A Sneak Peek of Canopy by Hilton

In early 2016, the first Canopy by Hilton, Hilton Worldwide's newest lifestyle brand, will open in Reykjavik, Iceland. Since announcing the launch in October 2014, Hilton has kept the brand's design concept pretty much under wraps. So, when I recently received an invitation from the hotel chain to view a mock-up of Canopy's guest rooms and get a taste, literally, of its food-and-beverage offerings and amenities at Hilton Worldwide's headquarters in McClean, Va., I took the train out to see for myself what was brewing.

I wasn't disappointed. The brand promises "Design, Comfort and Functionality," and the rooms, which are sleek but not so minimalist that they are stripped bare of any creature comforts, deliver just that. There is no artwork on the walls, no traditional closets and certainly no bathtubs. But there are lots of clever design niches, a result of months of customer surveys and architectural brainstorming. For example, there is a cleverly built-in little fridge for stocking up; a coffee station; a long table that doubles as a work area; a stylish chaise longue; terrific lighting, and a very modern clothes storage area -- just without the traditional doors. And, as for the signature canopy, there's one above each bed in every guest room.

"I personally think we have created a brand that will be a unique differentiator in the hotel lifestyle market," Gary Steffen, global head, Canopy by Hilton, told me as we discussed the brand. "It screams neighborhood throughout its entire design." In this case, these particular rooms are what the 115-room Canopy Reykjavik/City Centre will look like. It's the neighborhood, says Steffen, that will drive the design of each Canopy. Because, while every hotel must contain certain brand elements, the look and feel of each, and their food-and-beverage offerings, must ultimately be inspired and influenced by its location. Take for example, breakfast, which is included in the room rate (as is Wi-Fi). The scones and muffins you order will come fresh from the corner bakery. So, too, the jams, jellies, honey, cheeses and just about any food offerings that can be locally sourced.

Currently more than 20 Canopy by Hilton properties are in the development pipeline in some very unique, exciting neighborhoods, including Baltimore, Minneapolis and New Orleans. Eighty percent of those, says Steffen, will be new-builds. The remainder will be mostly adaptive renovations. "We might do conversions from other brands, but they will absolutely have to have the right bones to be considered," says Steffen. The shuttered steel- and glass-cladded Oil & Glass Building in New Orleans' central business district will be the first repurposed property. The 14-story building has been pegged to be a 182-room Canopy by Hilton. Renovations begin May 2016, and the hotel is expected to open in fall 2017.

One more thing that makes this new lifestyle brand appealing, particularly to Millennials: It's heavy on its commitment to sustainability and the environment. For example, you will not find bottled water in any guest room. Instead, rooms have a glass carafe, which housekeeping refills from a purified water station on each floor. And the little brown bag you can hang on your guest room door if you prefer to have breakfast delivered will be made of recycled paper. Seriously. Canopy by Hilton, what took you so long?