Designers for midscale and economy brands said they strive to keep up with industry trends, but also consider the longevity, durability and simplicity of items when creating design schemes.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Sources with economy and midscale brands say updating designs at their hotels helps give guests a different perspective, but it is important that design teams find durable and cost-effective ways to do so that don’t result in much construction.
Krishna Paliwal, SVP of design and development at La Quinta Inn & Suites, said the La Quinta design team tries to update design elements—like repainting headboard walls—that are easy to do without interfering with hotel service for long periods of time.
“If you have your painter paint a headboard wall for the newer times now, if you paint that one wall, the cost is less for the owner, (and) it’s easily achievable because you don’t have to bring the room down from service,” he said. “If you want to give some time for the (paint) smell to go out, by next day, that room will be back in service.
“It’s a completely fresh look of the room, and it’s back in service in 24 hours.”
Here are some ways brand design teams try to take advantage of cost-effective design.
Choosing durable designs
Hotel designers must find ways to balance the dual needs of keeping up with trends and finding affordable and durable designs.
Mike Varner, EVP of brand strategy and management at WoodSpring Hotels, said the company’s in-house design team finds ways to “cheat high-end design.”
“By that I mean you look for ways to replicate in a more operator-friendly way,” Varner said.
He said the company’s position as both an owner and a franchisor makes those decisions easier to make.
“Part of what’s unique for us is that we do franchise, but we also own hotels … so anything that we think through, it’s got to be good for us, so it’s going to make sense for franchisees,” he said.
Varner said the company might replicate a trend like hardwood floors by using ceramic tile that looks like wood or luxury vinyl tile (LVT) because it’s more durable. Varner also said that guests aren’t disappointed by the result of using alternative materials because they understand the price point of the hotel.
“You look for ways to cue higher-end materials that your budget can afford or that quite frankly may not be good operational choices,” he said. “Wood scratches easily, it needs frequent refinishing, it’s just not as durable as an LVT that’s easy to wash, that sort of thing.”
Kristen Salotti, brand strategy director for Sleep Inn at Choice Hotels International, said the brand is “highly selective and purposeful about which design trends to pursue and to what degree.”
“For example, rethinking the third space is a trend across the industry, but it’s not always finding the trendiest or most extreme ways to get there,” Salotti said via email. “Sleep Inn’s research tells us that offering versatile and flexible seating options in the public space can go a long way with guests without alienating a core group of travelers or requiring significant investment from our owners.”
Change ‘low-hanging fruit’
Paliwal said he tries to change items that are easy to update when it comes to giving a hotel a fresher look in a cost-effective way and timely manner.
“The low-hanging fruits, these are the design trends that will make your hotel look a little newer than it was yesterday,” he said. “That’s what the guest is looking for. Something he didn’t see the last time he was at the hotel.”
Salotti said Sleep Inn’s design team updates small guestroom items like keycards to mix up the design.
“Choosing where to make an impact is also essential,” Salotti said. “Touchpoints, such as keycards and do not disturb signs, are required for the operations of any hotel. Sleep Inn looks at these as low-cost opportunities to bring ‘Designed to Dream’ and Sleep Inn’s upbeat brand personality to life for the guest.”
Design should reflect the brand’s message
Caroline Czirr, VP of brand management at Red Lion Hotels Corporation, said the design team identifies key items that represent the brand.
“We have identified key elements in our packages that are the heart of each brand,” Czirr said via email. “For example, in our Hotel RL offering, The Living Stage, stadium seating and Live Work components are not expensive to implement and yet are key to the brand. Being thoughtful and supportive of franchisees and operators during the PIP process is key to making it all happen.”
Varner said WoodSpring’s simple design model is what represents the brand.
“The design has to reflect the brand’s personality,” he said. “It cannot be generic, and it has to tie back to what you stand for. In our case, it’s simple done better. The design has to be simplistic, not simple, but it has to be easy.”
Tips for other design teams
Sources said there are a few things design-team leaders should keep in mind while crafting a design strategy for a hotel brand.
Czirr said it’s important to start with figuring out who you’re going after.
“Be very clear about the market you are trying to reach before you start the design process,” Czirr said. “That’s the key to focusing the design efforts quickly and keeping costs in check. Experimentation can be fun, but it can also be costly.”
Paliwal said it’s important to keep construction in mind when it comes to implementing new design trends.
“Look for the things that can be easy to change that make the biggest impact to the guest walking into the hotel,” he said. “Get a bigger impact without (a lot of construction) not only because of cost, but because you’re running a business.”
Salotti said teams should be selective in the types of trends they pursue.
“Just because a lot of hotels are doing it doesn’t make it right for your guest or your brand,” she said. “Ensure everything is supporting the positioning and the value proposition that make your brand unique.”