Cain, Sandi

Hotel Designers Aim for Warm, Nurturing Feel

Hotel design has come a long way from the cookie-cutter days of the 1980s, when road warriors knew the layout of their hotel before they arrived.

The rise of intimate boutique hotels in the 1990s and a cultural shift toward comfort since the 2001 terrorist attacks have had an impact on hotel design.

On the outside, contemporary, Italian and Craftsman styles have dominated recent construction, but interior design trends have been more dramatic.

“Since Sept. 11, hotels are becoming more modest, humble and less hip,” said Chip Conley, president of boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre Hospitality in San Francisco. “They’re becoming more nurturing than entertaining.”

Conley said that’s a major cultural shift.

“Five years ago, about 75% were going after the hip (image),” he said. “Now it’s 75% the other way.”

The No. 1 trend, Conley and other trendwatchers said, is a focus on the bed, followed by improved bathroom design and amenities, and Internet connectivity.

Pillow-top beds and custom mattresses are all the rage as hoteliers race to provide more comfort than the next guy. Starwood’s Westin Hotel unit may have created this bandwagon, spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million developing its “Heavenly Bed” that debuted in 1999.

And Costa Mesa-based Ayres Hotel Group, which owns and operates 16 boutique hotels in Southern California, developed its own “DreamSleeper” in 2002.

Along with luxury in the bed itself, hotels largely have done away with bedspreads, turning instead to high-end duvets and throw covers-often with a design that reflects the local culture.

That’s as much in response to demand for cleanliness, as it is a design element, said Michele Phillips, director of interior design at architecture firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo’s Newport Beach office.

Duvets, Phillips said, can be laundered daily, while traditional bedspreads require dry cleaning.

Inside hotel rooms, clean lines mean more open space.

“There’s a more subtle line between the bedroom and bath,” said Kelly Beamon, executive editor of Hospitality Design Magazine in New York.

“Doors are becoming a thing of the past and it’s not unusual to find curtains or windows dividing the bedroom and bathroom areas,” Beamon said.

Other changes in guest bathrooms include soaking tubs, double sinks, better lighting and compartments for linens instead of the traditional chrome racks.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point took note of these changes in its recently completed remodel and expansion.

“We’re going to a more residential look in the guest rooms,” said general manager Jeroen Gerresse.

Technology plays a big part in design, too.

Flat screen TVs, Internet connectivity, DVDs and other tech toys have led hoteliers to fashion rooms that have multifunctional workspaces, better lighting and safes that can handle laptop computers. The advent of flat-screen TVs is even making the standard armoire passé, Beamon said.

Of course, spas and fitness centers are a must in today’s larger hotels and resorts.

In Orange County, the Surf & Sand in Laguna Beach converted a retail area into a spa, while the Laguna Cliffs Marriott used a swatch of open space on its property to build one.

Public areas are still important, too.

The Hyatt Irvine has tried to create a “timeless” feel in its public areas, said General Manager Peter Rice. Those areas now boast ottomans, comfortable chairs and a combination of wood and other materials to create an elegant lobby with warm colors that evoke the California lifestyle.

“The cost is high, but it’s a high-impact area that’s been well-received,” Rice said.

Another trend is to theme hotel decor to the surroundings. Conley calls it “indigenous design” and cautioned that it works better if it’s done with subtlety.

OC examples include the Craftsman-style Montage Resort & Spa in Laguna Beach and Disney’s Grand Californian in Anaheim.

At the Montage, local artists were commissioned to create work that reflects Laguna Beach’s artistic heritage, while the Grand Californian uses its style to create the feel of a mountain lodge.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott created a coastal design reflected in a yellow wave in room curtains, and earth tones in the duvet covers.

And at the recently remodeled Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel in Anaheim, the makeover reflects the beach culture carried out in the California Adventure theme park, which the hotel overlooks. The rooms use images of sea creatures from the park’s carousel in the carpet; sofas are covered with terrycloth-type material.

Copyright CBJ, L. P. Jul 19-Jul 25, 2004

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