Time for Bed
Today's guestrooms embrace experimentation and promote eccentricity. By Charlotte Butterfield.
It has been estimated by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing that 22,000 extra hotel rooms will be available in Dubai by the end of 2008 to add to the 46,775 that are already in existence. But that's nothing. It is predicted that by 2016 Dubailand's Al Bawadi development will have added a further 60,000 rooms across 51 new hotels.
When these figures are compared to Dubai's international counterparts, the projections seem even more staggering. According to NYC&Co, New York's Tourism and Marketing department, the US city has 75,000 guest rooms, while London's Olympic Bid Committee estimated that there are around 70,000 3-5star hotels within 10km of central London.
So with competition between hoteliers reaching an unprecedented high, Commercial Interior Design canvasses industry insiders to see what direction the new breed of guestrooms is moving, in terms of style, materials and customer expectations. We also take a peek inside the bedrooms of three of the region's new hotels opening in 2008 and ask the designers behind them how they approach designing distinctive guest rooms.
Current trends are dictating that guestrooms should inhabit a much larger footprint than ever before. In the past traditional guestrooms measured around 4x7.6m but the average width has expanded to 5m and the floorspace for suites in the luxury category is around 143m². However, research into hotel trends suggest that the real space-change has happened in the bathroom where large tubs, a penchant for wetrooms and the obligatory double sink has made a real impact on an ensuite's footprint.
Robert Shen, director of business development Asia for Wilson Associates explains: "Guestrooms of the future are definitely increasing in size. We are planning for standard guestrooms that are upwards of 60-70mÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â², which also means we as designers are challenged with providing enough amenities within the room so that it still remains proportional, usable, and relevant." Shen's colleague at Wilson Associates, principal, James Carry agrees:The 1990's were all about more space and especially larger, more luxurious bathrooms.
Moving forward, the trends will split into two categories to further the advancements of the last 15 years: With resorts we will begin to see much more decentralisation of the rooms - detached bungalows with designed indoor/outdoor living spaces.
This will result in more acreage per hotel. People are tired of the shoebox! You will see space designed more like small houses or duplexes as opposed to large buildings.
He continues: "Secondly, urban and high rise hotels are beginning to use more architectural devices like sliding carved wood panels or opaque glass doors to open the living and bathrooms to create a seamless flow between the two spaces. Technology has enabled us to make these panels opaque or transparent at the flip of a switch, thereby tricking the eye into enlarging the space. Additionally, the sense of space is guaranteed by the use of built-in furniture giving the room an architectural feel.
The catalogues emanating from the factory floors of the bedroom manufacturers show a distinct lack of direction - not that this is a bad thing at all. In fact, we have seemingly reached a level of experimentation with mixing styles where design diversity is positively encouraged. Multiple wood finishes are being fused with modern metal and glass; sumptuous embroidered upholstery is being complemented by sleek Art Deco marquetry and contemporary custom-made designs are often enhanced with dashes of antique eccentricity.
And So To Bed is one of the UK's leading bedroom manufacturers, and is represented locally in the UAE by Al Shaya Trading. Its designs range from authentic pieces with a really contemporary feel to authentic copies of antiques in wood, leather, brass and forged and cast metal.
Andy Hills, managing director, And So To Bed says of the current diversity: "In the UK we are seeing a strong emergence of 'boutique' hotels where designers are at last placing an emphasis on individualising rooms. We are increasingly finding that our customers are looking for items that are different to the mass-market, be that in terms of design or finish.
A traditional four poster bed in mahogany for example takes on a completely different look when hand painted and 'aged' in white.
There is still a significant hankering for the traditional in Europe, where old-fashioned luxury still tops the charts, but this is changing says Hills: "Our sleigh bed collections remain the most popular - Rubens and Rodin in cherry or feathered mahogany or walnut finishes, and Cezanne which beautifully combines walnut solids with fine cherry veneers, but our eclectic ranges where customers are encouraged to mix different styles and patinas are catching up fast.
Interior designer, Kamal Helou, for Carpe Diem agrees: "The contemporary trend for hotel guest rooms combines all sorts of stylistic elements to create a look that is unique. Traditional is combined with modern, and local trends with global influences. We are witnessing a throw back to the luxurious cruise liners of the past - our French collection upholds the undeniable elegance of the Art Deco movement with its clean, fashionable and classic lines which gave this glamorous period an air of luxury.
Additionally, Grange from Carpe Diem cites its cherry wood beds as its best sellers. Helou adds: "These can be made to any size to suit customers' needs and taste. The finishes can be either traditional, created with a look of natural wood with a distressed finish, or Grange's extensive colour palette can offer anything from a calming to a vibrant ambiance.
Multiplicity is also the buzzword when it comes to the colours used in guestrooms.
While the neutral scheme with vibrant accents will always be the tried and tested formula for guest rooms across the world, injecting colour into a scheme through the furniture and materials is now easier than ever.
And So To Bed offers hand-applied finishes in unusual colour schemes including bright turquoise, Chinese red and silver leaf. Hills says: "The most dramatic current trend in the UK is towards hand painted finishes. And designers are becoming more and more confident in their choice of colours and finishes. Our Silver Leaf Versailles bed with matching furniture has proved a real winner. Silver is definitely an ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“in' colour this year.
Ensuring a continuity and flow with the rest of the hotel is paramount says Ahmad Al Shafei, from Al Aqili Furnishings Contract Division: "The design of a guest room should always rhyme with the design of the hotel and reflect its identity.
In addition to Al Aqili's Contract department, its division Quattro also hosts a vast collection of different styles and designs sourced from international suppliers that reflect the international trends that are influencing the local market.
Al Shafei adds: "In terms of materials ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“of the moment', the use of leather is becoming more popular especially in contemporary designs. This leather can be found now in different patterns and colours like pearl, red and green. Printed leather is a very stylish but also expensive material which is a newcomer to the interiors market, but will be hopefully seen in future bedroom designs.
Helou, Carpe Diem, agrees that a relationship must be harboured between guestroom design and the public areas of a hotel: "Guest room designs develop a colour palette and scheme that fits with the hotel's theme or location." However he does point to an increasing fondness for European design that has remnants of an exotic yesteryear.
Vibrant patinas in shade of purple, lavender and sage green signal a dazzling return to Rousillon, a land where the ochre pigment is quarried is evident on the bedroom furniture from Provence.
In terms of style, materials and colour for guestrooms, the future trend seems set on variety, and with the number of hotel bedrooms due for completion in Dubai alone over the next 5-10 years, this is an excellent thing indeed.