Advances in digital printing technology have expanded the opportunities for wallcovering designs in hotels. According to Gail McCleese, principal for design firm studioDW, digital printing removes the limitations on size and colors that restricted older production methods and allows for more versatility in wallcovering applications.
“We have used wallcovering design for wayfinding in hotels,” McCleese said. “Different focal patterns can be placed at the end of long corridors to help guests identify where they are in the property. This same method works in elevator lobbies. Approaches like this can help overcome multiple design challenges.”
Raad Ghantous, principal for Raad Ghantous and Associates, said designers are looking at walls as if they are large canvases now. In addition, with the means to approach an entire wall as a canvas, the option to brand the entire space has become simplified.
“You can put anything on wallcoverings now, which is why hotels in Vegas are using more murals and branded symbols,” Ghantous said. “Large and oversized prints are in, and large spaces, such as elevator banks, now serve as locations for unique design to take place.”
Textured wallcoverings are also growing in popularity. Ghantous has used everything from traditional vinyl textures to gold and interwoven Swarovski crystals in hotel wallcovering installations. “Vinyls are very accessible for hotels, and the higher the investment the more options a property has,” Ghantous said.
According to McCleese, large hotel brands tend to choose textured wallcoverings over patterned applications in most cases due to their durability and style, though exceptions have been made in areas where a pattern or emblem can be used as a focal point to draw the eye of the guest.
Floral patterns and bright colors are also making a return to popularity in hospitality design, though McCleese recommends hotels stick with regional colors and patterns to give wallcovering longevity. “Hotels want a design that is reflective of the building’s architecture,” McCleese said. “It makes sense from a design perspective, as it places the hotel in a location that the guest and employees connect with, and if it draws from local or architectural elements, it won’t date itself as fast.”
Metallic aesthetics in hospitality
An emerging trend in hotel wallcoverings is the use of wire mesh or metallic surfaces on walls. According to Harrison Horan, VP of metallic wallcovering designer Banker Wire, wire mesh requires less maintenance than traditional wallcoverings, is best used in high-traffic environments, and is especially long lasting when made of stainless steel due to its resistance to corrosion.
“A damp or dry, clean, soft cloth is typically all that is required to clean an interior application [of this material],” Horan said. “The finish can also change the focus of the material. Plating, powder coating, anodizing and polishing are the customization options for these installations.”
“Metallic effects, such as silver leafing, are a great design decision for hotels with an industrial or classic bent,” said Raad Ghantous, principal for Raad Ghantous and Associates.
Metallic patterns, such as mesh, can have an extended life due to their ability to hide inconsistencies in patterns by using a busy design.
“A hotel could spend a lot of money on expensive wallpaper and end up with an installation that looks off in just a few years, while larger scale metallic designs are popular for their timeless appeal,” Ghantous said.
Protect expensive wallcoverings from damage with regular maintenance
Expensive wallcoverings and high-traffic hotel spaces aren’t always the best mix. It’s one thing to specify an expensive wall treatment for a space a guest can’t touch, but what about areas where guest interaction is inevitable?
Designers say the key is to fend off potential maintenance issues by planning ahead.
Raad Ghantous, principal for Raad Ghantous and Associates, said the best-case scenario for columns and walls that will be wallpapered is to go with a slightly rounded edge.
Also, try to limit furniture contact, he said. “If tables are in a position to make contact with a wall, a wallcovering will do well at first but it will take a beating and most likely rip over time,” Ghantous said. “Laminates and stainless steels are much more effective for these areas.”
Wallcoverings are also major collectors of debris from hotel air conditioning systems, so regular cleaning is necessary.
In some cases though, the right wallcovering can be a better choice than paint.
➔ “If tables are in a position to make contact with a wall, a wallcovering will do well at first but it will take a beating and most likely rip over time.”
Raad Ghantous, principal,
Raad Ghantous and Associates
“Paint is commonly used by hotels in areas that are easy to touch up,” said Gail McCleese, principal for studioDW. “But in areas where luggage could rub up against walls, paint will give way. A heavily textured wallcovering can be forgiving against those kinds of imperfections.”
Hotels should also be aware of their climate before installing wallcoverings. In humid locations like Florida, mold can quickly grow in the area trapped between the wall and its covering. This can be countered by perforating the covering by inserting small pinholes into the cover, allowing it to breathe slightly.