November 17, 2017

Five hotel trends to bring home

The 250,000-crystal rose-shaped chandelier floats above the lobby at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Check in to the latest in hotel design—and bring the best ideas back with you

By Joanne Sasvari

Seems like just yesterday we were investing in white duvet covers, stripping the colour out of our furnishings and clearing away all the cosy lived-in clutter. Inspired by hotel design, we were making our homes clean, spare, elegant and neutral, all the better to sell them for higher than asking.
But while we were turning our homes into chicly blank slates, hoteliers have gone the other way with audacious décor and a distinctly residential feel. After all, no one gets excited about taking a selfie in front of a beige wall. “Everyone wants to feel at home,” says Jill Barriere of Jill Barriere Interior Design. “Hospitality needs to be hospitable.”

Here are five hotel trends to bring home

Black and white photos of athletes are a nod to the nearby arena at Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto. Photo: Courtesy of Group Germain

1. Bold statements

When Rich Kinnard, an associate with HBA San Francisco, was asked to redesign the interior of the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria, he faced a number of challenges. One was the sheer number of guestroom styles—225 different configurations across two buildings. An even bigger one was “blending the historical with the new” in an iconic property, Kinnard says. “Our overarching goal was to modernize all areas of the hotel, appealing to the modern luxury traveller without alienating the current clientele.”
That meant replacing the twee pink-and-green rose-patterned fabrics, wallpaper and carpeting with a cool silvery-grey base, dramatic splashes of regal purple and bold artworks. Among them is the lobby’s two-tonne, rose-shaped chandelier made of 250,000 hand-cut crystals. “The chandelier is my favourite,” Kinnard says. “It is really the engagement ring of the hotel.”
Powerful artistic statements are the signature of Group Germain properties, which range from the farmhouse chic of Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel and Spa to the vividly modern Alt Hotel Winnipeg. “A lot of the inspiration comes from the location. It’s little things that are very subtle,” says director of operations Marie Pier Germain. Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto, for instance, features sportif motifs such as black-and-white photos of athletes and a giant round sofa in the lobby that looks like a giant hockey puck.
The injection of vivid colour is the biggest change Barriere has seen in 17 years of designing hotel interiors. She traces that directly to online booking sites where bright hues are more likely to catch the eye than tasteful beige. Besides, she says, “I think a lot of people live in homes that are neutral and serene, and when you’re in a hotel it’s short term so you can appreciate that pop of colour.”
At home: Keep the base décor neutral, but add colour with bright cushions, throws, vases or artworks.

Timeless styling and vivid splashes of colour add to the welcoming feel of the gold suites at the Empress.

2. Smart rooms

Technology has led the other major change in hotel design, and it’s not just about free WiFi. “There’s a lot of personalization of the space,” says Germain. “That’s what they call it, but that’s taking away from the kind of personal experience we’re trying to create. The other thing is connectivity in the room, like turning the TV on from your phone.”
The new technology allows a guest to not only check in and out online, but to operate the blinds, order room service and even unlock the door from a tablet or phone. The same technology can also track where guests are in the hotel. “It goes too far,” Germain says.
More practically, smart hotel designers realize that guests carry multiple devices, so where outlets were once hidden behind pieces of furniture, now they are easily accessible, especially at bedside.
At home: Update your charging stations with practical, easy-to-reach plug-ins.

Oversized tiles, mixed metals and hint of deco in the bathroom of the Royal Suite at the newly renovated Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria. Photo: courtesy of Fairmont Empress Hotel

3. Spa bathrooms

Clean, functional, elegant—who wouldn’t like their home bathroom to look just like a grand hotel one? “Residential design is very personal, but it’s very easy to upscale a home by doing a bathroom renovation,” Kinnard says.
Think: oversized tiles, spa amenities, Art Deco-inspired fixtures, lighted makeup mirrors, heated floors and glassed-in showers. “Everyone now has glass showers in their homes and really that started with hotels,” Germain says, adding, “We were one of the first ones with the refillable bottles. We just couldn’t believe how much product was being wasted with those little bottles and those soaps.”
At home: If you can’t swing a full bathroom reno right now, you can still add a makeup mirror, plush new towels and upgraded amenities in stylish refillable bottles.

Artist’s rendering of the dazzling, Art Deco-style HJU:Z Lounge opening this November at The Westin Bayshore hotel in Vancouver. Photo: Courtesy of The Westin Bayshore

4. Social spaces

Guest rooms may be getting smaller, but lobbies are becoming grander, with big furniture, big artwork and big drama. They are a hotel’s living room, the place where guests eat, drink, meet and socialize. So when The Westin Bayshore in Vancouver renovated, the owners knew that the lobby would have to make a statement—and the cocktail lounge would be a big part of it.
“We wanted to create a beautiful place, a comfortable place,” says Philippe Grandbois, the consulting bartender on the hotel’s brand new HJU:Z Lounge & Bar. “We wanted to really balance the casual and formal.” HJU:Z (the phonetic spelling of the hotel’s most famous resident, Howard Hughes) is a light-drenched 3,000-square-foot space with floor-to-ceiling windows onto the Seawall and an outdoor patio that will open in April. “The design was extraordinary,” Grandbois says.
Hotel lobbies aren’t just for guests, either. “It’s almost like before as a city person, you weren’t allowed to wander into the lobby of a hotel. Now more and more you’re seeing places with bars that attract locals,” Germain says. “It’s what helps create the sense of community.”
At home: Create a stylish bar area with a well-stocked cart, cabinet or wet bar.


Warm metallics and sleek style in the locker room at the Willowstream Spa at Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel. Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Empress Hotel

5. Timeless style

What’s old is new, but is it actually old? Or new, for that matter? “We don’t go with trendy because trendy isn’t here to stay,” Germain says. “We go with design that is timeless.”

Call it “retro modern,” a seamless blending of the historical and contemporary. It evokes the past without copying it, taking an Art Deco line here, a mid-century colour there, and mixing it with elements of Georgian or Victorian décor. It could mean an exposed brick wall, or a sconce in an aged bronze metallic, or a slipper chair in chartreuse.

At the Fairmont Empress Hotel, for instance, Kinnard had to strike “a fine, fine balance” between history and modern luxe. To convey a vintage look, he put a distressed-look carpet and subtly patterned wallpaper in the hallways. “They felt cramped because they had those Victorian roses on the wall and the carpet also had roses,” he says. “The wall covering is still roses, but it’s silver on silver. It creates light and shadow so it doesn’t feel cramped even though it’s darker. And once you took away all the pink and green paint, you could see the bones so much better.”

Much of Kinnard’s inspiration came from the clean, angular lines of Art Deco, a vintage style that still looks modern. “I think a lot of contemporary furniture is inspired by Deco,” he says.

Just as eras are mixed, so are metallics, fabrics, colours and patterns for a look that is comfortable and welcoming. “It’s not so matchy-matchy, more mix and match,” Barriere says. “It’s a space that envelopes you and makes you feel good when you walk in the room.”

After all, hospitality is still the most important feature of any hotel. “Everyone can find good furniture and find good amenities,” Germain says. “But it’s the personal connection that matters most.” •

At home:  Add some brass or gold to all that silver, and invest in an Art Deco-inspired piece or two.

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