Designers with expertise in the hotel space say dual tones are still trending, and the future of hotel lobbies depends on the space.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hotel design experts see dual tones, elaborate tile designs and eco-friendly materials as trends to watch for in 2017, and said the future of front desks in hotel lobbies depends on the amount of space and the type of hotel.
In a virtual roundtable, six hotel designers told Hotel News Now what they think will be trending in 2017 hotel design.
Mike Varner, EVP of brand strategy and management, WoodSpring Hotels
co-founder and principal, Navigate Design
Krishna Paliwal, SVP of design and development, La Quinta Inn & Suites
Mitul Patel, COO, Peachtree Hotel Group
senior design director, The Gettys Group
Dual color tones, metal finishes and elaborate tile designs are trends hotel designers were talking about for 2017 back in August. Are these trends still relevant or are new trends popping up?
Mike Varner, EVP of brand strategy and management, WoodSpring Hotels: “I think these are certainly on trend. At the end of the day, we look for a base design that is timeless and outlasts annual trends coupled with targeted accent features that create a ‘wow’ factor. We’re expanding our use of wood and wood-like finishes throughout our hotels.”
Ken Lam, co-founder and principal, Navigate Design: “Dual tones are still relevant when we design, and it will be for a while. It creates interest in an otherwise singular personality approach on finish and texture and provides opportunities for designers to mix materials creatively. Intricate tile works are still very important; however, we do see the use of Spanish/Italian mosaic patterns getting a bit saturated. … The other realm tilework designers are looking at are dimensional tiles. Single color ceramic or porcelain that has a 3D effect, layering, etc., create interesting textures when lit. Tile shapes such as hexagons, rhombuses and triangles, which gained a lot of momentum in the past three to four years, will remain prominent to a lot of existing designs. However, moving forward, a lot of designers are now venturing into tile shapes that are non-uniform, circles, curves, organic and mixed sizes.”
Krishna Paliwal, SVP of design and development, La Quinta Inn & Suites: “Design trends are important to reference, however, incorporating timeless design elements are the key to design longevity. This is how we take our initial approach. Will the rich aesthetic of metallic fibers and finishes be visually perceived differently five years from now? Probably not. Metallics date back to ancient times, and coated, gilded gold reflected on any substrate represents high-end décor without being associated with a trend. Dual color tones have become more prevalent in case good designs. Our new design prototype in Plano-Legacy, Texas, noticeably captures this new design trend in the guestroom case goods. Dual color tones are a design concept that can take on many forms, depending how a designer chooses to incorporate it into a space. It’s now a concept that is popular on case goods; five years from now it may be more popular again on accent walls.”
Mitul Patel, COO, Peachtree Hotel Group: “In terms of colors, gray seems to still be sticking around for the moment, but we are also seeing the resurgence of browns. They aren’t necessarily as warm as the browns of the past, but are definitely more than just warm grays/taupes. Although gray is beautiful, it can feel cold, and I think trends are swinging back toward warmer palettes. We see that in metals, too. We are definitely seeing an increased use of other metal tones besides silver tone. …The new metal trends seem to look more matte or brushed and the trendy tones are brass/gold, dark bronze or black. We are also seeing a lot of interesting layouts for tile. Whether it’s combining a 12x24 with a 6x24 of the same tile in an alternating stripe, or standardized sizing with various tones of tile, or just using standard tiles in a fresher layout, tile flooring is definitely seeing a surge in opportunities to showcase creativity.”
David Shove-Brown, principal, //3877: “These trends have evolved since they were first predicted back in August. For example, we’ll still see elaborate tile designs and metal finishes, but for 2017, it will be a more sporadic approach, which in turn, will be more impactful—select areas will showcase these products and materials instead of being placed throughout an entire space. These finishes, tiles, etc. will act more as a feature in a room. This is because more and more guests are craving simplicity through design and elements of surprise—people find comfort in clean and comforting materials as well as the unexpected.”
Ben Nicholas, senior design director, The Gettys Group: “Combining metal finishes and the use of interesting tile designs will continue in 2017. I think we will also see a trend of warmer palettes with single, big bold design moves in 2017.”
Are hotels eliminating front desks from lobbies to create more social public spaces?
Varner: “This really depends on the segment. In our segment, the lobby isn’t a major focus. Our new-build hotels do have larger lobbies than we’ve had in the past, and we still have front desks, but they are much more design-driven and integrated into the overall space than in previous versions of our prototype. The driver of the space expansion has been primarily about providing a sense of arrival and a feeling of home while delivering a more social and public environment. People like working and socializing in a coffeehouse atmosphere where they can be comfortable and surround themselves with people, whether they choose to actually interact with them or not. Over time, I think technology is going to replace the face-to-face interaction that traditionally takes place at the front desk, but I still expect that people will crave human interaction that a lobby typically provides—just in a different way.”
Lam: “It really depends on the style of the hotel, size of the lobby and overall aesthetics. There was a shift in hotel reception from long counters to individual kiosks, to a more intimate meeting desk, et cetera, but we actually think there could be a shift back to the traditional front desk due to functional and flow reasons. In our opinion, the focus is really not solely on the front desk, but the flow of the entire lobby. There is definitely a movement to activate the lobby area into a more social and engaging space, where front desk, cocktail bar, lounge and mixed-use workspace are all integrated into the first experience as you walk in. For smaller hotel lobbies, this will be a much better use of space; however, for larger hotel lobbies, this is still a great approach to create energy and vibe. We do see the front desk coming back in this social setting, functionally as way-finding for proper check-in flow, and design-wise, as a feature piece, whether in a form of an antiqued table, or a morphing art piece.”
Paliwal: “It’s about evolving to create a more personable experience with our guests, which is the concept behind pod-style desks becoming increasingly more popular. The open, interactive feel allows us to step from behind the desk to greet guests and set a level of comfort as part of our ‘Here For You’ guest experience. As we continue to follow this direction into 2017, expect to see more unique and creative materials, finishes and intricate pod-style designs incorporated into our hotels.”
Patel: “The brands are certainly pushing us in this direction for better and worse. We have heard more and more about introducing the ability to check in and enter your room through apps on smartphones, which eliminate the need to register at a designated reception desk. This certainly seems convenient to me, albeit, a bit anti-social. On the other hand, we also receive feedback from brands about introducing larger seating arrangements or communal areas where guests can come together and interact. In my experience speaking with operations teams, it seems that guests tend to prefer individual seating arrangements or groupings that offer a bit of a buffer from the main lobby and surrounding seating. I think the front desk will always remain as a staple (identifier) of where to officially get some help (and) check in. I do see it becoming more casual like a seated desk vs. a four- to five-foot-tall large piece of millwork.”
Shove-Brown: “I think hotel lobbies are quickly transforming and are becoming hubs for socialization. While we might see less front desks in hotel lobbies, we will see a new type of check-in situation—one that allows for interaction between the guest and receptionist. People need a human connection, so we are predicting to see ‘pods’ or desking systems that allow hotel employees to walk around them and chat with guests on a more personal level.”
Nicholas: “The traditional front desk will continue to disappear. However, you will see the front desk reimagined and multipurposed, as there will always be some guests who prefer an element of human interaction when checking into the hotel. The reimagined front desk will also take on a different location allowing social publics spaces, such as bars and cafes, to be the first impact on a guest as they enter a hotel.”
What were some popular trends you saw throughout the industry in 2016 that you see fading out in 2017?
Varner: “I think there will be a bit more common-sense approach to design in 2017 as construction costs continue to rise and industry performance seems to be peaking. Some of the more elaborate finishes will be scaled back as budgets tighten up.”
Lam: “In our own realm of design, hexagon tile, Spanish tile, copper, gold, ultra-minimalist spaces, pastel color and bookshelves. Simply because these trends have been established for a few years now, and the market is saturated with these elements. In 2017, designers will definitely try their best to venture into ‘what’s next?’”
Paliwal: “It’s important when incorporating any popular design trend that it’s being approached in a subtle manner that helps maintain longevity and relevance. Design is ever-changing in the same fashion as electronics, and while we want to be moving forward, we also want to be smart about the associated costs. Due to the nature of how we approach design, I believe we are a viable candidate to continue to watch and learn how to design smartly with popular trends.”
Patel: “I hate to tell you, but white marble seems to be something that is on the outs due to the oversaturation of use and the perceived coldness of the material. More rustic and warmer-toned materials seem to be gaining popularity, like cork and terracotta. Subway tile also seems to be becoming passe again due to oversaturation. However, many of the larger trends that we have seen emerge in the last few years seem to still be hanging around if not becoming more encompassing. Eco-friendly materials and fixtures seem to be continuing to rise in popularity. Somewhat tied to this is having some kind of outdoor green space for guests to enjoy, which also ties into a trend to have a space that acts as a respite from technology. While guests still want the convenience outlets and table ports, guests also seem to want a place where they can escape this stuff. Another design trend we see fading in the upper-scale arena is wood-looking tile floors. Now that the budget economy brands are doing this in the lobby, it tends to cheapen the feeling in a more upscale lobby space.”
Shove-Brown: “A main trend in 2016 was the emergence of using trinkets and found objects to add a uniqueness to a design concept. In 2017, it’s all about simplicity and personalization. This means lighter color palettes and materials, artwork that goes beyond what we’ve seen (think beyond framed art) as well as functional furniture pieces and accessories with clean lines. We will also see an even bigger push for that personalized experience. Guests can expect a curated stay from the moment they step into the new, socialized lobby and not just when they arrive in the guestroom.”
Nicholas: “Art installations (literal or abstract) through wallcoverings were cutting-edge due to the use of new technology. However, I think we will see a trend in 2017 of more curated art pieces meticulously selected and locally sourced to create art installations that are more elegant. I also see the industry going to art pieces that are more three dimensional and sculptural versus always being a picture in a frame.”