Design considerations for a boutique hotel

Angela Dingle By Angela Dingle
Uploaded 02 May 2013

While every hotel we work on is unique, there are three most imperative aspects of our design which remain constant. These are style, practicality and attention to detail. Boutique hotels are all about luxury and individuality. They have an eclectic style which tells a story of the history of the hotel or owner, and can either be a sanctuary within a densely populated environment or a place of tranquillity located next to a secluded beach.

As hotel designers we like to focus on the attention to detail, quality of finishes and eclectic style to create the individuality of each property we work on. We like to create intimacy by use of low-level lighting, rich coloured fabrics and warm, inviting spaces.

I have outlined a few key considerations when it comes to designing a boutique hotel.

Arrival at the hotel exterior
As soon as the guest steps inside they have to know they have 'arrived'. There should be good circulation leading to a well-lit, well designed reception desk. This is the heart of the hotel, and it is here where first and last impressions are made. Good lighting is also essential. We often take on a lighting designer to create the correct ambience here. Where possible, we try to incorporate a seating area within the reception lobby - an area which is often used as a meeting place for fellow guests or friends.

Journey to guestroom
This is a very important area to think about as guests usually spend time waiting here and it can often can get over looked from a design point of view. Lift lobbies need to be as spacious as possible. It can be a very well used area of the hotel and it is often the transition from the reception lobby to all the other areas of the hotel. Good signage is essential, along with good circulation leading to other public areas. Great use of floor finish design, lighting and wall treatment are all used to lead the guest through the hotel.
We try to incorporate a special piece of artwork or wall finish here and possibly a piece of accent furniture. This could include individual pieces of art or sculptures, or even a special piece of antique furniture collected by the owner. This area is a showcase and needs to be addressed in that manner

Corridor design
Corridors need to be robust. It is here where luggage and housekeeping trolleys are constantly being pushed up and down giving the walls and carpets a good hammering! Finishes need to be durable e.g. fabric backed wall covering, good quality carpet and so on. It is here where good carpet design is required to break up what is often a "long corridor feeling" . We also use the design to lead guests to their guestroom doors making the journey as simple and stress free as possible.

M+E service access needs to be cleverly utilised within the design, sometimes hidden behind large pieces of artwork or designed within the wall finish or ceiling design. Good Lighting is paramount. It needs to be low enough to create a comfortable ambience but light enough to be able to take guests to their door.

Guestroom experience
Nowadays, guest bedrooms are no longer just a place to rest. They need to be a multi-functional space. An area to work, dine, relax and sleep. They don't necessarily require luxurious finishes, but acute attention to detail. I always like to reiterate though that no matter how well designed the room is, if a guest has a bad night's sleep, it is very unlikely that they will return. A well-manufactured, comfortable bed, along with good blackout curtains and temperature control is a must. In the bathroom, guests are almost expecting a spa experience within their own bathrooms. Depending on the location and if at all practical, we like to incorporate something which will give a lasting memory, for example an external shower or a bath with a view.

Food and beverage
We often come across clients who are limited for space within their hotel and would like to be able to capitalise on these areas and be able to make the space available as efficient as possible. It is often within the F&B areas where we utilise our design to make a space multi-functional. For example, by correct specification of FF&E we can manipulate an all-day dining area to a breakfast room or break-out area during a business conference. Lighting needs to be dimmable and furniture needs to be as non-fixed as possible. We also often try to incorporate an open buffet counter within this area too, with good storage underneath. This is always a great way to accommodate multi-use gatherings, be it to serve a buffet breakfast for guests or to accommodate snacks and beverages for a break-out area.

Checkout
This needs to be both efficient and time saving. There is nothing worse than being held up while checking out if you have a plane to catch! It is also the last visual memory of the hotel as the guest leaves. Clear, concise signage is required and a good level of storage for left luggage should guests wish to explore their locality prior to departure.

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