Hotel News Now caught up with design firms in the hospitality space for some easy tips to decorate public spaces and give guests a seasonal feel for the summertime through accent items, furniture layout and more.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Refreshing and updating hotel public spaces can be a quick and easy way to change the look and feel for each season with a few techniques, according to designers who work with hotels.
The lobby is the most important space, according to Jessica Ramos, senior designer at Puccini Group, because “everyone has to go through the lobby.”
Libby Patrick, founder and CEO of Atlanta-based interior design firm Sims Patrick Studio, similarly felt the lobby is the key space to keep fresh since it’s the basis of a guest’s first impression. She added both the aesthetics and guest service need to be top priorities.
Brighten the space
One refresh technique Ramos said Puccini Group recently implemented at the Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia, was a combination of simply painting the walls in the lobby and changing the layout of the furniture.
Changing the layout, she said, gave guests a feel of being “completely somewhere else,” Ramos said. And transitioning the paint color from a neutral yellow to a gray-and-white scheme helped ease up the space, she said, giving more of a contemporary and comfortable feel.
Designers are also encouraging other options for neutral schemes. Bob Kraemer, co-founder and principal of Michigan-based Kraemer Design Group, said it’s OK to lean toward some fabrics that designers may deem as taboo. For instance, he said, white “backgrounds”—which typically show dirt, wear and tear—can bring in that natural summer feel and brightness while allowing room for pops of color through throw pillows and area rugs that don’t necessarily need to match perfectly with the existing furnishings.
Kraemer said it’s important to find a white fabric that is easy to clean, but the main thing to remember is that it’s seasonal and not meant to last forever.
Another way to add a bright, summerlike dimension is to increase the amount of light coming in through the windows, sources said. Ramos suggested drapery that is more transitional and transparent to the outside to allow more natural light.
Alison Priestman, creative director of Toronto-based Navigate Design, said easy design changes could involve bringing more outside touches inside.
“Everybody in the summertime, most people want to be enjoying the sunshine and the nice weather … also adding more plants and flowers, hanging pots, hanging baskets are pretty easy updates,” Priestman said.
For artificial light, she said hanging lanterns add a nice effect without costing a fortune.
Add small, effective details
One new design touch that is gaining traction in hotel lobbies is a “welcome table,” said Mike Suomi, principal and interior director of design at New York-based Stonehill & Taylor.
“When you first come into a hotel, in many hotels you oftentimes will see a table somewhere in between the entrance of the hotel and the reception desk which may have a large urn of lemon water in the summer months,” he said. “That welcome table often gets changed seasonally in terms of beverage or snack refreshments.”
The lobby area can even include something as simple as a bowl of seasonal fruit for guests to choose from in addition to seasonal floral arrangements for scent, Patrick said, offering a “seasonal surprise.”
To add other elements of variation, hotels should update their dishware, Kraemer said, specifically the glasses, dishes and trays being used, for instance, in a rooftop bar area.
“If you’re using the same flatware and dishes that you may have found in your buffet in the morning, that kind of loses its appeal,” Kraemer said. “I think people want to see quirky. … Rooftop bars are meant to be seasonal and a little bit fun, and that’s when you can push that out a little bit.”
Changing artwork is also a quick way to give a new look. Suomi said his team at Stonehill & Taylor uses a technique where they print artwork on a sheet of white, translucent plastic, then slide it into an acrylic frame that is backlit.
“That becomes sort of this glowing piece in the lobby that can be changed in the summer,” he said.
Determine your design budget
Aloft properties update their throw pillows every quarter, Suomi said, and new pillow designs are used each year.
“You can actually throw them away because the next summer you’re going to get completely different pillows for that quarter,” he said. “They don’t recycle them and use them year after year.”
However, some properties in urban areas rely on recycling design concepts, Suomi said.
“You have to design your basic furniture so that it’s going to be suitable for all seasons, then you can have elements that you can put out at different seasons that help it feel very different,” he said. “When you don’t have any storage space, you have to invest in high quality materials so that they can be used year after year and stored for several months.”
But a fresh coat of pain is one of the cheapest ways to liven up a space, Kraemer said.
“The idea is, if you’re going to do something fashionable, it has a shelf life. In a year from now, we might not like that color paint anymore,” he said. “Don’t do that to things that are expensive and things that are hard to undo later.”
For other cost-effective tips, Kelly Sawdon, partner and chief brand officer of Ace Hotel Group and Atelier Ace, said easy designs are adaptable designs.
“Being open to new arrangements with the furnishings and seating has worked wonders,” she said. “We’ve actually been able to pull off a lot of details at our spaces on short notice. … We can outfit the space with wild flowers in painted concrete pots or strung-up candles—it’s up to your imagination, really.”
Use local surroundings
For the Camby, Autograph Collection in Phoenix, Suomi said the hotel’s design specifically ties in custom art pieces that match the desert location, focusing on five concepts: citrus, cactus, cattle, copper and climate.
“This is a very summery hotel on purpose and that it’s summer year-round,” he said. “It’s in the middle of the desert, it’s a fashion-oriented hotel, the concepts of these things are found in the hot desert, so everything is very colorful, punchy and bright.”
Patrick said her team at Sims Patrick Studio always studies the local community and context, too, when designing a hotel property in order to incorporate those elements. For instance, the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Surat, India—which is still under construction—is designed with its culture in mind, using bright, citrine colors and floral pillows, Patrick said.
Sawdon said Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, California, utilizes its scenery as a guide for its design.
“From its native vegetation to the dramatic mountain views … as the seasons shift, the weather patterns change, so does the feeling in the space,” she said. “We have always been really taken by the longstanding presence of midcentury modernism in Palm Springs and seek to incorporate nods to history when we can.”
And when it comes to colors and palettes, it depends on where the property is, Priestman said, but if it fits with the property, something vibrant, like yellows and greens, flowers, patterns and stripes are the best options for summer.