How open spaces and technology inspire design

W Bogota

The trend toward open spaces that are appropriate for a variety of uses has altered the look of hotel lobbies and other public spaces, and now the winds of change are affecting guestrooms.

“There seems to be a movement away from conventional furniture in guestrooms in favor of architectural solutions that are more built-in in appearance and more streamlined,” Heather O’Sullivan, founder and principal at Whitespace Interiors. “The continued integration of technology and simplicity of guest connectivity remains paramount for most owners.”

Studio Gaia founder Ilan Waisbrod, who has designed guestrooms for several W hotels around the world, has seen an increased focus on sustainability, energy conservation, and emission reduction in hotels—all of which, he said, are reflected in guestroom design trends. “Natural lighting and other green features will re-emerge and be incorporated fluidly into hotel design,” he predicted. “Support of locally handcrafted and repurposed hotel furniture will also make its way to the forefront as designers will try to support local and go for ones that are sustainable, especially for the environment.”

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“Open-plan bathrooms affect a space in a positive way,” Waisbrod said. “A bathroom used to be an enclosed cubicle placed to the right of an entrance with a bed placed further in a room.” Eliminating the walls and integrating the bath with the rest of the room creates the illusion of a larger space, he said.

Fiona Thompson, principal at Richmond International, said that an open-plan bathroom makes the “volume” of a guestroom seem greater and places more emphasis on the overall design of the space. O’Sullivan agreed, but not without some reservations. “Although there is a desire by most designers (and owners) to create the sense of openness and more gracious guestroom spaces, the connection of sleeping space to grooming areas continues to be challenging,” she said. “Guest privacy, light and sound transmission, and MEP concerns (ventilation/condensation) create issues that must be resolved to maintain a sense of luxury and quality.”

Just about every element of a guestroom can be high-tech, with USB chargers integrated into bedside tables and desks and LED lights becoming popular for instantly adjusting a room’s mood. Guests can now control everything from lighting to curtains with bedside devices. All of this convenience, Waisbrod said, has changed the way designers consider the layout of a hotel room. “We are able to eliminate larger pieces of furniture and replaced them with scaled-down [options]” he said.

“Every hotel room must have accessibility to Wi-Fi and power sources,” said Roslyn Cama of design firm Cama. “Appropriate lighting also adds to the efficiency of a work environment, the flexibility in lighting control lets one guest rest while another works.”

“Desks are disappearing,” Thompson said. With smaller and increasingly portable electronic devices, she said, few people want to sit at a desk in their room. Instead, O’Sullivan said, flexible work areas within the guestroom are replacing traditional desks. “These spaces allow the guest multiple options for working, dining, relaxing or all of these at once.”

When guestrooms do incorporate a table, Cama added, they tend to be longer and narrower than in previous years, and are frequently portable.

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