Design trends


Pack up the overly matched furnishings. Trend setting hotels freely mix and match styles and color to create a must-see look that daunts the competition.

Design trends

‘Philippe Starck has a sense of humor, reverence and wit that doesn’t go out of style. He’s always willing to go back to square one. That’s why the Hudson is unlike anything else. It is a different product in a time of opulence’, says Ian Schrager. His case in point: Starck’s inventive concept and execution for the Hudson’s public spaces.

Different is better
Trendsetting hotel design is more than theater; it is a sales and marketing tool. One look at hotels as varied as the Empire Palace in Rome, the Hudson in New York City and the Meurice in Paris shows why. By combining various styles and periods, these hotels’ designers have created one-of-a-kind looks that invite guests to experience and explore. No two rooms, no two spaces are exactly the same. Guests can return again and again and still discover something new in the design–which is exactly the point.
Beyond the 21st century mantra that different is definitely better, new subcurrents are beginning to define design expectations. The hotels shown here embody some of the best of them.

Mixing styles
One of the strongest design trends focuses on mixing and matching styles. To achieve the residential look that makes hotels look (and feel) inviting to modern, upscale travelers, furnishings and accents should look as if they were collected over a lifetime–even if they were selected from a manufacturer’s catalogue.
The Empire Palace made room for five junior suites in its 115 room count to better target a market of high-end corporate and leisure travelers. Rather than opulence, these suites surround guests with luxurious fabrics and finishes. ‘For the guestrooms and suites, the aim was a comfortable design that was also classic’, says Luciano Bucchi, general manager.

Unexpected materials
Roman architect/interior designer Superarchitettura created a marketable distinction between the 115-room Empire Palace Hotel, which soft-opened in September 1999, and its Baroque-inspired competitive set by pairing sleek contemporary furnishings with influences as diverse as Venetian gold leafing and oriental accents. Warm, rich colors, ranging from deep Venetian reds and blues to creamy Persian yellow, unify not only the aesthetic aspects of the eclectic design, but the inconsistencies of a physical plant that includes the core 1870s Neo-Gothic palace as well as spaces converted from shops, warehouses and stables.
Unexpected design materials, arresting artwork and singular accents also help to bridge the shifting styles of the interrelated public spaces. Linked by impeccable quality and design impact, the lounge’s 1930s chairs in valuable African wengé wood and soft Morocco leather complement rather than contrast with the boiseries in light maple wood and high-backed Philippe Starck sofas used in the American bar and the rare, multi-color inlaid marble for the Veronese-inspired “carpet” of the lobby. Ceiling treatments, ranging from the deep blue night sky painted in the vault over the reception desk to the floral decorations of the vaults in the gourmet Aureliano restaurant, with its appliques in modern Murano blown-glass, intensify and blend the diverse design experiences.

Small details
Emphasis on small details, such as the design of the Meurice’s double vanities and the craftsmanship of the bathroom floors, boosts design impact and underscores a look of quality. The ITAL{recherché} ambience continues in the 110 guestrooms and five suites, though necessarily on a different scale. The public space’s Persian yellow becomes the dominant shade for the guestrooms, accented with furniture in a light cherry wood and punctuated with carpet in rich blues and purples. The streaks of gold in the white marble which clads the bathroom walls echoes the gold flecks of paint in the walls and columns of the lobby, the Venetian gold leafing that frames some of the public space archways and the golden Catellani and Smith suns that carry an astral theme from the lobby to the lounge.
Sofas and chairs upholstered in white luggage fabric, richly paneled Makore wood walls and sleek stainless steel tables give the Hudson’s “living rooms” the look and feel of a private cabin aboard a yacht or oceanliner. ‘
We wanted a subtle feeling of luxe, understated in general, but with original elements with sufficient character to make the hotel memorable’, say architects/interior designers Raniero Botti and Gianfranco Mangiarotti. Adds Luciano Bucchi, general manager, ‘To get the attention of our target market of uspcale corporate and leisure travelers, we knew the design would have to be personal and very distinctive. We wanted a style that was refined rather than sumptuous.’

Delivering the Unexpected
Whether rack rate stands close to US$200 per night as its does for the Empire Palace or US$95, as it does for Ian Schrager’s 1,000-room, two-month-old Hudson, no hotel has an excuse to be boring. Philippe Starck once again pumps up the design volume for the Hudson from the minute guests step onto the glass-enclosed escalator and travel to the lobby along a vivid shaft of chartreuse light. Once within the hotel, they can experience a cafeteria-sized menu of design experiences–anything and everything from elegance of Louis XV and antique billiard tables to the eat-in-kitchen coziness of Jeffrey Chodorow’s restaurant and guestrooms with the panelled snugness of a private cabin on an ocean liner.
Unlike the previous boutique-sized collaborations between Schrager and Starck, the Hudson demonstrates that witty, cutting edge design can work on a grand scale. The infrastructural and budgetary constraints of transforming this 500,000 sq.ft. (45,000 sq.m.) former nurses’ quarters and public television studio into a hip hotel (at a cost of $50 million for acquisition; US$75 million for development) were no stumbling blocks for Starck’s creativity. The cavernous public spaces became a private, playful park. The template hotel restaurant is replaced by a cafeteria-cum-Ivy League dining hall. Rather than apologizing for the small guestrooms, Starck takes inspiration from ship cabins–borrowing the idea of rich wall panelling and classic aluminum chairs still used on Navy ships and adding his own touches, including the bedside lamps painted by Franceso Clemente exclusively for the Hudson.
High style has a practical payoff. ‘We’re always willing to reinvent the wheel because strong design stands the test of time. It also means the decor doesn’t have to be replaced every five years, so we have higher margins.’ Higher, indeed: 15%-20% as a “norm,” according to Schrager and profit margins of 50%.

Providing Multiple Design Experiences
Le Meurice restaurant’s Poilpot ceiling and columns and garlands and bronzes inspired by Versailles encourage guests to fantasize about being among ITAL{les invitées} for Louis XV’s “intimate” dinners. ‘Imagination should not be limited to modern hotels’, say Jean-Loup Roubert, who oversaw restoration of the Meurice’s restaurant, bar, lobby and salons, and Nicolas Papamiltiades, who designed the rooms and suites.
Trend setting design seems an oxymoron for a palace hotel with the strong history and imposing character of the 160-room Meurice. Yet, that is what public space designer Jean-Loup Roubert and guestroom/suite designer Nicolas Papamiltiades have delivered following a two-year renovation completed last July.’
The main risk in renovating a hotel such as the Meurice is taking away the magic. The lifting of the wrinkles must not wipe out the personality. There are too many renovated hotels for which people regret the refurbishment’, the architects/designers say.
Roubert, one of Paris’ most respected historical architects, and the renown Papamiltiades weighed each design decision against maintaining the spirit rather than the letter of what makes the Meurice special. One priority was to create a variety of decors for the guest to experience. There are 30 different design schemes for the guestrooms and suites, each determined by the configuration of the space and its location in the building. While a room with less natural light surrounds the guest with light, powerful colors, another, which is flooded with sunlight, may be done in soft colors. The use of antique furnishings and original art ensures that each room will have its own character.

Different decors
The furnishing styles are a visual tour of early 19th century French decorating–from Louis XVI and Directoire to Empire, Charles X and Louis Philippe. Within this palace hotel, there is the relaxing retreat of the glass-domed Jardin d’Hiver (winter garden), the Versailles-inspired golden opulence of the fine dining Meurice restaurant and the nearly Zen restraint of the new Caudalie “vinotherapie” spa.’
It is definitely a benefit for the client to be able to choose from different decors and room configurations within a single hotel’, says Dominique Borri, general director. ‘This is an ideal situation for the operator because there will always be a room the client will appreciate.’
Reducing the number of keys from 180 to 160 has also boosted the hotel’s appeal to international travelers, while increasing the number of suites to 38–including the Belle Etoile Suite and Terrace which spans much of the seventh floor–has opened up new opportunities at the top of the travel market.

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