3 European brands redefining hotel design


The disruptors are coming! The disruptors are coming!

Emerging hotel concepts with the potential to upend traditional hotel experiences are on the rise. And it’s making those lodging companies take note. The latest trend: U.S.-based hotel companies taking cues from recently founded European hotel brands.

But it leaves me wondering if adopting this design ethos is the right move. Are European sensibilities regarding hotels in line with what the average American is looking for? I’m not confident I have the answer.

What I do know is this: When it comes to what many Americans are looking for, bigger is always better. Think all-you-can-eat restaurants, Hummers and massively expensive blockbuster films. Conversely, Europeans enjoy small plates, drive itty-bitty cars—or more likely walk—and films focus on people more than explosions.

This truism gives me some pause before I’m able to completely buy into some new hospitality concept potentially coming to a city or town near you. It’s not that I don’t personally like what I see; it’s that I’m not yet confident about the breadth and depth of these new brands. Nor am I sure that’s what certain brands want.

Today, I’m asking you what are the newly arrived or freshly developed brands out there that you are either loving or hating. Or worse, brands that have the kiss of death because they fall into the forgettable mushy middle where they simply fail to resonate. Let me know your thoughts.

There are a few foreign-born brands getting a lot of attention, several coming from places such as Amsterdam. And these concepts have a similar focus on super-stylized design and increased access to sociability that nearly force interaction between guests.

Here are the ones I am finding most intriguing:

Generator Hostels

What I find most captivating about this upstart brand is its lack of emphasis on the hotel itself in advertising. Watch their promo reel below. Rather than talk about the amenities within the hotel, the entire ‘sell’ is based on guests getting out to have neighborhood experiences. The message here is explore, meet, eat and dance. Clean and uncomplicated, they have high-end design at a low cost, but developers smartly realize their role is not to be the destination, but enable people to enjoy a destination.


Just opened, the concept here combines work and play in a new way that meshes with the traveler’s lifestyle. In this case, it’s what they’re calling global nomads. The first one recently opened in Amsterdam—I so have to get back there!—and cleverly reorients ways to get work done. It’s designed for short and long stays, and heavily focuses on community with the notion its role is setting the stage for creativity and productivity.

Plus, the brand’s style and offerings help prompt productivity in a more organic way. Already, Zoku has received multiple innovation awards for its room, the Zoku Loft. One cool element, the bed transforms into a four-person table.

Another notable element, it was partially funded by future guests through a crowdsourcing effort. That’s a pretty smart way to engage people. They’re now invested both financially and emotionally in the hotel’s success, so their sure to be premier product evangelists in our social media focused world.


The most well-known of this list of hotel newbies in hospitality design circles, it’s made a big impact on hotel culture in New York City. This European brand is focused on folks seeking to get out and explore, and share cultural ideologies. Rooms are very small, but well laid out. I saw the one in New York City, and it was very much the same size as a lot of other product in Manhattan. But, in this instance, it didn’t feel small as much as designed purposefully for a tinier footprint.

Of course, more emphasis is placed on what is outside the room in the neighborhood, rather than in the hotel. A second one is coming to New York soon, with more on the way.

What new brands inspire you? Can overseas concepts appeal to Americans, or are they destined to be niche products in this country? Drop me a line here at [email protected]. Or find me on Twitter @TravelingGlenn.

Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.