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Wed 4 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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A home, away from home

Designers discuss how hotel guestroom design concepts, go way beyond the filling of empty space.

Designers discuss how hotel guestroom design concepts, go way beyond the filling of empty space.

The basic tenet of hotel room design has always been to give the guest, a clean and comfortable place to sleep safely for the night. However, the concept of hotel guestroom design has changed in recent years.

Though it is difficult to define a typical hotel guestroom - there are a number of designers today willing to experiment with colours, themes and materials in order to come up with a relaxed, yet stylish space for guests.

Hotel design is a sophisticated discipline, involving specialist architects, environmental and structural engineers, interior designers and skilled contractors and suppliers - essentially a marriage between the client brief and the designer vision.

Home from home

In terms of trends, all guests want something more than they have at home. This goes for everything from fixtures to lighting settings, to furniture choice.

"A very relevant trend is for designers to infuse the hotel room with more personal touches, so guests sense a distinct design personality and feel more sensorially engaged and at home. No more the generic hotel room but a real destination," said Colin Seah design director at Ministry of Design.

According to Maya Freiji, interior architect, GM Architects, designers of a Radisson resort in Fujairah and a Sheraton hotel in Istanbul, "a hotel guestroom should be the ideal room as the business traveller or the vacationer would dream of having in his or her own house; it is not a home away from home, but a totally new and exciting experience with all the modern features one would expect."

Cultural furnishings

While designers aim to bring a homely feel to guests, nowadays some, if not most, hit on concepts that carry their own cultural traditions. With a need to understand the culture in which the hotel will operate, if working outside their native environments, the idea of travellers, and the links with local traditions have also been incorporated in many hotel designs.As the designer of the Radisson SAS Hotel in Dubai suggests, it is therefore, important that the inclusion of design elements are incorporated into the room whether, it be choice of colour or fabric, that each represent the culture of the area where the hotel is built.

"The furniture selected again depends on the overall design concept; modern styles are definitely the trend, infused with the local culture where applicable. However, this varies with the type of consumer. The interior designer's role is to be able to interpret and provide the proper design for the product," said Isabella Miaja, Ima Interiors.

"By exploring the local architecture and culture to extract the essence of the place, the discovery of new trends in the design and art world will follow.

Françoise Design Company also agrees with the concept of designing hotel guestrooms according to its historic or cultural back-drop. "Although contemporary designs seem to be sought after, there is a gradual trend back towards traditional interior designs, depending on where the hotel is situated. For example, you can see that in Dubai there is an Arabic touch, whereas in France, there is a French touch," said Ludovic Loffreda, of Françoise Design. A focal point

Perhaps one of the most important features of a guestroom design is the combination of Colours and fabrics.

"More attention given to richness of materials and colours; more transparency, creating a dynamic spatial experience; more attention to details in amenities and artwork, these are all integral elements in the designing of a hotel guestroom," said Miaja.

However, it is the opinion and imagination of each individual designer that determines what constitutes as a crucial factor in the design of a guestroom.

"The most important is the sensory experience, or impact of design followed by scale and efficiency of furnishings. The focal point of the interior design differs depending on the design concept of the room, but in most cases, the treatment of the bed is always the main feature of the interior.

"There has to be an impact, particularly in the first impressions of the space. The right combination of colour, lighting, and comfort are all integral to achieving this impact," added Miaja.According to Seah however, the bathroom design, layout and amenities act as the focus in hotel design. "A well-designed toilet is so integral to the enjoyment and function of a room but alas, many hotel toilets fall short and disappoint."

"We approach the design of our hotel rooms holistically, even when we design key feature highlights. Take for instance, in the New Majestic Hotel, we introduced full wall installation art pieces into some rooms that were at least 3m by 4m in some cases, and although these were intentionally very signature, they were designed to tie in harmoniously with the overall spatial design through either colour or proportions," continued Seah.

"We tend to design a blend of both bespoke furniture pieces and bought pieces. The bespoke pieces are typically more architecturally integrated into the space whilst the bought pieces are selected for the quality of their crafting and design," he added.

Spaces

In addition, although the consideration of the finer details in hotel guestroom design, such as soft furnishings, and lighting is fundamental, the concept of space, as GM Architects and the Ministry of Design explain, also need to be addressed.

"We analyse the space provided by the architect, the size of the windows with the amount of light coming into the room, the context of the hotel and then start introducing our analytical response to provide the room with a combination of all the necessary design features that will reproduce the desired guest experience in that particular space, said Freiji, of GM Architects.

"We focus purely on spatial design, and on providing a sublime experience for the guest.

As such we like to work with highly professional contractors who share the same passion to push design boundaries and are able to execute fine details in a timely fashion, e.g. Depa in Middle East, Grandwork Interior in Singapore etc," added Seah.

In conclusion, set against a residential backdrop designed to elicit a homey appeal, tomorrow's hotel room promises a mix of today's commercial interior design innovations in versatility, meaning that designs are increasingly having to be aesthetically pleasing, yet highly practical.

The main challenges facing today's interior designer, is achieving designs that are economically viable; designs that can be sustained by the operations of the hotel, and designs that can withstand fast changing trends.

RELATED LINKS:Public view, Hothouse design, Remembering basics (or why a piece of glass is not enough)

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