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Hotel Design Has Come a Long Way from the Cookie-cutter Days of the 1980s; Designers Aim for Warm, 
Nurturing Feel Post-Sept. 11
By Sandi Cain, July 2004 

Hotel design has come a long way from the cookie-cutter days of the 1980s, when road warriors knew the layout of their hotel before they arrived.

The rise of intimate boutique hotels in the 1990s and a cultural shift toward comfort since the 2001 terrorist attacks have had an impact on hotel design.

On the outside, contemporary, Italian and Craftsman styles have dominated recent construction, but interior design trends have been more dramatic.

“Since Sept. 11, hotels are becoming more modest, humble and less hip,” said Chip Conley, president of boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre Hospitality in San Francisco. “They’re becoming more nurturing than entertaining.”

Conley said that’s a major cultural shift.

“Five years ago, about 75% were going after the hip (image),” he said. “Now it’s 75% the other way.”

The No. 1 trend, Conley and other trend-watchers said, is a focus on the bed, followed by improved bathroom design and amenities, and Internet connectivity.

Pillow-top beds and custom mattresses are all the rage as hoteliers race to provide more comfort than the next guy. Starwood’s Westin Hotel unit may have created this bandwagon, spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million developing its “Heavenly Bed” that debuted in 1999.

And Costa Mesa-based Ayres Hotel Group, which owns and operates 16 boutique hotels in Southern California, developed its own “DreamSleeper” in 2002.

Along with luxury in the bed itself, hotels largely have done away with bedspreads, turning instead to high-end duvets and throw covers—often with a design that reflects the local culture.

That’s as much in response to demand for cleanliness, as it is a design element, said Michele Phillips, director of interior design at architecture firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo’s Newport Beach office.

Duvets, Phillips said, can be laundered daily, while traditional bedspreads require dry cleaning.

Inside hotel rooms, clean lines mean more open space.

“There’s a more subtle line between the bedroom and bath,” said Kelly Beamon, executive editor of Hospitality Design Magazine in New York.

“Doors are becoming a thing of the past and it’s not unusual to find curtains or windows dividing the bedroom and bathroom areas,” Beamon said.

Other changes in guest bathrooms include soaking tubs, double sinks, better lighting and compartments for linens instead of the traditional chrome racks.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point took note of these changes in its recently completed remodel and expansion.

“We’re going to a more residential look in the guest rooms,” said general manager Jeroen Gerresse.

Technology plays a big part in design, too.

Flat screen TVs, Internet connectivity, DVDs and other tech toys have led hoteliers to fashion rooms that have multifunctional workspaces, better lighting and safes that can handle laptop computers. The advent of flat-screen TVs is even making the standard armoire passé, Beamon said.

Of course, spas and fitness centers are a must in today’s larger hotels and resorts.

In Orange County, the Surf & Sand in Laguna Beach converted a retail area into a spa, while the Laguna Cliffs Marriott used a swatch of open space on its property to build one.

Public areas are still important, too.

The Hyatt Irvine has tried to create a “timeless” feel in its public areas, said General Manager Peter Rice. Those areas now boast ottomans, comfortable chairs and a combination of wood and other materials to create an elegant lobby with warm colors that evoke the California lifestyle.

“The cost is high, but it’s a high-impact area that’s been well-received,” Rice said.

Hyatt Regency Irvine
Another trend is to theme hotel decor to the surroundings. Conley calls it “indigenous design” and cautioned that it works better if it’s done with subtlety.

OC examples include the Craftsman-style Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach and Disney’s Grand Californian in Anaheim.

At the Montage, local artists were commissioned to create work that reflects Laguna Beach’s artistic heritage, while the Grand Californian uses its style to create the feel of a mountain lodge.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott created a coastal design reflected in a yellow wave in room curtains, and earth tones in the duvet covers.

And at the recently remodeled Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim, the makeover reflects the beach culture carried out in the California Adventure theme park, which the hotel overlooks. The rooms use images of sea creatures from the park’s carousel in the carpet; sofas are covered with terrycloth-type material.

Sandi Cain is a freelance writer and contributor to the Orange County Business Journal and meetings industry publications. She specializes in hospitality, tourism and travel. Cain holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Kent State University in Ohio, where she majored in social studies. A former high school teacher, she has written for niche-market sports publications in the U.S., England and Australia and formerly worked in both the printing and high-tech industries. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Cain hasbeen a resident of Laguna Beach since the late ’70s. She enjoys travel, gardening, reading and spoiling her three cats.


Sandi Cain
Laguna Beach CA

Also See Hotel Development in Orange County, California All But Dries Up; Handful of Small Hotels Opens, Little Construction Under Way / Sandi Cain / June 2004
The 6-year-old Orange County (California) Tourism Council May be Victim of Budget Cutbacks / Sandi Cain / June 2004
Long before Walt Disney Bought Land for Disneyland Park in the Early 1950s, Walter Knott Planted the Seeds of the Amusement Industry in Orange County, California / Sandi Cain / May 2004
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Tony Bruno, VP and General Manager of Disneyland Resort Hotels, Maps Out 2004 Changes / Sandi Cain / March 2004
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Tourism Industry Rethinks Promotion on Security Issues Data / Sandi Cain / February 2004
Orange County’s 50 Largest Hotels with Meeting Rooms Report 3% Jump in Space in 2003 / Sandi Cain / January 2004
Tale of Two Converntions; Las Vegas Versus Anaheim: Trade Groups Take Opposite Tack in Convention Plans / Sandi Cain / January 2004
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Sunstone Hotel Investors LLC and Tarsadia Hotels Expanding by Going After Weaker Hotels in Key Markets / Sandi Cain / June 2003
Orange County's Travel Agencies Continue to Suffer from a Downturn in Travel / Sandi Cain / May 2003
Hoteliers Worry as War, Economy Hit Bookings; A Weak Tourism Industry Threatens to Get Weaker / Sandi Cain / April 2003
Budget Ax Threatens Orange County's Tourism Comeback / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Pacific Islandia California Inc., Owner of the 489-room Sheraton Anaheim Hotel, Files for Bankruptcy Protection; Bankruptcy Over Dispute, Not Results / Sandi Cain / February 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain / January 2003
New Hotels, Remodelings Spur Growth in Orange County Meeting Space Amid Slow Recovery / Sandi Cain / January 2003
Security Detail; High-Profile Meetings Have Police on Special Alert / Sandi Cain - January 2003
Tarsadia Hotels Building Residence Inns in Garden Grove, San Diego, Buys the 201-room Crowne Plaza in Las Vegas / Sandi Cain / Dec 2002
Bucking Convention - Anaheim Center Expansion Seems to Pay Off as Other Cities Struggle / Sandi Cain / Nov 2002
Ayres Breaks Ground on L.A. Hotel, Expanding Two Others / Sandi Cain / Oct 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Ritz, Surf & Sand, Vie With Beach Resort Newcomers Along California's Orange County Coast; Almost 1,000 rooms Set to be Added / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Orange County California's Hotels, Convention Center Upbeat Despite New Competition and Weak Economy / Sandi Cain / Aug 2002
Montage Founder, Alan J. Fuerstman Sees Big Things for Laguna Colony Luxury Hotel, Acquired from Marriott International for $190 million / Sandi Cain / July 2002
Orange County’s $6 billion Annual Tourism Industry Shaking off the Downturn / Sandi Cain / May 2002
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Orange County Hoteliers Hope for a Solid Summer Season to Regain Momentum / May 2002 / Sandi Cain
Hotel Brokers: From Sales to Consultants / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Tourism Officials Focus on Security of Events and Sites as Key to Attracting Visitors / Sandi Cain / Jan 2002 
Orange County Travel Agencies Bear Brunt Last Week, Waiting For Fallout / Sandi Cain / Sept 2001 
St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa Opening Adds to Competition in South Orange County California / Sandi Cain / Aug 2001 
The Orange Riviera - New Luxury Hotels and Renovation Projects Transforming OC’s Coast / Sandi Cain / May 2001 
Ayres Hotel Group Expands, Rebrands / Sandi Cain / March 2001
Orange County’s Hoteliers Relieved as Anaheim Convention Center Expansion Boosted Occupancy and Rates During Past Year / Sandi Cain / May 2001
Indomitable Disney / Bad News Doesn’t Tarnish the Mouse; Slowing Economy Another Matter /  / Feb 2001 
Orange County Hotels Poised for Meetings Growth; Newcomers Help Bolster Total Space; Disneyland Hotel Still No. 1 / Sandi Cain / Jan 2001 

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