Secrets of hotel design revealed from budget to boutique

All hotels need their reception areas to give guests a warm reception. But they are usually carefully designed so that guests don't find them so inviting they never want to leave
  •  Industry experts explain the tricks they use to keep guests happy
  • Shaun Clarkson from C4's Four Rooms explains the importance of colour
  • Jo Polmear from Lichfield-based Hunter Patel Creative Group reveals all 
  • She explains how lighting and fabric patterns alter perceptions of a room 

Tricks and illusions are normally associated with magicians.

But you may be surprised to hear that hotels have a few up their sleeves, too - created by interior designers and architects.

They are used to make guests feel comfortable and secure, to make them linger in some places and not others, talk loudly in some areas and quietly elsewhere, to make sure they get a good night's rest and to make spaces feel bigger than they really are.

And the designers' ingenuity gets to work the moment you enter the lobby.

Here industry experts reveal how colour schemes, bed positioning, lighting, linen and fabric patterns are all cleverly designed to help you enjoy your visit – and come back for another.

The Lobby/reception area

1. Budget hotel reception 

All hotels need their reception areas to give guests a warm reception. But they are usually carefully designed so that guests don't find them so inviting they never want to leave 

2. Business hotel reception 

Jo Polmear, Creative Director of the Lichfield-based Hunter Patel Creative Group, said 'reception areas provide the inviting welcome, but it's all about checking guests in and moving them along to their rooms'

Jo Polmear, Creative Director of the Lichfield-based Hunter Patel Creative Group, said 'reception areas provide the inviting welcome, but it's all about checking guests in and moving them along to their rooms'

3. Luxury hotel reception 

James Dilley, head of the hospitality and interior design teams at architects Jestico + Whiles, said that 'the check-in transaction should not be presented as the most important event in a hotel lobby' 

James Dilley, head of the hospitality and interior design teams at architects Jestico + Whiles, said that 'the check-in transaction should not be presented as the most important event in a hotel lobby' 

All hotels need their reception areas to give guests a warm reception. But they are usually carefully designed so that guests don't find them so inviting they never want to leave, as Jo Polmear, Creative Director of the Lichfield-based Hunter Patel Creative Group explained.

She told MailOnline Travel: 'Reception areas provide the warm and inviting welcome, but it's all about checking guests in and moving them along to their rooms as quickly as possible.

'The area will be clean and appealing in design, but will encourage guests to move on. They are brightly lit to inspire an air of efficiency.

'There may be seating in some hotels, but the chairs are there for quick stops, so won't be overly comfortable. Instead there will be access to a comfortable bar and lounge – often visible from the check-in desk - to draw you in and move you along.'

The herding of guests is also achieved through lighting. The G A Group, a London-based design firm, said: 'Brighter lighting moves guests along, soft lighting holds them.'

The hotel lobby is also designed to be reassuring.

 Corridors in budget hotels will always be brightly lit to give guests reassurance and a feeling of safety

Polmear continued: 'It's important that as soon as guests walk into the hotel they are met with a friendly face to welcome them and answer any questions they might have.

'The likelihood is that they haven't been before and are looking for reassurance that they have made a wise choice. Great attention is paid to the height of the counter, making sure it's not a complete barrier between guests and hotel staff.'

James Dilley, head of the hospitality and interior design teams at architects Jestico + Whiles, emphasised that the position of the desk is a cue to the guests about the hotel's focus.

He said: 'Right from the design of our first hotel, One Aldwych in London, our approach has always been to locate the reception desk so that it does not dominate, but still welcomes. The check-in transaction should not be presented as the most important event in a hotel lobby.'

Tony Filmer, designer of the newly refurbished hotel Flemings Mayfair in London agreed.

He said: 'You don't want to have the desk in front of you. It is too aggressive. But if you have to rely on signs you have made a mistake or not done a proper job. It can be delineated with design... lighting, material on the desk or perhaps a mirror behind the desk.'

Bar

Bright ideas: Polmear explained that 'the back bar will be brightly lit to entice those looking for their favourite tipple'

Bright ideas: Polmear explained that 'the back bar will be brightly lit to entice those looking for their favourite tipple'

A jovial atmosphere is key to the success of most hotel bars (along with a tempting wine list, of course) – and a good designer knows how to help create them.

Polmear said: 'We will lay down hard flooring, like ceramic tiles, to generate noise and encourage a sociable environment.

'Lighting is extremely important in setting the ambience. Different layers of lighting will warm or cool colours and highlight or lowlight walls, soft furnishings and fabrics.'

They're designed to encourage you to spend more, too.

Polmear said: 'You may notice that the lighting is muted and the furniture and soft furnishings are chosen to encourage relaxation, but the back bar will be brightly lit to entice those looking for their favourite tipple.'

Corridors

These are often designed to give guests a feeling of security.

Polmear said: 'Corridors in budget hotels will always be brightly lit to give guests reassurance and a feeling of safety. Whereas high end hotels purposely create more moody, atmospheric areas to create an air of exclusivity and sumptuous luxury, as guests already feel assured by the heavy price-tag paid for their utmost security and wellbeing.'

Lighting in the corridors, meanwhile, can be adjusted to encourage guests to keep the noise down.

Sarah Simpson, Head of Product for Premier Inn, said: 'Warm lighting in our corridors is used to subconsciously encourage our guests to speak in quieter tones, thus reducing disturbances to other customers who may already be asleep.'

Bedrooms

1. Budget bedroom 

Cheap hotel bedrooms, such as this Etap one, are bright to make guests feel secure and to stress how clean they are. They also have small furnishings to make the space look bigger 

Cheap hotel bedrooms, such as this Etap one, are bright to make guests feel secure and to stress how clean they are. They also have small furnishings to make the space look bigger 

2. Business bedroom 

Polmear said that some hotels use impressive headboards to distract guests from savings made elsewhere

Polmear said that some hotels use impressive headboards to distract guests from savings made elsewhere

3. Luxury bedroom 

Polmear shows how this bedroom contains extra pieces of furniture to emphasise how big it is

Polmear shows how this bedroom contains extra pieces of furniture to emphasise how big it is

BED ALERT: HOW HOTELS USE LUXURY LINEN TO SEDUCE THEIR GUESTS 

It doesn't matter how many pieces of 'wow effect' pieces furniture a hotel scatters throughout the building or how delicious its cocktails are, if guests can't get a good night's sleep, they won't be coming back.

This means that bed sheet and pillow quality is essential.

Joe Molloy and Robert Lancaster Gaye run Tradelinens, a firm that supplies some of Britain's best hotels – including London's Connaught – with linen.

They reveal that different thread counts in linen – the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch of fabric – give the materials different textures.

A 200 thread count, for instance, has a 'vintage' feel, they explained - 'cool, crisp and clean'.

Move up to a 300 or 400 thread count and guests will be wrapping themselves in material with a soft, smooth feel. And it won't cost the hotel an arm or a leg, Molloy and Gaye said.

The ultimate in linen luxury, though, is a 600 thread count - used only in the priciest suites.

Molloy and Gaye also gave MailOnline Travel a bit of pillow talk.

They are slightly suspicious of 'pillow menus', because they can be 'confusing for a lot of customers'. Though they admit they are a sign of good customer service.

They are also sceptical about hypo allergenic pillows and duvets, dismissing them as 'a bit of a myth'.

'Most people are allergic to dust mites, not the feather and down in pillows and duvets,' they said.

Money is often directed at the bed headboard, Polmear said, to cover up savings that have been made elsewhere.

She revealed: 'In budget hotels money will be spent on impressive headboards as that's the first point of focus as a guest walks into the room, and they will fail to notice the more cost effective furnishings.'

A feeling of security and comfort is obviously crucial, and this can be also achieved by careful positioning of the furniture.

Filmer said: 'The bed shouldn't be next to the doorway, if possible it should be tucked around the corner from the door so that when you go to bed you feel secure. It makes you feel protected in a way.'

Colours

Guests' moods are greatly affected by colours, with some interior designers opting to avoid some shades of yellow as they can be reminiscent of liver failure

Guests' moods are greatly affected by colours, with some interior designers opting to avoid some shades of yellow as they can be reminiscent of liver failure

Interior design expert Jo Polmear 

Interior design expert Jo Polmear 

The colour palettes used in hotel designs are chosen with care to help put guests in a positive, relaxed frame of mind, with some hues given a very wide berth – because they can be associated with mental and physical ailments.

Polmear said: 'After countless studies around colour psychology there is proof that different hues and tones have a direct impact on moods. One particularly extensive mental health study by the university of Freiburg in Germany even went so far as to suggest that people suffering with depression view colours in a completely different way.

'There's a staggering amount of evidence that links colour with mood, so once we have determined what message our client is trying to convey to hotel guests, we will explore suitable palettes. For example a spa hotel will use neutral tones to replicate nature, promoting a sense of wellbeing.

'A high end hotel may use white furnishings, even extending to white carpets, to appear elite and stylish. This gives guests the impression of a well-maintained establishment, one that will attract the kind of exclusive clientele that wouldn't dream of getting the soles of their shoes dirty.'

Interior designer Shaun Clarkson agrees that colour psychology is crucial. He explained that there are some hues he never uses.

He said: 'No go colours are green – as that's associated with Halloween – and yellow, because that's associated with liver problems.'

Purple, however, is popular with designers for its calming properties.

Simpson, from Premier Inn, explained that the company's colour scheme is purple because 'it evokes the feeling of a night sky'.

The outside

How a hotel is lit on the outside creates a lasting impression, with cheap hotels being extra bright to stress how safe they are. Pictured is the Madinat Jumeirah in the UAE

How a hotel is lit on the outside creates a lasting impression, with cheap hotels being extra bright to stress how safe they are. Pictured is the Madinat Jumeirah in the UAE

First impressions last, and hotels in cities and the countryside use lighting to make them.

Polmear said: 'For an inner city hotel, it is important to ensure it is well lit to make it stand out from the surrounding buildings and that guests have visibility through to the inside, promoting a feeling of safety.

'In contrast, a grand country manor will be subtly lit, giving an impression of exclusivity and a discovered hidden gem.'

Illusion of space

Some interior designers have the tricky task of making smaller hotels feel big. But they have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Clarkson said: 'Drapes and screens can physically divide one space, creating intimacy, but retain the illusion of a bigger space.'

He added: 'This is done beautifully at the Nomad hotel in New York.'

Polmear, meanwhile, explained that extra wide curtains with horizontal stripes in bedrooms are also deployed to create the illusion of extra space, with stripes on the carpet having the effect of elongating the room.

Picture captioning courtesy of Jo Polmear.

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By Shedrack Mittens 10/13/2015 08:37:00