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The position of hotel interior design …

… Lies somewhere between fashion and architecture and art and engineering!

You might say the main purpose of interior design in a hotel is to create a “home away from home” for guests, although ideally the environment is more stimulating than the one where they live.

Hotel Ritter Durback spa
Hotel Ritter Durback spa

In earlier blogs I’ve touched upon the ways different parties influence hotel interior design, however this time my topic is the four “enemies” of hotel designers, disciplines that share similarities to and sometimes overlap with interior design (perhaps a common problem between “neighbors”): engineering, art, architecture and fashion.

The first one, engineering, is the easiest to explain. Say, for example, there is an argument between interior designers and civil engineers concerning oversized ducts and pipes that cross at the hotel lobby’s central axis where the designers wish to have maximum height for creating drama in the space.

JW Marriott Cannes lobby
JW Marriott Cannes lobby

The only argument designers can claim is that with a lower ceiling, the atmosphere wouldn’t be right and guests might feel as if they’re sandwiched into the middle of a hamburger. But the engineers always have facts on their side — the duct must have a precise dimension, the crossing can only occur in this location, and if the remaining height is too low for guests to comfortably pass underneath, well, at least the air circulation is perfect!

Art is more philosophical. Clearly, interior design is not art — although undoubtedly artistry is often involved in creating exceptional hotel spaces. So while art is an independent element with no obvious function, hotel design has the distinct purpose of attracting guests, making them feel good and helping the hotel enhance its profitability. There are some designers, however, who would prefer to be thought of as “artists” although they have not braved the risk of failure with their own funds and instead work with investors who want stylish hotels.

Sheraton Pelikan Hanover
Sheraton Pelikan Hanover

Architects, as with engineers, are obviously quite a common pain-in-the-neck for interior designers. They have already designed “their” hotel before the interior designers come on board, and they most certainly don’t want any changes made to it, even though it might be their first hotel project while we have completed more than 200. Another problem with architects is that too many still believe architecture is the “mother of all arts” (a theory developed 2,500 years ago, leading directly to the total bankruptcy of today!) and want to impose this edict upon the inside of a building as well as its exterior.

Le Clervaux Boutique & Design Hotel, Luxembourg
Le Clervaux Boutique & Design Hotel, Luxembourg

And then there is fashion, at last an area in which interior designers maintain a strong interest. The newest products we see at design fairs are often influenced by couture trends — although the big difference, of course, is that hotel interiors may need to endure up to a decade, whereas fashion collections change twice a year. A “fashion hotel” is fancy; it even might be published in magazines and win design awards, but there is the very real risk of it becoming quickly outdated.

So, as I mentioned at the beginning, our position as hotel interior designers lies somewhere between each of these poles. We are not architects, engineers, artists or fashion designers, but we do have a bit in common with each and must stand our ground so that we don’t grow too close.

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