The lines between workplace and hospitality are blurring. People often say ‘work is something you do, not a place you go’, but that’s not strictly true. Work is something you do, yes, but you always need a place to do it. For some, that place might be an office or the local coffee shop. For others, it might be their study at home or even their kitchen table. And there will be those who use membership clubs and hotels as their weekday base. Walk into a city centre hotel at any time of the day and a business meeting will be in full swing.
Thanks to organisations that are embracing new ways of working, the modern workplace is often designed as a multi-functional, multi-sensory space that supports an array of tasks, not to mention health, happiness and wellbeing – and the same can now be said of the modern hotel. With the support of Karndean, Mix Interiors hosted its most recent hospitality roundtable to discuss how to design an experience that looks like a workplace, feels like a workplace – but also offers that ‘special touch’ so ingrained within hospitality environments.
Ariane Steinbeck, Managing Director, RPW Design: ‘When it comes to meeting spaces in hotels, we’re starting to select office furniture because we’re constantly asked by hotel brands for that co-working, pod-style furniture. Things are happening differently now. There is certainly some commonality with office space. People now combine holiday with working – they want to be productive all the time.’
Andrew Whiting, Founder & Principal Hut: ‘We’re currently working with a major co-living brand and one of the things we’ve learned is that this is about community rather than a space to sleep or a space to work. This is about how people create relationships. It’s then about how you manage that space and combine it with the architectural and design aspects to make it a winning design. People do want to work and live and sleep in that same space – this is almost the exact crossover of hotel and workspace.’
Brian Greathead, Director, Manalo & White: ‘The most important thing about hotels today is hospitality. You can stay in a basic room with basic provisions and if the welcome is warm, you have a fantastic time. Similarly, you can stay in the best space in the world, but if the shower isn’t working or someone is rude to you, you might have the worst possible time. As designers, we have to give the best possible tools, but we only ever actually give a shell. The people who inhabit and run the space are fundamentally important to the success of the hotel.’
Lee Birchill, Managing Director, DV8 Designs: ‘I think you need to make a hotel so that it attracts people who aren’t staying there – that’s certainly how we tend to approach things now. Quite often, it becomes more of a bar-restaurant than a hotel. A lot of hotels are looking to draw people in and stop them from migrating across the road to a Starbuck’s. They’re now competing against that.’
Ben Webb, Co-Founder, 3Stories: ‘In hotels, and even restaurants, there needs to be a power socket under every table. Technology is a big part of it. Someone needs to produce a sexy power socket. We have one client who loves staying at the Hoxton Hotel. One of his great bugbears is that, even though he’s a resident, the lobby is always packed full of people and he can’t work there.’
Lindsey Bean-Pearce, Associate Director, Dexter Moren: ‘The guest’s priority should be a good night’s sleep, but for many hotel brands that is now bottom of the list. They need to offer so much that guests can’t actually switch off from working, which is a problem. Then there are lights from the TV, light from your phone – and they play with your sleep rhythms, so you can’t switch off. Some brands are now going back to the idea of having a hotel where the room is all about sleep and nothing else – having the balls to not focus on the technology. This is about lifestyle.’
Petr Esposito, Founding Director, Thirdway Group: ‘Sometimes you find that the weather vane is simply blowing to the market’s needs – but sometimes you find brands that want to challenge market perception to do something different, which obviously comes with more risk but can bring great rewards.’
Tajal Rutherford-Bhatt, Director, tp bennett: ‘From a commercial office perspective, our clients very much want that hotel experience. They don’t want a reception space to just have a desk and to feel austere. They want to have a business lounge, they want lively and energetic spaces like cafés, they want activity to encourage people to come into that space. People want that concierge feel – and you also need to provide the right technology so that people can work.’