Less flash, more focus on detail drives luxury design
Less flash, more focus on detail drives luxury design
27 OCTOBER 2016 8:40 AM

Designers with luxury hotel expertise gave HNN the rundown on what’s trending going into 2017, what’s not, and how luxury design has changed over the years.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Luxury is no longer all about expensive fabrics and elaborate trims and finishes. Today, it’s accomplished through thoughtful design details that contribute to the level of service provided at a luxury property.

“We have seen luxury design experiences become much cleaner and more refined,” said Stacy Elliston, principal and co-founder at Studio 11 Design. “The definition of elegance has been the biggest evolution, from the days of the past when luxury meant layers upon layers of fabrics, trims, finishes, etc., to the present.”

Now in luxury hotels, she added, there is “a true focus on one or two elements of the space.”

Betsy Hughes, associate at Hirsch Bedner Associates, said design promotes service.

“I believe the purpose of luxury design is to create the best service opportunities possible,” she said. “A few years ago, this was inverted, but now I see that we are returning to the cornerstone of hospitality—providing superb service through design.”

Beatrice Girelli, co-founder and design director at Indidesign, said luxury design today is a lot less about flash.

“The luxury is not in the marble, it’s not the shiny sort of object, but it’s more about quality, authenticity, level of attention to detail,” she said. “It can take many, many shapes and forms, and it doesn’t have to be basically conventional.”

Luxury design trends in 2017
When it comes to interior design trends at the luxury level, Hughes said she’s seeing a return to the classics.

“Classic European/American design is going through a revival,” she said. “In the U.S., this is evident by the current trend of revitalizing historic properties through adaptive reuse and historic preservation projects.”

Hughes recently worked on an adaptive reuse and historic preservation project: The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which was formerly the Old Post Office. HBA did the interior design.

The trend of designing hotels to reflect their local surroundings is growing at the luxury level, Elliston said.

“Incorporating local touches into design elements and details in a subtle, sophisticated way, is both a goal and an expectation,” she said. “At Studio 11, we love this direction, as it awards the designer an opportunity to thoroughly research the surrounding areas and draw inspiration from local history and culture that relate very specifically to the project location.”

Elliston said the artwork in luxury hotels also has changed, and is now much more than “an afterthought to fill bare walls.”

“With art now encompassing more than just a piece in a frame, we have found it important to approach this from a different perspective,” she said. “Because of this shift of expectation, we have added a true art curation/styling team to our services.”

The design of public spaces within the hotel is a top priority for designers, but designing outside public spaces also has become important, sources said.

“We have seen a large focus on the relation between interior and exterior space,” Elliston said. “More emphasis has been put on the cohesion of these spaces as they relate and become an extension of one another. With public spaces playing a more important role in the social aspect of a hotel, it has been important to provide various opportunities for guests to gather.”

Hughes said all luxury properties are trying to capitalize on exterior space.

“Obviously, warm climates create semi-private alcoves with water features,” she said. “Cold climates create spaces centered around fire and a culinary experience. Possibly, exterior spaces counteract the urban jungle from our real lives.”

• Click here for more on hotel designers’ expectations going into 2017. 

Trends that are fading away
When new trends come in, many older trends go out. Going forward, Hughes said, luxury design will have more of a focus on being sustainable.

“Flashy design will take a hiatus, and we will see properties embrace timeless design,” she said. “While it does not grab the attention of the guest in the same way, it’s sustainable and long-term, and therefore, a better return on investment.”

Girelli said she would like to see hotels do away with the “curiosity store” look—“a cliché … which people picked up from some of the smaller independent Paris and London hotels,” she said. “(They were) really curated that way, but everybody has tried to fake it and replicate it for the last five to six years, and I think it’s time that it goes away.”

She said she also hopes brands will be more open-minded when it comes to design at the corporate level.

“In the design process when working with brands, it would be nice that the efforts of designing the luxury products also corresponds … to a broader corporate view in terms of the freedom that is offered,” Girelli said. “I think that would actually push designers to be more resourceful and create something really unique for the brand.”

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