BOUTIQUE HOTELS PRIDE THEMSELVES on being different. It’s a segment where hotel designers are able to take chances as a way of differentiation. One of the best ways to achieve distinction is through clever and thoughtful lighting design, essentially by controlling light, colour and ambiance hotels can create multiple moods in a single space, with the goal of creating different spaces without physically changing them. Coloured mood lighting is still lagging in hotel lobbies, the lobby is typically a clean, neutral base for a hotel. Signature pieces are often used to draw guests in, but we see mood lighting as the next big trend offering dynamic options for atmospheric change. In California, green and renewable designs are an important part of hotels. It’s important, it’s big, but is it a selling point? I don’t think so. Renewable visuals, that’s a selling point. Some lighting designers use renewable visuals, such as video projections, to create temporary lighting designs on hotel architecture, the Shanghai hotel for example uses a transparent screen installed outdoors and positioned to display projected video, but that functions as a static design when video is off. The lighting and video used in the concert industry can translate to hotels very easily, It won’t be found in a brand, but in a boutique with no brand standard restraints the option to create something kinetic is available. These techniques are applicable to the future of lighting designs.
“Renewable visuals, that’s a selling point”
Another example is the ME Hotel in London, which projects images above guests’ heads in the lobby clearly defining the look of a space with little investment. The concept of keeping costs down by not investing in static, hard materials that continuously need to be updated is also another draw for hotels. While projections and lighting are inexpensive on a surface level, they do pose some challenges and present restrictions for some properties with retrofitting and temporary disruption to guests. Projections require the right angle through a space, and hanging or protruding design elements create obstacles so placing projectors in the uppermost area of a room and having the device project downward if preferable.
The increased quality of LED bulbs has had a major impact on designing for boutique hotels, there have not been many advancements for lighting in the last 20 years, outside of LEDs, and they are much more effective now out of necessity, especially in California, green and renewable designs are an important part of hotels. It’s important, it’s big, but is it a selling point? We’re not sure. Renewable visuals, that’s a selling point.
Many hotel guests are interested in learning about their destination from the hotels they stay at. There is much more transparency between a hotel space and its location, and there is a strong trend to eliminate the barriers that separate them. The American market is behind on taking chances, with the European and Asian markets being more prone to large, bold architectural statements. Until recently, American venues have been unwilling to experiment, understatement was in favor, however while hotels have been averse to taking risks they have been big on over-designing. When Ian Schrager pioneered boutique hotels in the 1980s, his concept revolved around getting smaller and pushing the envelope for design. Schrager made budget hotels, with humble rooms and an emphasis on the public space. Now it is not rare to see 25 different finishes in one room and a lack of focus on architecture. It’s like cake decorating, the next trend for boutique hotels in 2014 and beyond is restraint. Some designers feel if a hotel’s design lacks constraint it lacks focus and fails to make a statement. Historically classic design revolved around lines and why they work, a lack of restraint shows a lack of the qualities that define formal design.