Urban hoteliers are using technology, multi-functional furniture and innovative designs to reduce room sizes and boost profits all while catering to millennials’ preferences
The size of some hotel rooms is shrinking, and nobody’s complaining. Design is taking a cue from the expectations of today’s guests, who happen to be millennials. Those who claim to understand their preferences say that things previously considered to be necessities are no longer used.
If they’re no longer used, why include them in room designs? Removed from the equation, a standard hotel room might start to look a bit oversized. Why not trim the size? Now you’re starting to see why some hotel brands are downsizing their guest rooms. Does anybody miss the lost space? Not if they’re down meeting up with others in the lobby.
Do the math
Numbers can create a compelling design story. What’s the dimension of a double bed? How about a writing desk? Now, what about that cabinet that housed the television? Don’t forget the dresser with a generous number of drawers that hardly ever get used. Even closets are being jettisoned in exchange for hanging racks. Subtract the space taken up by all that furniture. What, if anything takes its place?
“If your hotel caters to short-stay visitors (and most do), the trend in room design is moving towards simplification with furniture designed especially for hotel rooms. That includes wall racks for hanging clothes, bed frames that enable a guest to slide their luggage underneath, and nightstands that double for desks,” according to the hotel property management company WebRezPro. “This trend is particularly appealing to hoteliers in urban markets where square footage is limited. Simplified furniture lends a spacious feel without needing as much space.”
In November 2017, Hotel Management magazine named “stripped down hotel rooms” as one of three design trends for 2018. The magazine cited the example of hotels mounting flat screen TVs on the wall to free up space on a dresser, or eliminate little-used armoires. Designer Michael Suomi told the magazine that by shrinking a room’s square footage 30 to 50 percent, a hotel can add 30 to 50 percent more rooms and increase its revenue accordingly.
Connected, multi-functional furniture
As hotels downsize, they are shifting to more multi-functional furniture. Designer Harry Wheeler tells Hotel News Now that architects and designers must, “reinvent their traditional take on mainstay guestroom elements in favor of multi-purpose and collapsible furniture, built-in lighting and power, and smart design materials, colors and accessories that make the space appear and feel larger.”
Wheeler points out the traditional nightstand as an example. He challenges that it’s better as a “data touch point,” where a guest finds multiple outlets for their smart devices and computers. He also says that bed headboards can be transformed into charging stations.
It’s already been a couple years since Hilton announced that all king rooms in its new-build, full-service properties will have showers, but no tubs. The chain’s midscale brand Tru by Hilton already offers showers only in all rooms, except for those required to have them under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While Baby Boomers may not have tolerated such an omission, more environmentally conscious millennials may actually find it appealing. Showers, according to this NerdWallet article about America’s fading love affair with bathtubs, use only about 10 to 25 gallons of water compared to 70 used in a typical bath. CBRE reports that water is a hotel’s second-largest utility cost, after electricity. So, this is another case where changing guest preferences favor hotel profitability.
Ebb and flow
Guests may not mind a smaller room, but they do expect more thought and effort to go into the communal spaces – like the lobby – where they’ll gather to mingle and relax. As hospitality news site Hotel Online puts it, the lobby is a destination, not a pass-through.