Hospitality and Residential - Sharing Design and Amenities

By Eric Rahe Principal, BLT Architects | January 11, 2015

Co-authored by Michael R. Ytterberg, PhD, AIA, LEED AP, Principal, BLT Architects

Do hotel guests prefer to cozy up in front of a warm fireplace on plush couches in spaces that remind them of their own living rooms at home, or do they long to inject a bit of hotel luxury into their residential apartment with rainfall shower heads and purified air filters? The answer is "both." Hotel design trends are crossing over into multi-family residential buildings and visa versa. The line distinguishing spaces in which people vacation and spaces in which they live everyday has blurred. In order to make travel more comfortable, touches of home are introduced, while at the same time luxury lets everyone experience what can only be aspired to in most people's everyday life. Multifamily properties now cater to more sophisticated tastes and borrow hospitality techniques to pamper residents. This is resulting in new opportunities for hotel owner and operators to differentiate based on designing spaces that feel like home while influencing their guests' actual home design. This may create a tighter bond between hotels and guests, leading to increased guest loyalty and advocacy.

Hotel to Home

There is no question that hotels are inspiring enhanced design for both residential and commercial projects, including everything from open and welcoming lobbies with richly textured furniture to commercial kitchens. Specific areas where hoteliers are influencing how we live include:

  • Bathrooms - One area where hotels are definitely leading the charge in buzzworthy trends and exciting design is the bathroom. And as a direct result, residential tenants and owners are demanding more. Whether it's a rainfall showerhead, vitamin C enriched water or purified air, consumers are seeing these more as everyday household amenities rather than the pure luxury items they were once considered. Room-size showers that are covered in tile with Jacuzzi tubs and televisions pepper high-end property listings. Double sinks have long been the norm in apartments and homes, though in some cases now the desire for luxurious lengths of counter space trumps the desire for the second sink. Real luxury means toilets separated by walls or doors.
  • Spas - Hotel spa design is having an impact in bathrooms as well. White tile is out. Wood and bamboo are in. Rich finishes and high-end fixtures are a must. The amenity floor must have spa like features to make residents feel pampered. Spa sinks, benches and steam rooms are in demand as more people seek to find deep relaxation at home. Infinity-edged pools are also becoming more commonplace in residential buildings where they had previously only been reserved for luxury resorts.

  • Kitchens - High-end stainless steel appliances have been the norm for years – now the search is on for the next great thing, influenced by the cult of celebrity chefs. Further, it is not uncommon to find fully equipped commercial kitchens in the amenity areas of multifamily buildings that are made available for hosting events, private parties and even demonstrations from well-known chefs. These, along with temperature controlled wine rooms, have become featured amenities in luxury multifamily buildings. Unattainable within the confines of the small to medium sized living units, they are shared among all the residents in order to maximize individual living space and provide a sense of spacious beyond the individual unit.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.