Luxe Lobbies

Form meets function in these high-concept gathering spaces

Given their perpetual competitive mode, the major hotel chains never cease to refine their product. Efforts in recent years have included everything from branded beds to signature workouts, and now it's the lobby's turn to get the star treatment.

"Over the last few years, the use of lobbies has grown as guests seek out new places to socialize and work," notes Mike Tiedy, senior vice president of global brand design for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Accordingly, chains have charged their design teams with creating "concept lobbies" aimed variously at encouraging social interactions, ad hoc meetings and/or a casual spot to re-energize after a long day -- all depending on the guest profile and core values of each brand.

What follows are some stellar examples of today's dynamic hotel lobbies and the brand concepts behind them.

Hilton McLean Tysons CornerHilton McLean Tysons Corner 
The 458-room Hilton McLean Tysons Corner in Virginia completed a $40 million renovation in 2011 that included Hilton's new lobby design concept. The layout is flexible and encourages a social atmosphere where guests can interact, work and collaborate. The pod-style seating is intended to be particularly inviting and suitable for meetings and groups. In total, the property features more than 27,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/SoHo
Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/SoHoMarriott Hotels & Resorts debuted its new "Refreshing Business" lobby concept at the 120-room Courtyard by Marriott New York Manhattan/SoHo, which opened in 2011. The lobby is geared for socializing and/or relaxing, but includes a communal table for impromptu meetings (otherwise taking place in the property's 14-seat boardroom). The lobby also offers free Wi-Fi and  a large interactive "GoBoard" that displays information on area attractions and updates.

W Leicester Square
W Leicester Square"W Hotels has redefined the hotel lobby and transformed it into the 'Living Room,' " says Starwood's Mike Tiedy of a concept amply demonstrated at London's 192-room W Leicester Square. It's a space, adds Tiedy, infused with "deejays, a vibrant cocktail culture and the 24/7 energy of fashion, design and music." The hotel's varied meeting space includes a 39-seat screening room and two studios that together can host up to 60 people.

Sheraton WaikikiSheraton Waikiki
At Sheraton, another Starwood brand, Mike Tiedy says the Link@Sheraton lobby "is all about bringing people together" to "connect on-screen and off-, surf the web or watch the game," as at the 1,634-room Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu, which also has 46,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 26,000-square-foot ballroom.

Hilton Barcelona
Hilton Barcelona
In Spain, the 287-room Hilton Barcelona features a futuristic space that, per the chain, exemplifies the new Hilton lobby design via "accessible technology, an adaptable environment for community engagement, and contemporary food and beverage offerings with local flavor." The space is anchored by a translucent art installation by Jacopo Foggini. The property also offers 17 meeting rooms that can host a total of up to 610 people.

Le Méridien PhiladelphiaLe Méridien Philadelphia
At Le Méridien Philadelphia, the Hub at Le Méridien lobby concept is in full flower, where "the idea is to stimulate thinking and foster dialogue through a creative atmosphere of curated and contemporary art," according to a company manifesto. The 262-room hotel also fosters dialogue in its flexible 5,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom with views of Philly's landmark City Hall.

Redmond Marriott Town Center Hotel
Redmond Marriott Town Center HotelIt's not technically a lobby, but Marriott recently enlisted workplace products and services firm Steelcase to create its Workspring concept at the 258-room Redmond Marriott Town Center Hotel in Seattle, resulting in an "informal, open, tech-connected work area" meant "to inspire collaboration, enhance productivity and generate results" among business travelers, according to Marriott. The hotel has 10,000 square feet of meeting space.