Why Hotel Design Matters
Hotel design is now about doing more with less, according to RD Jones & Associates founder Rebecca Jones, who joins over 40 hotel experts to talk about the latest trends at next week's national Bisnow Lodging Investment Summit in DC. (We call it BLIS, both because fancy annual events need acronyms and because we want to subliminally convince you that's the state of mind you'll be in if you sign up.)
Rebecca—who’s behind the recent design of hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria in Naples, Fla., Cheeca Lodge in the Florida Keys, and Doubletree Hotel in Reading, Penn.—says clients still want a high-end, unique look, but one that’s kinder to the wallet. One way hotel owners are achieving this is by tossing away standard prototypes. “They realize they don’t necessarily need the big lounge chair in guest rooms,” she says—and one of her clients saved a whopping $750/room "for something no one used." (So if you want to read us a bedtime story, sit on the floor.) Meanwhile, that money can be placed toward items with more impact, like upping the power requirements into each room. Another service that's hot: localvore dining versus room service, she says.
Hospitality trends are even impacting multifamily design, like public areas designed in an open concept—a lobby that's not just a lobby, but a meeting area, a home office, a lounge, and a reception area. Above is Trilogy at NoMA in the up-and-coming neighborhood in northeast Washington, DC. She tells us the project, which comprises three distinct luxury apartment buildings, blends upscale living with a resort-style feel. RD Jones was given the opportunity to design the interior space of one of the buildings, named Cirq (above), which includes a variety of public and amenity spaces, including multiple lounges, a multimedia entertainment area, fitness center, pool and courtyard area, and screening room. (They should only show movies about hotels, like Maid in Manhattan and Dunston Checks In. Well, maybe not The Shining.)
Other trends that will be impacting hotel design, according to Rebecca (whom you'll find taking her husband, mother, and two dogs—including Sherman, who just turned 19 on April 15—to her house in Easton, Md. this weekend, where she drives a red pickup and boats, fishes, and relaxes):
1) Technology integration—Two aspects Rebecca sees as critical to master are automated services and personalized content. These can take many forms throughout the property and may often lead to minimized staffing requirements (read: cost savings) when done well.
2) Customer service—This includes design firms being able to listen to the owners and absorb the vision and input they have. "Days and weeks can make a huge impact on the bottom line... it is critical for designers to come to the table with the right solutions the first time."
3) Value of brand—Rebecca says people are familiar with becoming attached to brands throughout all aspects of their lives, and a well-crafted travel brand has the potential to reach the market the same way as Apple does for technology or Starbucks does for coffee.
4) The future of the Baby Boomer—"As much as we love to talk about the Millennials, it's critical not to overlook the Baby Boomers," she says. With a large segment of the population hitting the empty-nester and retirement phase of life, there will be a tremendous influx of travelers flooding the market. (And a lot of straw hats.) Their needs may be different than the Millennials, although there will be some commonalities.
5) Sustainability—Although it's made its way into almost every aspect of our lives, the hospitality industry is still in its infancy in terms of fully embracing environmental impact, she says. There are many brands that are deepening their commitment to this cause, and she sees that continuing to grow as products and processes are continually challenged and improved upon.