“What makes a hotel iconic? Is it a long history, a unique design, or that people regard it as a reflection of the city where it stands?” – Insights, Milrose Consultants

As a consumer-driven industry, hospitality has constantly evolved and adapted to enhance customer experiences. With new establishments surfacing as a dime for a dozen, higher expectations amongst users also emerge. Today’s globe-trotting generation wants experiences that are unique and extraordinary, and which have the potential to evoke cultural, social, and sensory sentiments. These expectations, therefore, raise a multitude of questions for hotel designers:

Are highly functional and trendy designs enough to keep users engaged? Will the thematic interior be able to maintain a regular clientele or will the customers want to explore something new?

Is there a need to rethink hospitality design?

Our society has seen everything from the opulent and grand interiors of various iconic hotels to the warm and homely spaces of chic bed and breakfasts. Be it an exotic beachside resort or some swanky youth hostel, it now needs to cater to a demographic which is in pursuit of personalized and memorable experiences. Millennial travelers want a sense of place, a wisp of local lifestyle, and a connection with their surrounding environments. The new-age design for hospitality calls for an aesthetic that defines not just a place, but a culture.

A fine example of tying the design of a hotel with its context is the ‘1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park’, designed by Marvel Architects and INC Architecture and Design, crafted in an attempt to create ‘sustainable luxury’. Located on the site of an old cargo wharf in the artsy hub of New York, the hotel brings the neighboring Brooklyn Bridge Park into its building through perimetric double-height spaces and glass walls. For the interiors, the designers have crafted a ‘Brooklyn aesthetic’, reminiscent of the site’s industrial warehouse ethos by using local and historically relevant materials.

While being careful in avoiding the use of obvious choices like Brooklyn’s overused troupe – the Edison bulb, the designers have remained true to the borough’s artistic and creative vibe by using reclaimed or repurposed elements. A feature wall in the reception lobby showcases granite from the same quarry that supplied stone for the construction of Brooklyn Bridge. Tables in the dining area are made from the wood of trees that fell during the disastrous Hurricane Sandy. By using various remnants of the historic wharf, the contextually aware hotel evokes a sense of physical, social, and cultural authenticity in its guests. Situated right next to a residential building designed by the same team of architects, the hotel tries to foster interaction between its users and the locals and thus creates a fully rounded local experience.

“People expect that they will connect to the culture of a particular city through their hotel experience. It is just a given now.”

-Adam Rolston, INC

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Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park ©www.interiordesign.net
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Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park ©www.interiordesign.net
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Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park ©www.interiordesign.net
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Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park ©www.interiordesign.net

To promote the ‘live like a local’ ideology in hospitality, social interaction is of utmost importance. The ‘Generator Amsterdam’, built on the concept of ‘event-led, soulful social space’, is part of a chain of hostels based in Europe and focuses on locally inspired art, music, and food. Designed by The Design Agency and IDEA Ontwerp, the hostel is a delightful blend of an eclectic and traditional space, set inside a century-old building. While some original elements of the original building like the marble staircase and the stained-glass transoms are kept intact, the design also features various Dutch references and Holland’s folk culture through its interior.

Amsterdam’s architectural heritage is portrayed in the café by abstracted birch frames depicting the canal’s row housing in vibrant colors. Bright floor tiles in a herringbone pattern are reminiscent of an aerial view of the iconic tulip fields. The new design for the hostel plays with the old auditorium space by creating three different seating lounges on multiple levels, open to both guests and locals, thus encouraging visual and social interaction amongst its users. Aesthetics of the dormitories are kept clean and minimal so that guests are compelled to unwind in the social areas. Walls in the public areas and the elevator shaft are adorned with witty slogans, graffiti, and drawings by local artists, which provide the space with strong visual identities and also work as conversation starters. 

“Most importantly, it’s a community of intense social interaction.” – Korallus, CEO, DesignAgency

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Multi-level seating spaces in Generator, Amsterdam ©www.designboom.com
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Multi-level seating spaces in Generator, Amsterdam ©www.designboom.com
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Multi-level seating spaces in Generator, Amsterdam ©www.designboom.com

Creating a niche in today’s highly competitive industry and attracting a wide range of clients is vital for any hospitality establishment. Customers want something unique and exceptional. Highly functional and trendy designs are not enough to keep users engaged. Travelers want their hotels to have strong narratives and an immersive ethos. Even though thematic interiors might be trendy for a while, they are not enough to maintain a regular base of clientele. They need to establish a connection between the inside and the outside. The rethought design of hospitality interiors is rooted in providing locally authentic, personalized, and dynamic experience to its users. Hotels are not just a place to stay anymore; they are a destination in themselves.

“It’s all about the experience” – Chennoufi, Drawlink Group – Hospitality Specialist


Yamini Kathuria is an architect who has recently graduated with a masters in interior design from CEPT University, Ahmedabad. A strong believer of the notion that built-spaces directly influence how people live, connect and perform, she approaches design as a multi-layered process which involves creativity, analytical research and contextual awareness.

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