Hotel Design Trends for 2018


Looking Ahead
All of the above-referenced design trends will have a significant impact not only in 2018 but also in years to come, as we continue to embrace change, new technology, environmental responsibility and holistic design, and as we shift toward creating unique, authentic and memorable experiences for our attendees and other guests. 

In today's hyper-connected world, hotel guests, including your attendees, are not easy to please. Their expectations are high. Their appetites, eclectic. And their fingers are ever-busy, hammering on smartphones, sharing every experience - especially unpleasant and disappointing ones - with anyone who will listen.

They are learning to expect extraordinary experiences in spaces that inspire them with exotic style and surprising features, but which also offer all the comforts of home. Designers have to balance these extremes to cater to sophisticated hotel guests.

The following design trends serve as a road map for how the hospitality industry is working to take the guest experience to a new level.

In recent years, hotels have become travel destinations themselves, resulting in spaces being designed with various strategies in mind to cater to the needs of every type of guest and provide exceptional experiences. Guests will continue to demand amenities and services, but they will be more inclined to focus on "experiencing" rather than "having."

As a result, hotels will need to take advantage of any opportunity to engage guests by providing personalized experiences in every space and with every product and service. For example, by offering selfie areas throughout the property, a hotel can engage guests and promote itself.

While more hotels today are reusing towels and installing automatic lights in an effort to be green, others are taking energy conservation and sustainability to new heights. Next year we will see more, eco-friendly practices that support sustainability and connect guests to the local culture and history, among them use of natural light, solar panels, recycled wood, organic materials, hourglass timers in showers, locally handcrafted items and repurposed furniture.

Pioneered by extended-stay hotels, the concept of adding kitchenettes and other amenities to accommodate long-term guests has gained traction in the hotel industry and is quickly becoming a design standard. At the same time, the days of matching décor and furniture in every guest room are numbered as hotels increasingly opt for making each room a little different for a more natural, hospitable feel.

By designing variations in layout and adding unique elements throughout the space - such as handmade goods, unexpected textures, mix-and-match furniture, diverse wall treatments and tiles - hotels can offer guests a more personalized and fresh experience that they will enjoy and seek to relive.

Another way hotels are adopting the home-away-from-home concept is by redesigning their lobbies and other public areas from businesslike, pragmatic spaces to living-room-style spaces that are warm and inviting.

In 2018, more front desks will be replaced with sit-down, comfortable concierge desks and sofa check-ins handled by staff equipped with iPads while guests sip on wine, coffee or soda. Additional design changes will aim to move guests out of their rooms and into dynamic social spaces.

Designers will continue to blur the lines between interior and exterior spaces, especially in Caribbean hotels, where these spaces more naturally flow together.

Indoor waterfalls, multilevel terraces, rustic wooden furnishings, walled gardens, gorgeous vegetation and panoramic views enable guests to connect with nature from the safety of an indoor space and experience something unique, authentic and memorable.

In the coming year, patterns are expected to shift from the current vogue for high-contrast graphics to more visually soothing elements, while textures will range from soft and rich woven fabrics to heavy, opulent velvet. Expect to see natural materials, cool tones flowing into warm ones, neutral colors and metal finishes.

A mash-up of contemporary styles will produce unpredictable, whimsical environments driven by storytelling that is integrated throughout the design and that helps create the kind of genuine and engaging experiences that guests increasingly seek.

Up until very recently, the word graffiti used to evoke images of spray-painted building exteriors, city walls and subway cars. But nowadays more businesses and hotels throughout the U.S. are embracing urban or street art and incorporating it into their designs to add personality and individuality to their properties.

Now, more than ever, consumers are paying attention to what differentiates one product, service or company from another. Same is not best. Graffiti art created by local artists can make significant visual statements, alter the mood or temperament of a hotel, engage with guests and connect with the local community.

Designing hotels that take into account the properties' historical context is a trend that promises to deliver fascinating results. 

Take for example the recently renovated Charmant Hotel in La Crosse, Wis., located in a former candy factory. The design of the 67-room boutique property incorporates some of the factory's old features - maple flooring, an old iron staircase and exposed brick - into a modern new design that showcases the building's past. The color scheme suggests chocolates and nougats. The front desk also serves as a candy counter. The lobby features a display case with vintage candy boxes and equipment.

Hotel design will continue to move beyond the strictly visual to become less about having a gorgeous space and more about feeling good in it.

Excellent service and convenience have become as much a part of luxury as extravagant materials. Anticipating needs for guests will be more important than ever. Hotel spaces and furniture will be designed not only to look luxurious but also to feel luxurious.

The wellness hospitality sector is gaining popularity among health-conscious travelers, forcing hotels to rethink both their exterior and interior designs.

In 2018, more hotels will be adding and upgrading gyms, health spas, retreat areas, air- and water-purification systems, in-room exercise equipment and space, energizing lighting and other special offerings to accommodate the preferences of health-conscious guests.

Site-integrated hotels are skillfully and beautifully joined to their immediate surroundings. These hotels awe guests with amazing views and unique style elements that shape their senses to allow for dramatic and memorable experiences. It is no wonder they are trending.

To integrate hotels with their environments, designers will continue to look to natural elements for concept inspiration and design low-impact structures to integrate seamlessly with the local surroundings.

Meetings are not what they used to be. Technology has changed the business meeting, and spaces have had to adapt accordingly. Many large hotels depend on meetings and conventions for revenue; therefore, a well-designed meeting space is not optional.

Hotel convention spaces need to have the right audio, video and infrastructure for a variety of meetings, from seminars to live performances, panel discussions and big parties. Everything used in these spaces - furniture, audiovisual equipment, walls, dividers - must be modular or portable. As a result, designers have to design for versatility, flexibility and connectivity.

In 2018, expect to see more so-called biophilic design. Biophilia, or the connection between humans and the natural world and how this link contributes to our health, productivity and well being, is under the spotlight and likely to stay there for a while.

Unlike in the past, today's humans spend 90 percent of their time indoors or in man-made structures. Biophilic design aims to meet our innate need to have a relationship with nature by creating a good habitat for us in built environments. To accomplish this, designers use daylighting techniques, natural ventilation, indoor gardens, organic building materials, nature views and water, with every element fitting in with the natural surroundings of the buildings.

Smart materials that change their form, texture and color in response to lighting conditions, temperature and electrical fields are an interior designer's dream and guarantee to make a lasting impression on guests.

Designers can create dynamic environments featuring wallpapers that change their colors or patterns based on light and temperature, window blinds that open and close automatically according to the position of the sun, walls that ensure room temperature is optimal, furniture that acts as a power source, and other fascinating materials and applications. 

Technology is one way to improve the guest experience, so tech is affecting design in a big way. For example, online and iPad check-ins are eliminating the need for large receptions areas, giving designers greater flexibility and creativity with lobby areas.

In smart hotels, personalized tablets can control everything from room temperature to food-service orders. Text is replacing landlines. Rooms have streaming services such as Netflix and Apple TV. WiFi networks work inside and outside the hotels. In some properties, "LiFi" (a wireless optical networking system that uses light-emitting diodes for data transmission) is replacing WiFi. An extreme example of this trend is the Henn-na Hotel in Japan, manned solely 
by robots.

As much they expect high tech, smart features and services, guests still value personal and friendly high-touch hospitality.


Cristina Villalón, CODDI (for the Colegio de Diseñadores y Decoradores de Interiores, Puerto Rico's accreditation board for interior designers), is co-founder and interior design principal of Alvarez-Diaz & Villalón.