What's new in hotel upholstery?

This is part two in a series on upholstery design trends. Click here for part one: "Maintaining upholstery on unique furniture."

Not every hotel has the cash for the highest-quality furniture materials, but this doesn’t mean a hotel can afford to skimp.

According to Scott Gibson, global GM for coated fabrics business for Omnova Solutions, hotels are emulating the look of expensive fabrics using designs and embosses to achieve a custom look without sky-high costs. According to Gibson, it’s all about finding a piece’s niche functionality and capitalizing on it.


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“Everyone is trying to build a bridge between high design and the need to improve the ROI on furniture,” Gibson said. “Guests bang things with luggage and knock them around, and those things are expensive to replace. But you can’t leave a hole in a chair.”

Big hotels are moving toward eclectic, residential looks, according to MaryEllen Walsh, VP of furniture product development for Kravet. That means less tight-backed chairs and more wood, but lower-end hotels can do well with tight-backed seating because they require less maintenance.

“The 1950s modern look is very in, with exposed wood frames that are complimented by velvet or leather, which require very little maintenance,” Walsh said. Steel frames can also be used for even more durability.

Mark Goetz, founder of TZ Design, said designers can use color and bold lines in furniture design to influence the feeling of a space without investing in architectural changes. “Where a room has been left simple and plain, and interesting furniture is made the center stage, it leaves guests with the impression that the property has a sense of style,” Goetz said. “It’s also an efficient use of upholstery and is a smaller investment than making physical changes to a property.”

Goetz also warns designers and hotels about the need to avoid the draw of design trendiness that lives only in the current moment. “A piece with great durability is a big deal, but it can’t go out of style before its durability gives out,” Goetz said. “If it’s strong but no longer looks appropriate, it still has to go. When looking into designs, have a knowledge of the past and look to the future."