Making an entrance
Moevenpick Hotel Bur Dubai was crying out for a revamp
In its former guise, the lobby of the Mövenpick Hotel and Apartments, Bur Dubai epitomised the ‘more is more’ approach that so often characterises design in this part of the world. With its gold and ochre colour scheme and over-the-top finishes, the lobby was desperately outdated and in need of a refresh.
Built in 2000, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts took over management of the property in 2003. In 2009, the company embarked on a renovation of all guest rooms, while the public areas were addressed in 2010.
For the lobby area, Mövenpick worked with Dubai-based Design Work Portfolio to create a more modern and inviting space. This is in keeping with a general move within the hotel company, which is promoting a more contemporary feel in many of its properties, explained Robert Barker, general manager, Mövenpick Hotel and Apartments, Bur Dubai.
“If you look at The Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, and Ibn Battuta Gate, which has just opened, the new Mövenpick hotel has a much more modern feel to it. Open spaces, bright, clean, clear, vivid colours – that is the direction the company is going in. The name itself is quite old and traditional. But it’s an old name with a new image and a new direction. The company is growing very quickly and wants to present itself as modern and fresh,” Barker said.
The aim with the Mövenpick Bur Dubai lobby was to create a welcoming space infused with a more residential feel.
This is in keeping with the demands of the modern traveller, according to Barker, who over the course of his career has witnessed a definite shift in the profile and behavioural patterns of the average hotel guest.
“When I started in the business many years ago, hotels were a place to sleep in, and people used them that way. That was when probably 90% of travel was for business and 10% was leisure. Nowadays it’s probably 50/50. And even people that travel on business are probably adding a day or two of leisure on either side,” said Barker.
“So, customers are looking for a more residential feel, even in the guest rooms. And this flows throughout the hotel. You must have areas that guests can relax in. You have to build a kind of comfort zone into your property. The lobby lounge is no longer a showcase for the designer – it has to be a comfortable and appealing place for the customer to sit and relax in.”
To this effect, the lobby area was divided into ‘kitchen, dining and living’ spaces. To start with, Design Work Portfolio opted to move the reception desk, flipping it over to the opposite side of the lobby.
In the space where the reception desk used to be, Design Work Portfolio moved an existing wall and took some space from the back offices to create a new informal lounge area.
“In the old days, when you came here and were waiting for someone, there was nowhere to sit and have a coffee. So we carved out a new space and created an informal, timeless lounge where you can sit and have a coffee while you wait for someone, or even conduct a meeting,” said Martin Wojnowski, principal designer, Design Work Portfolio.
One corner of the lounge area now features a juice bar, while another is home to a striking cake display. Each type of cake is named after a precious stone, so the idea was to create a display case that would be befitting of jewellery.
The packaging and presentation of the cakes also builds on the idea of each being a precious stone.
“They are packed in what looks like a jewellery box. And instead of the box going into a bag, it is wrapped in a scarf,” Barker explained.
“It has always struck me that you never get nice bags to carry cakes in. So, we were inspired by the furoshiki, which is a Japanese wrapping cloth. If you are arriving in Japan for the first time, usually the wife of your boss will give you a box like this as a welcome gift, and inside there might be a guide to the city, information on schools, tourist attractions, and so on. The scarf it is wrapped in is called a furoshiki.”
In addition to creating a whole new lounge area out of a dead space, Design Work Portfolio concentrated on revamping the lobby restaurant. The aim was to develop a more “multi-dimensional” restaurant concept, as opposed to “your regular Dubai buffet offering”, said Wojnowski.
Where the restaurant used to be brimming with dark panelling and brass chandeliers, it is now home to a far lighter design language. A sand-coloured, multi-faceted, moulded, lacquered MDF panel runs along one wall, creating depth and texture.
In the back corner of the restaurant, leading into the kitchen, a large sketch of a cartoon chef carrying a plate of food jumps off the wall.
“That’s chef Monty,” said Barker. “We wanted a full-size image of the chef coming out of the kitchen. It was a dark, nondescript area previously, and he draws you in.”
Other major changes to the overall lobby floor plan included the consolidation of the hotel’s business centre and retail area. Both now occupy a single space fitted with a couple of desks, topped with laptops. These are flanked by shelving cabinets filled with essential items for sale.
In Barker’s opinion, both the retail area and business centre are becoming increasingly defunct in modern hotel design. “The business centre, if we are honest, is gone. Why would you use a business centre in a hotel? On the off-chance that you don’t have your mobile device with you and you want to check your email, we have laptops on offer. The hotel shop is just for essentials, so we took one areaand opened it up. It is open 24-hours per day, and there’s no door,” he explained.
This is also in keeping with the fact that the needs of business and leisure travellers – once quite diverse – are converging. According to Barker, both are essentially looking for the same things: personalised service, friendly people, a good bed, nice linen, good towels, wi-fi and a convenient location.
“In the old days, you had to have this big business centre with secretarial services and whatever else. And the guestroom had to be very functional for the businessman. Now all the businessman really needs is wi-fi and broadband connectivity. And that’s what the leisure customer wants too, because they want to stay connected.”
For Design Work Portfolio, one of the greatest challenges with this project was the restricted budget, which dictated that many original features had to be recycled and reused. For example, most of the furniture was reupholstered and flooring was maintained, for the most part, while carpeting was changed and lighting was revisited.
“We painted the railing on the staircase, changing it from gold to an anthracite finish. The walls were painted grey rather than ochre. All the lamps were removed and replaced. All of the counters are new. We kept the reception desks, but the leather wall panels behind them are new,” Wojnowski explained.
The end result is homely, in all the right ways. “It looks like a villa – informal, soft, eclectic and comfortable. We didn’t want to make a design statement. Instead we wanted to create a fresh, international feel that travellers from all around the world could identify with. Most of the hotels in Dubai are very design-driven, but that can often just make the guest feel lost. We haven’t replicated that same old Arabesque feel.”
And the benefit of such renovation projects is that the fruits of your labour are immediately obvious, Wojnowski added.
“These are the kinds of projects that I like. These are the jobs that you get to do in Europe.
“It means you are instantly rewarded, or not, for what you’ve done. Other projects that you work on are realised two or three years down the line. It is very long-term. This is one of the first short-term projects that we’ve worked on, where you can see the final outcome without waiting years for it.”