HBA’s talented creative director, Constantina, delves into current and emerging guest room trends, explores the need for a more sustainable approach within hospitality design, and tells us more about her recent work at the Amadria Park Capital Zagreb.
What would you say are the top three trends influencing guestroom design at present?
Guestrooms, in central city locations especially, are getting smaller as hoteliers aspire to attract and keep guests in their public areas. As a result, the designer has to work harder to make the rooms feel as spacious as possible. So the proportions and placement of furniture is changing. In the Amadria Park Capital, for example, we chose to locate a writing desk next to the bed, so it doubles up as a bedside table, complete with a lamp that serves as a reading light.
Bathrooms remain a big story. Hard surfaces, such as tiles and stone, are now largely reserved for the wet areas, and they give way to simpler finishes like plaster or wallcovering wherever possible. I like adding artwork in the bathroom too, or interesting hooks and mirrors, so that the bathroom feels as much part of the room narrative as the bed area.
In fact, we are seeing the ambition of clients to break down the barrier between bathroom and bedroom further than ever, and I am exploring new ideas to achieve this on several projects at the moment.
“Personally, I enjoy designing outdoors as much as indoors, and in resorts where there is so much more space to play with, the direction is definitely towards creating outdoor rooms for all seasons on guestroom terraces”
Personally, I enjoy designing outdoors as much as indoors, and in resorts where there is so much more space to play with, the direction is definitely towards creating outdoor rooms for all seasons on guestroom terraces. By using the same, or related, materials inside and outside, you can ensure the blurring of boundaries and a sense of continuation.
We are being helped in this trend by many new and beautiful furniture collections that are durable for outdoors while being very similar to indoor furniture. Designers need to create the same level of comfort outside as guests are used to indoors.
What is the most memorable guestroom interior you’ve worked on, and why?
Every new project comes with its own memorable moments, from the rooms in the Westin Dublin, where each and every one of them was completely different and the sloping roof made blackout curtains almost impossible in some rooms, to the new Hilton at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. Here, the large diamond shape windows – a signature of the architectural design – were such a strong feature that I was very worried about achieving the right balance with all the other features in the rooms. Sometimes as a designer you have to tread a fine line to celebrate a special feature while avoiding its takeover of the space.
More often than not, our work becomes the background for influencers, who like to make the guestroom feel their own. They stretch out on the bed, pose in front of the headboard and mess around with the furniture, which is all great to my mind. I very much enjoy seeing a design become a fantasy as well as a memory in someone else’s world.
You’ve recently completed work on the Amadria Park Capital Zagreb – could you tell us more about the design of the property’s guestrooms?
I had so much fun designing this hotel, and I think you can see that!
Original, listed staircases lead up to light-filled bedroom corridors that wrap around a central courtyard. It is quite rare to have natural light in guest room corridors, so this was wonderful! We added elegant touches with details such as folkloric-inspired patterned carpets, punchy-blue guestroom doors and vintage 1920’s style room signage and we filled the corridors with artworks.
The guestrooms are especially residential in feel with a pretty palette of pink, pale yellow and blue, and contemporary Italian timber flooring from Berti. These are joyful rooms, filled with natural light thanks to their large windows and high ceilings and with design details that give a nod to the rural past of the location. Bathrooms are classically styled with a marble topped vanity, checkerboard tiled floor and a walk-in shower with fittings by GROHE.
Artwork in the guest rooms and corridors was curated by us in collaboration with art consultants, Muzeo. It comprises both handwritten and illustrative pieces as well as work inspired by Croatian textiles and crafts. Traditional, contemporary and contextual, the artwork lends insights into the heartbeat of the city, both past and present.
In a decade’s time, how do you envisage guestroom design will have evolved?
I often think that a decade feels like a really long time in the hospitality world… we see changes in people’s travel patterns and behaviours constantly. Clients and commentators scrutinise guest reviews daily and as designers we always have to be thinking about the next best thing.
We are already seeing a rapidly growing focus on design as a means to make a hotel stand out. This, I think, will only increase. The average guest, whether a holiday maker or on business, is seeking opportunities for discovery. And our culture has become increasingly more visual. Social media is continuously changing the way we view the world as well as the way we view ourselves, and within that context, design is instrumental.
“It is likely that technology, together with greater guest access to more and more information, will fuel the demand for more personalisation of guestrooms”
It is likely that technology, together with greater guest access to more and more information, will fuel the demand for more personalisation of guestrooms. One size will not fit all. So, hotels are going to have to find a way for their guestrooms to be more flexible and able to be personalised more quickly and easily. There may not even be guestrooms, but instead ‘white’ spaces designed to be easily converted into any number of environments, from meeting rooms to children’s playrooms as well as bedrooms.
One area where the hotel industry has been rather slow to respond is the climate emergency. This attitude has to change, driven by cost, regulations and customer demand. I expect to see hidden technology making guestrooms more sustainable and keeping it comfortable while using less energy.
Maybe there will be a way for guests to see how much energy and water they’re using; I think the guest of the future will appreciate this as the hotel experience becomes more about valuing our world and less about consuming its resources.
Over the next decade, the idea of disposable amenities and single use plastic will give way to better managed, earth-friendly alternatives. The next generation is watching us; it has high expectations and a strong sense of responsibility.
What do you feel are the key challenges that are unique to guestroom design, and how do you overcome them?
When designing a guestroom, precision is key. The slightest oversight, unless corrected, will be multiplied across tens or hundreds of rooms, so it is paramount to get everything right at mock-up room stage. Designs have to fit within the client’s budgets too. That is perhaps the biggest challenge – maintaining design integrity while value engineering.
I always prefer to be part of this phase, so we can contribute creatively, protecting the elements that really matter to the narrative and to guest comfort and pleasure while knowing what to give way on.
What are you working on at the moment?
In Dubai we are building a luxury hotel, and in Europe, I have started a very exciting resort project in Crete while finishing off the first phase of guestroom refurbishment at The Camellia Hotel in the chic Croatian resort of Opatija.
The guest experience here is wonderful. We have designed a joyful geometric floor covering with an energy that feels entirely complimentary to an otherwise very calm room.
At night, you fall asleep to the sounds of gentle waves lapping the rocks below. The next phase at Camellia will be a wellness space over two floors which we can’t wait to get started on, as well as the remaining guestrooms and public areas.
Meanwhile, in London, we have a wonderful residential project in the heart of a new city centre development, and I am also dipping into the world of cruise-liner design for the first time, thanks to a very exciting collaboration.