Hotels have one mission at the end of the day: to deliver a flawless guest experience, and they are leaning on designers to help them achieve this.

From humble hotel rooms to luxury penthouses, hotel owners are re-thinking their guest rooms with design directed by the guests themselves.

The future will bring highly personalised spaces, transformable furniture and technology-infused rooms.

Hotels must really hone in on their guests’ needs, from the activities they may participate in within the hotel and in the surrounding area to more core factors like simple demographics, though they must bear in mind that décor will play a major part in a guest’s first impression.

“Guests will always walk into a hotel room with an expectation,” says Agatha Ozhylovski, creative director of Adelaide firm House of Design.

She says that while trends will peak and fall, there are three design elements key to perfecting guest ambiance.

1. Lighting

Lighting has long been recognised for its mood-inducing abilities, making it a great tool that can not just illuminate, but decorate as well.

“Hotels are multi-purpose spaces and lighting design needs to be just as flexible,” Ozhylovski said. “It needs to serve a practical function, but also create ambiance.”

“The trick to good lighting design is to create an experience without drawing attention to it directly.”

She noted that different lighting can boost energy levels, make them more likely to interact with others, or help them relax and feel at home.

Both artificial and natural light are essential, as both can contribute sustainably to a room’s feel.

When it comes to the perfect lighting, hotel guests want the decision in their hands according to research by lighting manufacturer Phillips.

“The results indicated that (guests) want to be able to control lighting – for varying tasks, scenes or ambiance, adjust the temperature as well as curtain/ blinds systems locally and remotely,” the company states.

Light can create mood and ambience, suiting varying requirements

Lighting can create mood and ambiance to suit varying requirements

Hotels can benefit from this research by including dimmer switches to allow a transition from bright, functional light to a softer more aesthetically appealing look. This could be in the form of a master Smart Room System which incorporates multiple controls, including dimming of all room lights, heating, air conditioning and music systems.

Hub by Premier Inn in London has an impressive smart application that allows guest to change the lighting and temperature in their room easily. The app also allows users to book rooms, check-in, control their television and stream content from their smart device to the television.

2. Multi-Functional Furniture

Hotels are being inspired by the urban-density movement to also reduce their guest quarters, or at least maximise the space with clever furniture choices.

“Both comfort and function are features of a designer-savvy décor that guests appreciate, and what is practical, is beautiful,” said Ozhylovski, who notes the removal of ‘occasional’ furniture pieces in favour of more useable ones.

“No longer is the classic bed-table-locker combo enough to make a hotel room feel inviting. Today, people are well travelled and comfort leaves a lasting first impression.”

lighting control system

Lighting control system

Some hotels meet this need, offering double beds with ample storage underneath and pull-out desks, a common feature in a range of boutique-meets-budget hotels.

Resource Furniture explored this concept even further, unveiling its Hotel Resource furniture concept at Dwell on Design in New York last October.

The company reported that the average luxury US hotel suite spanned approximately 600 square feet and they wanted to create the same amenities in a space less than half the size.

Hotel Resource is a 240 square foot micro-suite that demonstrates that small doesn’t necessarily equate to budget. A pull out sofa/wall bed and dining/work table and hidden compartments also reveal  an eight-foot reclining sofa, work space, mini-bar, media centre, and conference/dining facilities for up to six people.

Hotel Resource demonstrates the possibility of smaller spaces “feeling bigger” without losing key furniture and guest room amenities.

Sofa/bed pull down and other transformer furniture

Sofa/bed pull down and other transformer furniture

Dining Table and Chairs hidden within TV Cabinet

Dining table and chairs hidden within TV cabinet

3. Personalisation

Rather than specific décor, personalisation links into technology and a number of service elements.

Ozhylovski has observed rapid growth in the social media and mobile generation traveller. While many guests are keen to “disconnect” from their devices, just as many expect to conveniently utilise them during their stay.

This is where design personalisation is complemented with service.

“When considering a hotel visit, a guest’s decision to stay or not will eventually be based on how they are welcomed or remembered and profiled, how their reservation is handled and how their special needs are addressed,” Ozhylovski said.

Questions for hotels to consider:

  • Do guests have special dietary needs, such as vegetarianism?
  • Which type of room is their favourite (corner room, view/east/west facing)?
  • Pillow selection, favourite music selection
  • Consider a personalised electronic greeting

“Whilst the burden on operations is increased, it will be and is imperative that hotels concentrate on personalisation going forward, to acquire new visitors and retain repeat guests,” Ozhylovski said.

While this aligns with lighting control, the Establishment Hotel in Sydney offers guests touch-screen control and a beside iPad to control lights and music while accessing the internet to stream newspapers and movies.

“With the new social media resources we have at our disposal, combined with age-old guest profiling techniques that every hotelier should be using, there is simply no excuse to not provide a personalised guest experience,”  Ozhylovski said.

  • I found out that upscale hotel visitors want several elements in their hotel room.

    1 – Electrical outlet locations & Wi-Fi access.
    2 – Hotel Room spa / shower system
    3 – Separation of work / sleep areas.

    • Couldn't agree more but might re-phrase it a bit:

      Comfortable bed….. and no sofa bed or pull-out is going to meet the Hotel International mattress and covers standards my spouse and I want.

      Wifi, power outlets and space to spread it (ipad, iphone, paper etc. etc.) out on.

      Good acoustics. I go to a hotel fundamentally to sleep and lousy acoustics are still too prevalent – especially through or over front doors.

      All that Woopie-Gee transformable stuff usually just means the owner is up for significant refurb. costs much earlier and, conversely, the customer notes much earlier how much of a battering it has taken!

      Showers! None of that stand-alone/interior designers love'em free standing bath stuff – just a good sized shower enclosure with "no-brainer" water controls and good drainage. It ain't brain surgery!

  • In a hotel it is important that you feel like in a special and different place, and in which you would like to live.

  • Multi-functional furniture usually are used at the rooms that have compact space. Most rooms at the high-end and up-scaled hotels located in suburban areas have sufficient space to fit in regular or even larger size furniture pieces to perform all required functions. Even though the transformer furniture has always performed amazing functions and demonstrated the innovation & creativity of the furniture designers, its impression given to the designers like me who often designed high-end residential & hospitality spaces is cheap.

  • Whilst all the comments and contents of the article may be relevant and certainly encouraging to see that different ideas are explored, at the end of the day it is all about HOUSEKEEPING. It can be gold plated but if it's not maintained it'll leave a bad impression. Like the idea of compact furniture, but the more moving parts, or bits that need to be assembled, taken out, put back means that it is vulnerable to extra wear and tear, and that means maintenance, repairs etc which is costly towards the running of the hotel and the upkeep of the brand. Design and housekeeping are not mutually exclusive! It is so important to have buy-in form Hotel management and operator so that a win-win is achieved. Designers provide the concept, but the operator is left to run the place. Much like a lawn: if it's not mowed, it looks awful.
    Lighting: I was recently in a hotel (4.5 stars) with different colour temperature bulbs: warm white to cool white. Lamps were fabulous but didn't give you the ability to direct light to reading in bed. These are the little things that should also be considered. This is one example of my observations. Am I the only one who notices these things?