The evolution of hotel design is intrinsically linked to the guests’ stay and relates to the overall hotel experience. The furniture direction and style often completes and solidifies this evolution.
There are three main criteria for selecting the correct hospitality furniture: placement, style and durability.
Expectations of a sensory experience as soon as a guest steps through a hotel’s front doors are commonplace. Gone are the austere chairs and loveseats placed inexplicably at the entry and missing elsewhere. There’s less concern for creating pretty vignettes than ensuring comfort, flexibility and delight not only for the guest but for hotel staff as well.
The expectation today is that public spaces in hotels seamlessly function as living rooms, waiting areas, cocktail lounges, business centres and private getaways. Creating these zones in a lobby is only achievable with the right furniture placement. Arranging a large sectional with low backed chairs in the centre of the room is an invitation for all to enjoy. Locating a raised bar top with barstools adjacent to reception provides business travellers both visibility and privacy without commitment. Placing a communal table in a restaurant is a signal of participation and community.
Style of hospitality furniture is instrumental not only in this zoning but also as a reinforcement of a hotel’s personality. A wingback chair says something a low sling chair does not. The key is to understand the message.
Hotel designers almost always custom design rather than select furniture for a hotel from a retailer. When dealing with a standard sized guestroom, for instance, space is paramount and custom furniture is necessary to ensure the right scale. In a lobby or restaurant, scale is crucial in conveying the right relationship each piece of furniture has to one another. For example, making sure a side table is designed to the correct height so that a guest sitting on an adjacent sofa can easily lean over and rest their drink on it is an absolute must.
The life cycle of a hotel is between five and 10 years. This means furniture must last not only stylistically but stand up to a tremendous amount of wear and tear during this period.
To ensure furniture will stand the test of time, designers need to understand how each piece is typically made and how the space in which the furniture will be placed will be used. This information helps a designer choose the right type of furniture fabric, colour, texture and grade. Of course, there needs to be a balance between aesthetics and durability. Durability should be incorporated in such a way that doesn’t detract from the overall look and feel of the furniture and space.
Adèle Rankin is a senior associate at B+H CHIL Design. She specializes in the planning, design, documentation and management of major hospitality and residential projects.