ByDavid Tracz

People travel for many different reasons—whether it’s a business meeting, family reunion, or personal getaway, travelers should be met with accommodations that meet their ever-evolving needs, no matter the occasion. Beyond the make-your-own-waffle station and 24-hour pool, hotels are increasingly rethinking guestroom design, particularly focused on how to maximize the impact of these small spaces to enhance the overall stay of each traveler. By reformatting guest rooms, hotels are evolving to be more conducive to today’s standards of comfort, flexibility and personalization.

Versatile Spaces

The largest challenge of hotel room design is spatial optimization––fitting the most purposeful and efficient elements into a compact footprint. Modular elements combining televisions, luggage racks and even seating options heighten space functionality by combining these features into one wall unit. It’s no wonder why these types of storage units are experiencing a heightened popularity; when was the last time you fully unpacked your suitcase and filled your hotel dresser? The bulky bureau of drawers and other intrusive storage spaces are considerably outdated hotel staples that serve as more of a hindrance than a help, especially when removing them can be allocated to other, more useful and efficient features that guests will use throughout their stay.

For example, our team worked with IHG® (InterContinental Hotels Group) to redesign the experience of their Atwell Suites brand in the United States. As a mid-scale hotel, the design had to be purposefully curated to accommodate those stopping through town as well as those staying for a while to explore a new destination. We carefully considered our approach to guestroom design, resulting in Atwell exclusively offering all-studio suites; these unique layouts offer distinct zones that provide a residential feel in a hospitality setting. Each room features amenities such as a wet bar complete with a refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker and bar sink, a work area with a high-top desk, and a two-sided closet that can be easily accessed from both the guestroom and the bathroom. Segmenting guest rooms in this way distinguishes the living and sleeping areas from each other, establishing a flow of activity as guests interact with the space and go about their stay.

Softer Seating

Soft seating arrangements are becoming an increasingly popular feature of hotel rooms. More than just a place to sleep at the end of the day, guest rooms are temporary homes, providing space for travelers to unwind, debrief, and energize themselves for their trip. Today’s hotels should strive to create spaces that are multifaceted; so yes, there is a bed to sleep in, but there is also a space to relax and experience the full extent of your room while you’re awake. Softer seating, such as cushioned chairs or couches, maximize comfort as well as provide seating options other than the bed for a reprieve within your room. By utilizing softer seating, hotels can create small gathering spaces that extend beyond the walls of the lobby in a private, laid-back setting.

Hybrid Accommodations

One of the driving forces behind the purposeful design evolution of guest rooms is the emergence of both hybrid and remote working. Before the pandemic, designers were eager to get rid of desks in hotel rooms; nowadays that is out of the question. With remote working becoming more popular in the years following 2020, hotels have a responsibility to equip rooms with workspaces to accommodate both the traveling business person as well as the vacationing email-checker. Desks have been redesigned to take up less space, even integrated into modular walls, while sit-stand desks provide customizable versatility to each workspace and user. Even in leisure properties, the demand for remote accommodations and touchpoints for connectivity in the hybrid workforce will be on the rise, facilitating an easier approach to working while on the go.

Thoughtful Design Touches

The design of a hotel room is at the core of the guest experience, a fact that will not change as properties delve into the future. For hotels, design has the potential to differentiate their guest experience from those that other rental services provide. Diverging from the well-trodden path of basic and simple design elements, modern guest rooms should incorporate story-telling elements that make for not only a memorable space, but an unforgettable staple of a guest’s stay. Implementing local art and materials into hotel design can help define a space, creating a cohesive sense of character and location. Tasteful uses of color and pattern help differentiate the guest experience from other hotels, subtly incorporating branding into the built environment.

More than just functional requirements, hotel designers are being tasked with organizing and integrating unique features and details into rooms that define the guest experience. It’s not feasible to redesign a hotel around each new trend, but it is paramount to accommodate current and anticipated needs to make an equitable and pleasant space for guests to inhabit.