The price tag of Individuality

Claire Fox By Claire Fox
Uploaded 23 February 2017

Claire Fox, director at Style Matters, looks at how boutique hotels can maximise their interiors in order to stay ahead of the competition. 

From themes to UK firsts, we all know that it's the individuality of a hotel or venue that makes it stand out from the crowd…and ultimately get people through the door.

As more and more Brits opt for a staycation instead of a holiday abroad, competition is heating up as each client looks to do as much as they can to be different in order to get customers over the threshold. Whether it's Liverpool's Titanic Hotel, Manchester's Hotel Gotham or one of London's hottest new venues, The Curtain Hotel and Members Club in Shoreditch, operators are finding themselves in a challenging marketplace, fighting tooth and nail for the general public's pound. 

Restrained to our shores, the power is now in the hands of the consumer who, at times, may be convinced to invest more into something special to compensate for staying in the UK, therefore providing an opportunity to be enticed.

One chance to make a first impression
In our experience, initial impressions set the scene for guests, so it's important to give a lobby or entrance the wow factor to whet their appetite for their stay. The colours, lighting and, of course, furniture used here must be planned with precision and be beautifully executed.

Expectations will be high and it's vital to set the scene from the get go. What's equally important is continuity throughout all customer-facing areas, because people will be put off by inconsistency, bursting their bubble and making them consider elsewhere for the next trip.

Whilst all parties involved in the design, build and fit out of a venue will have their own ideas regarding individuality, at the end of the day it's ultimately the budget that decides what can and can't be implemented.

As clients hold the purse strings, expectations need to be managed at all levels and budgets need to be maximised in order to deliver a successful project.

Whether it's modular building methods for the construction or being ultra-lean when specifying for back of house areas, investing cleverly into furniture can be the real point of difference.

Made-to-order can also mean made to budget. Bespoke doesn't necessarily mean expensive, just simply that there are many subtle details that can be added to make a product stand out from the crowd and make budgets go further.

Whether that's the stitching detail or spaces between buttons, elements like these highlight the craftsmanship of a piece of furniture and provide the touch of class expected from a bespoke venue.  The great thing about bespoke craftsmanship is that it offers flexibility when compared with mass manufacturing, adding more character to the furniture.

Getting technical
Even though our products are handmade right here in the UK, technology is having a major effect on the industry, especially with regards to materials. By keeping abreast of these advancements, we can consider how to value engineer a product to ensure that budgets are met and quality is maintained.

For example, a material we've seen become increasingly popular is Piñatex, an alternative to leather. It's a natural and sustainable, non-woven textile made from pineapple leaf fibres. Strong, durable and eco-friendly, it's great to use for upholstering and also ticks environmental boxes for clients who may prefer to be eco-friendly and have something different from the norm.

When it comes to comfort, corners can't be cut, and by considering the value of a product rather than its cost, savings can be made when it comes to the lifecycle of the furniture. High quality foams, springs and materials can ensure comfort longevity, meaning customers can enjoy the whole guest experience and pieces don't have to be replaced as often.

This particularly rings true for bar areas - where sometimes furniture may be treated a little rougher than anywhere else, so utilising the right materials to ensure products are robust is key.

Looking ahead
Whilst we await affirmative action with regards to Brexit and people are still holidaying in the UK as currency fluctuations continue, boutique hotels and venues need to strive for creativity in their interiors, otherwise guests will look elsewhere.

Designers love a bold brief and being different can really enhance the appeal of a place. Whether it's individuality with regards to colourway or themes, customers need to feel a sense of value with their stay. There are timeless elements, such as good quality materials and care & attention which can be adapted to any new product, so being different doesn't always necessarily mean reinventing the wheel, but looking at it from a different perspective could open up a world of possibilities. 

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