Making bigger better

In Hong Kong, designers constantly struggle for more space to fully implement their concepts. The most common lament heard during the layout stage is the desire for more space. Ironically, just across the water on the Chinese mainland, designers face a different challenge.

Chinese developers are in the midst of an ego battle, competing to open the nation’s highest hotel lounge, tallest building or hotel with the largest standard guestrooms. Here, “less is more” fails to win against “bigger is better.” 

Recently, we came across a hotel project planning standard rooms of almost 1,000 sq ft (93 sq m). In highly dense Asian cities like Hong Kong, a room this size could easily be a three-bedroom apartment. As a designer who prioritizes guest experience, I face a daunting challenge in such pursuits of grandeur. I believe luxury is about comfort, about creating a home away from home for traveling hotel guests.

Chinese owners, I understand, often seek the grandest spaces with the most impressive features. But should they ask if this really addresses the guest’s needs? When it comes to sleeping or relaxing, guests may prefer something more intimate and cozy, rather than to be overwhelmed. You may be surprised how much people actually enjoy sleeping in a cozy space, even those who live in enormous homes.

So how can we tackle this challenge of maintaining intimacy without sacrificing the wow factor? One way we can resolve this is by using special planning methods such as integrating flexible partitions or strategic use of half-height furniture by demarcating the space. But even so, this does not resolve the even bigger challenge for the hotel side on how to upsell the room. What size would the next category room or suite have to be in order to justify the upsell to guests?

Tastes in China are, of course, developing as swiftly as its real estate. It may be that the fervor for grand rooms fades with time, or perhaps hotels elsewhere with influxes of Chinese tourists will adapt their designs to fit the Chinese model.

What do you think: Is bigger better?