Mr. Rahe

Architecture & Design

Hospitality and Residential - Sharing Design and Amenities

By Eric Rahe, Principal, BLT Architects

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.

  • Special Events - The traditional club room has been enlarged as they gain specialized sub spaces - billiards, pubs, wine tasting, TV watching, etc. - and become more flexible for a variety of uses. Even the management areas of the development can merge into the common areas to make everyone feel welcome.

  • Business Center - As computers have become ubiquitous, one might imagine the multifamily building business center might go away, but work has become so intertwined with daily life that it is just as common to see people working on their laptops in hotel lobbies as it is to see them working from home in their living rooms. There is work / life integration. As a break, one might work from anywhere in the common areas of the residential board rooms and conference rooms that can be used for parties or for business for entrepreneurs and business owners who tend to work mainly out of their homes.

  • Social life - Some residential buildings now have full-time social directors to organize events for the residents and ensure that they remain entertained and engaged just as they would when visiting a hotel on vacation or business. This requires space that is designed for a variety of activities, indoor and out. One need not belong to an external health club for group activities - trainers and yoga instructors can come to the building. Residents are participating in group events, games, dancing, exercising and more.

Home to Hotel

Hotel owners and operators often tout their ability to make guests feel "at home." Today they are challenged to deliver a more literal interpretation of the experience of being at home. New technology, increased luxury and greater awareness of emerging design trends have increased guest expectations and requirements.

  • Public Spaces - Paralleling the current trend for more residential communal space, newly designed and renovated hotel lobbies consistently now include a range of private, semi-private and communal spaces that can interchangeably support waiting, gathering or food and beverage activities. And just as we entertain our guests at home in our living rooms, the hotel lobby as a living room now demands that hotel operators entertain their guests with a range of food and beverage offerings that can comfortably transition from morning coffee to evening cocktails. Frequently, these lobby spaces are extended outdoors to include complimentary spaces featuring large comfortable seating, fire pits and service bars.

  • Guestrooms - Few homes are alike, and more customized experiences and diverse design environments are favored over the familiarity of a brand standard. Quality finishes and fabrics are more valuable than a large room. The number of bath fixtures is less important than quality plumbing fixtures and a comfortably sized shower. And, with the exception of family oriented hotels, the trend away from tubs to showers is in full stride. Guests now work in their guestrooms like they do at home, which is more often on laptop or tablet. The ability to do so in bed, on a comfortable seating group or at a movable desk is of greater value than a fixed workspace. High quality linens and beds are increasingly a minimum standard. Ample and convenient located outlets and appropriately scaled flat screen televisions complete the baseline amenity package desired by discerning guests.

  • Experiential Meeting Space - High quality flexible conference space remains in high demand, but creative operators are distinguishing their hotels by offering unique and customized experiences not unlike our favorite home spaces. Meeting rooms designed as libraries, bars, billiard rooms and living rooms reflect this trend and offer operators expanded opportunities to sell these spaces for meeting or social functions. Equal attention should be given to the function space. When thought of as more than pre-function or a path to the meeting room, these spaces should be differentiated and conceived as complimentary experiences, such as art galleries or grand foyers. Few spaces at home are void of natural light, so when space and location permit, maximize the amount of natural light and expand these experiences with adjacent outdoor terraces.

  • Personalized Dining Experience - Our desire to socialize in our own kitchen before, during and after the meal is being interpreted in restaurant design with the inclusion of Chefs' tables where we can experience both the preparation and eating of the meal and more unique dining experiences including dine-in wine cellars and lounge seating arranged for a party to share a more informal experience than offered by standard tables or banquettes.

As experience and unique design environments continue to be a primary differentiator, hotel owners and operators will benefit from designing their hotels to complement our experiences at home and provide the unique environments and amenities that guests will want to visit again and again.

alt textMichael R. Ytterberg co-authored this article. He has over 30 years of experience in the master planning and architectural design of large scale mixed use, residential, hospitality, corporate, and academic related projects. Collaborating with clients on diverse projects from the scale of a private home to a $4.8 billion casino resort, he has given functional form to their collective vision. His work has won numerous awards and has been featured in national publications. An unusual aspect of his resume are his early studies in theater, which included a year exploring human movement and space design at the Jacques Lecoq School in Paris, France. As a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and a professor of architectural and urban history, theory, and design, he has demonstrated a life-long commitment to research and publication.

Eric M. Rahe is a principal and member of the executive leadership team at BLT Architects. Eric’s thirty years of practice span the hospitality, residential, retail, commercial office, and educational sectors with a special focus on large-scale hospitality and resort projects. Mr. Rahe has led projects at more than 17 hotels, ranging from limited service hotels to large-scale, multi-billion dollar resorts. Having developed a strong interest in how the design process influences the success of each project and a passion for clarity in design and communication, Mr. Rahe has built a reputation for his analytical approach to understanding his clients’ needs and managing large and diverse teams. Mr. Rahe can be contacted at 215-563-3900 or hmt@blta.com Extended Bio...

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