The first impression is critical to capturing the guest’s imagination and satisfaction and is inclusive of everything from their experience with the staff member who first greets them, to their thoughts on the exterior and interior property aesthetics. From an interior design perspective, the design of a hotel entry and lobby is vital to creating a positive initial impact. It establishes the expectations for the quality, comfort, interest and functionality for the balance of hotel. In addition, the lobby is where we begin to unveil the narrative or story of the design that makes each hotel experience unique.

Most project designers follow a similar process when starting a new project. First, the initial design concept is determined. This is the overarching project narrative which sets the core design idea. It is the “ground zero” for design influencing the key materials, palette, forms and design attitude as the designer develops the various spaces throughout the property. While hotels often have specialty spaces such as destination dining, which will have their own unique identity, the goal is to create a sense of continuity throughout the main public and private areas.

Marriott Irvine Spectrum – Courtesy of RD Olson Development

Determining the Design Concept for the Hotel Lobby

Determining the design concept becomes a collaborative effort with our clients, brands and project teams. The client generally shares their vision for who will be the intended user and their goals for where this property be positioned in the competitive set. Who will be the guest and what will they be looking for? What are particular brand initiatives that will influence planning and amenities? Is this urban, suburban or resort? Where in the country or the world is this hotel located?

Once there is a clear understanding of the project goals, the initial research phase begins. This effort is intended to discover geographical, historical and cultural aspects of the project location that may serve as inspiration in building a design story. We look at how each hotel might reinforce and become part of the fabric of the community. Today’s guests have moved away from cookie-cutter hotels and now wish to enjoy memorable experiences that are particular to their travel destination. It is our job as designers to spark the guest’s imagination and help to create a new, memorable experience for them.

When project cost becomes a factor in design decision making, typically the public areas are given priority. Lobby areas, food and beverage and meeting spaces have evolved over the years to be great social hubs with a variety of possible guest experiences and opportunities for both work and socializing.   They are great revenue producers for owners and operators and simultaneously serve as fun places for guests to enjoy. Allocating funds to these areas generally makes good business sense. While the private guestrooms and guest corridor spaces are also important, designers are often able to find ways of economizing by simplifying design gestures without compromising comfort, style and design integrity.

Courtesy of RD Olson Development

Integrating Design Throughout the Hotel

As an example, for the Marriott Irvine Spectrum, Irvine CA the core idea came from the site itself. The area had once been a rural farm and ranch land. Orange groves, roaming cattle and agrarian farming provided sources for a modern ranch interpretation and style as the foundation for design. Authentic materials such as concrete, steel and textured wood are used throughout the public spaces with a mixture of rustic and modern elements. Decorative lighting was embellished with leather straps and metal loops resembling horse harnesses. And the nearby coastal shoreline provided inspiration for carpets. The ranch story and materials were carried through to the guestroom areas, but real wood flooring changed to wood-look vinyl for cost and ease of maintenance. Costly metals and wood materials were used as accents and balanced with a softer and lighter palette.

While designing for a hotel the team must be diligent to balance aesthetic and operational goals with cost throughout the entire process. The goal is to find the perfect mix of beauty, durability and functionality in order to create an exceptional hotel experience for guests.

Marriott Irvine Spectrum – Courtesy of RD Olson Development

As a Principal and Director of Hospitality Interiors of MONOGRAM at BBGM, an internationally renowned architecture and interior design firm, Kathryn’s role is the Hospitality Market Leader. Kathryn oversees the Scottsdale MONOGRAM hospitality design studio, as well as coordinating hospitality efforts globally with BBGM colleagues. Her team has worked on projects for renowned hotel brands including Kimpton, Marriott, Hyatt, and Omni Hotels.

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