It seems to me that as addiction to technology rapidly grows, so too is the craving for tangible comforts and emotional connections as antidotes to the virtual world. For quite a long time, at least 15 years, the concept of “shabby chic” design, and its more sophisticated cousin, “mid-century style,” have been en vogue in hospitality venues.
At first, I thought it was just a silly fad, as guests would soon tire of distressed, partially destroyed surfaces and “flea market fashion” would quickly come to an end. But I was wrong: It still trendy for grandma’s old sofa to be a design highlight and even better if its patterns clash. Plastic kitsch can be easily mixed with the austere industrial look and ornate baroque plaster.
On the other hand, our personal and professional lives become more and more virtual every day and in a hotel, access to high-speed WiFi seems to be as essential as a bed. I am struck by the paradox that while sitting in grandpa´s armchair – or the luxury version, a US$3000 mid-century design icon – a hotel guest can conduct any kind of business around the globe from this “old” furniture.
My instinct is that people need recognizable objects from the past to compensate for the virtual world in which they are floating whilst staring into their mobile devices. They are subconscious symbols of simpler times when they were students or, reaching further back through rose-colored glasses, the trustful, cozy setting of their childhood when grandpa’s worn lounge chair was like a throne and grandma was chattering in the kitchen whilst baking their grandchild’s favorite cake. This seems to be the environment where hotel guests feel “at home,” (although their real homes are most probably completely different) in contrast to the virtual “cloud” of their nonphysical lives.
As digital detox holidays rise in popularity, hoteliers would be wise to see nostalgic, “down to earth” interior design as an important way to strengthen guests’ connection with the comfort of low-tech times.