall, floor and ceiling even to participate in the design,” she said via email. “Lighting and signage garner extra attention that they never received in the past.”
A guestroom hallway at the Embassy Suites Grand Rapids. (Photo: Matchline Design Group)
Creating a mood
There’s a certain mood that needs to be created when designing guestroom hallways that helps move people along in a certain direction, sources said.
Kirk Ellis, director of hospitality at Gensler, said via email that “creating a sense of rhythm that helps people move through that long, narrow space is critical.”
“Few other places in the built environment do people experience a long, narrow path of travel—it can cause some stress and unease,” he said. “Therefore, sufficient, warm lighting at the guestroom door is important to create a sense of arriving home.”
He said each guestroom door should have a downlight and an illuminated number, adding that guestroom doors being set back from the hallway serves a “psychological purpose.”
“That setback of 12 inches or so creates a feeling of arrival and distinction from the shared circulation space,” he said. “That small distance also allows guests to pull their luggage out of the circulation, creating a sense of security and control in an unknown and shared space. Psychological comfort—and pleasure—is a critical goal of hotel design, and should not be forgotten at the guestroom door.”
Giving a sense of safety, and following regulations, is another key part of hallway design. Having a large window at the end of a hallway plays a role in this, Ainsworth said.
Large windows are there for fire safety in some cases as a quick exit, and they also provide natural light and a view of the outdoors, she said.
Light quality is often a high priority when enhancing guestroom corridors, and can be improved with floor uplights along walls, wall light coves and ceiling light coves, Santos said.
“Lighting can be a defining design highlight or create softness and visual continuity,” she said.
Cordovilla-Gorton said she looks to “transition a guest from the public space to the private (space) to create a sense of anticipation for the room they haven’t yet seen or are anxious to return to,” when designing guest corridors.
“First, we address the scale of the space, moving from the often grander public space to the cozier corridors. We accomplish this by dropping the ceiling, dimming the lighting and encouraging a quieter moment of exploration,” she said. “We differentiate the guestroom entry—ceilings, wallcoverings and lighting are key elements. Elevator lobbies need an identity, definition from the corridor itself, as a means of wayfinding.”
Bold-patterned carpet was in for a while in hotel hallways, but that seems to be fading out, sources said.
Lesley Hughes Wyman, principal/partner at Matchline, said via email that carpeting is more simplified and less busy now, which can “help to hide wear and staining as these spaces ensure high levels of traffic.”
As guestroom hallways used to be small, dark spaces, the brightly colored carpet with bold patterns used to provide “some much-needed energy and could distract from the often scarred walls,” Cordovilla-Gorton said.
“Designers have moved beyond function and embraced style,” she said. “Carpet is one part of the overall equation, but often is no longer the main event, giving way to murals, signage and specialty lighting. The flooring, however, is still important and plays an important role in the longevity and overall effect of the corridor.”
A guest corridor at the Marriott Irvine Spectrum in Irvine, California. (Photo: MONOGRAM)*
Thinking about the needs of guests with disabilities and ensuring guest corridors are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act is another thing to consider when designing hallways.
The width of corridors depends on what the owner and operator want, which seems to be trending toward more narrow hallways, Santos said.
“Depth of the guestrooms may determine how wide the corridor will be. As guestroom sizes increase, corridors in turn decrease,” she said.
Wyman said guest corridors must account for ADA standards.
“The minimum required ADA hallway width is 36 inches. To comply with ADA, each hallway light has to be four inches or less,” she said.
Cordovilla-Gorton said ADA compliance is very important, but it doesn’t have a lot of impact on corridor design. From her perspective, width is key.
“Operations need enough space for housekeeping carts and general circulation,” she said. “There will always be general wear and tear by guests and operations. The wider the corridor, the better shot of avoiding this.”
*Correction, 3 May 2019: This story has been updated to change Melba Santos' title and a photo credit.