Sustainability, social media-worthy moments, and self check-ins

Talking today’s lobby and reception areas

With so much competition today in the hotel industry, global brands have to navigate ways to stay top of mind when travelers are selecting their next destination for work or play. First impressions are everything, and this is especially true for hotels. One way a hotel can make itself attractive to guests, while also staying relevant, is by bringing on a design firm that can create custom design concepts and solutions as well as tailored experiences that appeal to customers of any age. This starts in the lobby and reception areas, which are the focal points of a hotel. From revamping the guest check-in at the reception area with new technology, to the creation of an open concept lobby that allows guests to chat and mingle, here are some new trends happening in hotel public spaces.

A WARMER WELCOME

For the customer, it’s the first impression that counts. Since the lobby and reception areas set the tone for a guest’s experience of a hotel, these spaces must be memorable and should reflect the style and character of the overall establishment. If it excites the guest and entices them to spend time in the lobby and reception spaces rather than in the guestroom, the likelihood is that they will spend more money, especially on food and beverage offerings.

Our goal is to achieve a classic design that highlights a few trend-forward items without allowing anything too trendy to overpower the space. So whether it’s a dramatic light fixture or an art mural that is Instagramworthy, balance is key. We have to pick our moments when choosing focal points for the space and ensure that they play a subtle yet supporting role to the existing elements.

Lobby at The Lodge of Four Seasons

Balance is key in the lobby at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Missouri, where the dramatic focal point doesn’t overpower the lounge area.

Experiential design has been at the forefront of the trend.

OPEN UP THE FLOOR

Hotel owners want a floor plan that encourages social encounters and dialogue. Almost all of our clients request some type of open concept, such as those with co-working spaces, social areas for guests to gather, and communal lounges. The challenge is creating an engaging environment that keeps guests within the hotel where they can happily relax and have a conversation with other guests or just sit down to check email. Experiential design has been at the forefront of the trend. There are open sight lines into many other areas of the hotel, such as the bar, lounge, and dining areas, that allow guests to see the activity from afar and, if successful, invite them to engage. For full service owners, the food and beverage offerings are their most important revenue-drivers, so that’s where they want to showcase higher level design for guests and locals alike. Similarly, limited service brands also want to provide guests with an unforgettable F&B experience, and to do so owners will offer a smaller, more tailored menu with some higher-end design elements implemented.

Open concept lobby at Embassy Suites Denton

Open concept lobby at Embassy Suites Denton, Texas.

TECH-FRIENDLY VIBES

Connectivity is key: people want to be connected all the time and wherever they are. With free Wi-Fi a given at most properties, some hotels are taking it a few steps further, utilizing technology in other ways. Reception areas are getting smaller. Self-check-in kiosks, online room selections made via hotel tablets, and mobile devices in lieu of key cards for entry to access guestrooms are some of the technologies that are allowing guests to bypass the registration desk. In-room services such as Amazon Echo now allow guests to personally control their room settings, whether it’s the TV, music genre, or temperature. Some brands even offer mobile-connected apps which allow guests to change their reservations, order room service, and book spa services, day care, or pet care all virtually.

A smaller, modern reception area at the lobby of Embassy Suites Amarillo, Texas.

SEEING GREEN

While few clients have the time or resources to dedicate to LEED certified projects, sustainability is still important to them and to their designers. Manufacturers recognize this as well, and as a result projects are using more sustainable elements. When sustainability is communicated in and through the design story, or recognized by the guest during their stay, it is greatly appreciated. MatchLine Design Group is currently working on the new-construction Embassy Suites & Convention Center in Denton, Texas, that is in the process of LEED Gold. We’re doing our part in selecting materials with a green story, such as tabletops made from FSC-certified recycled wood chips, locally recycled glass countertops, and wood ceiling panels from certified bio-based products.

Gray is still a strong color that is being specified in design, but we are also seeing warmer tones reemerge—think warm caramel and walnut hues.

We are seeing sustainable design incorporated throughout properties, but more specifically in onsite restaurants and guestrooms. When sustainability is carried from the public areas to the guestrooms, it makes for a well-balanced concept. While chefs are curating sustainable ingredients—like produce that is locally sourced, supporting nearby farms—design concepts are following suit, bringing in local artisans and specifying products with green characteristics. In the guestrooms, the amenity offerings feature eco-friendly skincare and bath products and eco-conscious bath linens. Housekeeping programs also place a strong focus on sustainability, as seen with water-saving practices for laundry.

TALKING COLOR: MONOCHROME & NEUTRAL
Sustainable elements highlighted

Sustainable elements highlighted at the Embassy Suites Denton, Texas.

Gray is still a strong color that is being specified in design, but we are also seeing warmer tones reemerge—think warm caramel and walnut hues. We are now seeing the trend of any color acting as a neutral when used as a base color. We look for texture and dimension in materials, whether in hard surfaces or in textiles. Unusual profiles in furniture always catch our eye and colors help to further the detailing and scale of the pieces. The geographic location of the project and the local history of the area also play a role in color selection. When we designed the Embassy Suites at Amarillo, we drew our inspiration from the Palo Duro Canyon and the cities of Amarillo and Canyon and their spectacular sunsets. We infused the design with cool tones of violets, thistle, sage brush, and slate grays. We also used warmer, more neutral tones of amber, copper, warm bronze, and silvers paired with white canyon-textured panels and salted maple woods in the bar area, reception space, and buffet millwork.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tamara Ainsworth, RID, ASID, and NEWH, is a co-founding principal of the award-winning Dallas-based firm MatchLine Design Group. As a registered interior designer with over 16 years of industry experience, Tamara, along with co-founding principal Lesley Hughes Wyman, has transformed hotels, resorts, spas, corporate offices, multifamily properties, and active adult living facilities throughout the U.S. into spaces with character, tailored design, and memorable experiences. Recent work includes projects for Hilton, IHG, Hyatt, and Marriott, as well as The Lodge of Four Seasons, a joint project for the Dallas Farmers Market artisanal food market, and several Comanche Nation Indian properties.

Tamara Ainsworth

(Featured image: Neutral tones make for a warm and cozy retreat at the Embassy Suites Amarillo, Texas)

Images provided