Time for Bed

Today's guestrooms embrace experimentation and promote eccentricity. By Charlotte Butterfield.

Josephine upholstered bed by And So To Bed
Josephine upholstered bed by And So To Bed

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.

Space Age

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.


The advent of technology has directly affected guestroom design. Broadband internet access is now the norm and a touch-panel remote that controls the room climate, lighting levels, curtains and entertainment system is also de rigueur in new-build hotel projects. Ahmad Al Shafei, Al Aqili Furnishings says: "In the last ten years we have seen new elements joining the must-haves in guest rooms - new tools of entertainment and communication, which reinforce the functionality in hotel rooms. These days, every hotel room has access to the internet, and giant television screens.

Robert Shen, Wilson Associates adds: "We like to brainstorm with the hotel operators on how the most current trends in technology can be applied to the hospitality market. This can be manifested in terms of one-touch controls; iPod docking/charging stations; wireless technology and easier plug-and-play ports for business travellers who rely on always being connected.

Other in-room technology includes in-room check-out options, wireless communication and motion detector lights. Further more, the television screen is becoming the computer screen, so it needs to be more visible and accessible from the workstation

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 60-70m², 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.

When it comes to linen for hotel guestrooms, the dependence is still on clean crisp white sheets. Bellora has been a leader in the bedlinen industry since its launch in 1883 and Lorenza Bellora, art-style manager talks about current trends and next season's collections.

"Our hotellerie selection consists of pure cotton percale, renowed for its easy fit. Hotellerie trends are minimal design, with pure and easy lines and white colour is still preferred. We use classical designs that suit all bed shapes in natural textiles (cottons-linen-mixed linen) ivory and white coloured. For next season, Bellora is preparing to unveil some breaking colour collections that still uses the classic all natural textiles as their base, but will inject some accent colour into the ranges.

Anything Goes

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.


Storage solutions for guestrooms are becoming increasingly personalised and customised to the guest's needs and the individual hotel's unique design and style. Creative Closets is one company specialising in closets, cupboards and cabinets that offer flexibility with dimensions, finishes and materials. It was established in 1997 and now has seven branches in the GCC. Marketing manager, Nada Nakib El Mir, tells CID that the key to storage trends definitely lies in customisation.

"We propose and realise typologies of products that are not present in the current production of storage solutions. Our wardrobe system is characterised by total flexibility that can be structured satisfying every need of 'containing'. Different models, characterised by different aesthetics of doors, with a wide range of finishing, colours and materials with a complete range of dimensions gives a total freedom in planning. This is teamed with a complete range of internal equipment partition and accessories, designed to allow the creation of an individual order.

From walk-in closets to leaf doors, bi-fold and sliding doors, there are a myriad of possibilities for the storage of clothes. The doors can be in plexy glass, mirrored, translucent tempered glass, with different frame finishes. in the UAE are keen on dark wood ameder coated aluminium.

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.

Wilson Associates: Atlantis, The Palm
Atlantis, The Palm is the latest brainchild of Sol Kerzner and a sister hotel of Atlantis, Paradise Island. Due to open in Autumn 2008, the Wilson Associates-designed interior has garnered global curiosity. The hotel encompasses 1539 guestrooms and suites, and will be the first resort to open on the Palm Jumeirah. The typical king bedroom is designed to be very luxurious with separate shower and soaking tubs with carved panels and jets, a compartmentalised toilet and one of a kind glass sculptures. They will have walk-in wardrobes, dressing areas and are bright and airy, in keeping with a family resort property. The Lost Chambers Suite is a three floor underwater suite where the guest can experience the magical aquatic feel above and below the water. The guest will be able to sleep soundly in the master bedroom, enjoying the glow of the 2.8 million gallon ambassador tank.

Robert Shen, director of business development Asia, Wilson Associates explains: "Designers should pay attention to scale and proportion in a guestroom. It's one of the few areas of a hotel with so many functions (sleeping, working, relaxing, bathing) all within a confined space. The placement of furniture, size of the built-in and loose items as well as the guest's ability to circulate around the room is important to their overall experience at the hotel, so we pay very close attention to these relationships in our designs.

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 ‘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.

LWDesign Group: Bonnington Tower Hotel
The interior design of the upcoming Bonnington Tower Hotel combines Bonnington's hallmark five star luxury with LW Design's ability to combine international design influences and unsurpassed knowledge of the local hospitality market. This results in a design that remains timeless in the rapidly changing Middle Eastern market.

The guestroom creates a unique environment by combining materials such as sleek ebony wood, stainless steel and etched glass, creating an understated ‘masculine' feel that appeals to a more executive based clientele. The plush fabrics and panelled headboards in warm tones with accents of bold colours add softness, making the room feel like a luxurious residence. Extending to the bathroom, full walls of Arabascato marble, high quality fixtures and a freestanding bathtub further accentuate the essence of luxury, and combine intelligent design with functionality.

Al Shafei adds: "In terms of materials ‘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.

WA International: Burj Dubai Lake Hotel

The guestrooms of Emaar's Burj Dubai Lake Hotel, due for completion this year, are designed so that the far-reaching panoramas take centre-stage. Upon entering the guestrooms the soft curve of the entrance wall opens the room up to the main bedroom giving a great sense of space and maximising the picture window views. Helen Skea, senior designer, WA International says:

"The overall inspiration for the interiors is taken from the dramatic and diverse landscapes of the Gulf region. From the rugged mountains of the ‘Hajar'; to the golden sand dunes of the desert; the brilliant blue hues of the Arabian sea and the reds, burnt umbers and golds of the beautiful sunsets.

The architecture of the building is of an organic nature and the interiors are designed to complement this theme through the use of contrasting materials, including warm wood textures; rough rendered wall finishes and smooth etched glass. Skea continues: "The finishes are to be a continuation of the organic and contemporary Arabic influences of the public areas, with a wave effect sculptured wall, interesting textures and carved timber finishes to the built-in casegoods and decorative ‘mashribiya' screen headboards.

Comfortable furniture with quirky accent pieces create a sense of originality and organic accessories and sculptures add interest / focal points within the interiors, while contemporary lighting installations further enhance the design.

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