Local & Eclectic: Trends in new-build design

As brands sprout up across the country and guests constantly seek fresh experiences, it’s becoming more and more difficult for hotels to differentiate. Existing structures have the edge here, with renovations, historic restorations and conversions having charm running through their DNA.

Without a doubt, restoring and converting local fixtures has an appeal that a new-build never could, so developers are seeking new ways to give guests authenticity through design in new-builds.

Eric Silinsh, senior associate/director of the Hospitality Studio at Glavé & Holmes Architecture in Richmond, VA, gave Hotel Business some insight into what’s new with new-builds, highlighting some current trends and what’s on the horizon.

“The biggest trend is that no one trend dominates the market: New-build hotels vary by region, context, market and developer,” he said. “With that said, one consistent feature we’re seeing with new-build hotels is a focus on the guest experience outside of the hotel room. This is not to say that the in-room experience is not important, but there is a drive to grab the guest’s attention in and around the hotel, and away from room service and the TV.”

Grabbing the guests’ attention is easier said than done, but Silinsh said that having on-site food and beverage options, social media photo opportunities, places to mingle and work, and wellness offerings isn’t a bad place to start. Plus—and for new-builds especially—weaving in local appeal wherever possible is more important than ever.

“Hotels are integrating into the urban fabric in places like New York City and Chicago, but also in Charleston, Portland and Richmond… They are seen as being contributors to the urban experience, not just a facility for a visitor to retreat to,” Silinsh said. “Even in non-urban environments, hotels are integrating into or even creating a public-facing aspect to beach resorts or mountain towns for more than just the overnight guests.”

New-build designs are not only becoming more environmentally conscious but more eclectic, Silinsh said, bringing in traditional or even historic styles, while other contexts see more contemporary looks, all the way to ultra-modernism and neo-brutalism.

“One particular trend is the continued popularity of mid-century modern, in parallel with an update on a sort of European deco-revival,” Silinsh said. “These two sympathetic trends fulfill the desire for a bit of nostalgia, and a move away from the traditional/transitional that was bread-and-butter for a long time. This also allows a sleek and modern new hotel to have a rich and detailed interior, or conversely for a contextual hotel in a historic neighborhood to have a more modern interior. It’s not quite ‘mix and match’ that can create a regrettable pastiche, but there’s flexibility for well-considered design to pull from a variety of design sensibilities and traditions.”

Silinsh explained that while some of these trends are allowing for greater design flexibility, there isn’t one prevailing style or experience that’s destined to take over the new-build category. What’s pervading, however, are the increased opportunities for these types of hotels to take advantage of location.

All Photos: JB Duke Hotel

“What’s unique about new-builds is that each new project is an opportunity to reinforce the experience, the reason for being there,” Silinsh said. “It’s a constructive relationship: The stronger the overall experience or the neighborhood or city, the more people will want to come there, and that’s good for business.”

This presents some obstacles, however, as designers have multiple parties to please.

“The challenge for the designer is how to match the local opportunity and context to the desires of the developer. It’s not enough to have an efficient room layout and sufficient lobby space; there’s also a lot more places to go,” Silinsh said. “It used to be that if you wanted certain types of dynamic experiences, you went to Europe or maybe New York or Chicago. Now, there are dozens of towns and cities to go to with a music scene, a local food scene, a picturesque downtown or clever new neighborhood.”

Silinsh added that the future continues to have these avenues for urban infill, remote resorts, ‘new urbanism,’ small town and up-and-coming cities, presenting more room for unique options.

“Perhaps the biggest opportunity is the dozens of third-wave cities that are really coming into their own, each of which will be developing their own market for tourism, family visitors and business travelers. They will all need new hotels and new venues for activities, and each one has its own character and offers its own design opportunities,” he said. HB

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