Comment: Why design matters

Find out why design themes and brand positioning matter for hotels

Opinion, Columnists, Design

I started my career with this magazine’s publishing house just over five years ago with B2B titles Commercial Interior Design and Middle East Architect, so I have a soft spot when it comes to these subjects, even in hospitality.

Even then, the importance of design in hotel and restaurant projects was paramount, but it really does seem as if the focus on design is increasing with every passing moment. In this issue, we’ve focused on trends in hospitality design, and I believe it’s thrown up some interesting food for thought.

Design trends are quite interesting — speaking to Hotelier in the August edition of the magazine, Thomas Klein International’s Daniel During and Compass Project Management’s William Hitch mentioned the exposed concrete, warehouse-style designs that are increasingly being seen in this region, and while this has definitely been the case with F&B for a few years now, I get the impression that it is also coming to the overall hotel.

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While I was attending the FRHI Hotels & Resorts Global Meeting Exchange event recently, I found out a bit more about one of the operator’s upcoming properties: the Fairmont Fujairah. The hotel is currently scheduled for a March 2017 opening, and I was told that the design was such that it could be placed in New York, with a very boutique-like and funky décor.

Even Gordon Campbell Gray is a supporter of this boutique-style, cool design trend. A few months ago, the luxury hotelier told us that he has signed a 40-bedroom boutique hotel in Manama, Bahrain. About the design, Gray commented: “We’re going to put graffiti in it. It’s going to be our most edgy hotel. That’s quite exciting.”

There’s also the upcoming Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai, which is scheduled to open at the end of 2016. I was quite lucky to get a tour of the site at the end of June this year, and the design, if anything, is contemporary, modern, and stylish. Think clean lines, use of wood, and open spaces.

Another example of this trend: Cuisinero Uno is a new restaurant which is currently under construction at the Steigenberger Hotel in Business Bay. I was invited by John Buenaventura, the concept’s CEO and culinary director, at the end of May to look at what was essentially the shell of the restaurant. There, we took up spray paint and face masks, and started making our mark on the concrete walls, only part of which will be visible once the restaurant’s design is complete.

All very exciting news for the months ahead, but beyond looks, functionality is a key consideration. It’s all very well for everything to look beautiful, but if the item in question doesn’t work the way it’s meant to, or decreases efficiency, then what’s the point? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, but even beauty needs to be practical!

Example: I stayed in a hotel recently where there was a pillar in the middle of the room making it difficult to go from one side to the other. In the same room, in fact, I slept with one light on. Not because I have a problem with sleeping with the lights off, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t find a switch to turn it off.

And speaking of design disasters: I’m now calling for hotels to end the practice of offering up rooms which have either just a glass partition or no partition at all between the bathroom and the bedroom/living area. Enough is enough!

But on a serious note, attractive (and practical) designs generate interest in your venue, whether through word-of-mouth, or social media shares. So let’s take it seriously.

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