Storytelling in the industry can get granular—all the way down to furniture. Everything in the room, lobby and pool area is pulled together by a common thread, a connected theme. The designer takes a look at the property’s surroundings and constructs a story with the details.
“We’re seeing a trend in furniture focused on the curation process that results in a bespoke collection of curated pieces; a unique mix of pieces that are one of a kind, handcrafted and eclectic,” said Reggi Nichols, president and founding partner at waldrop+nichols studio. “This found and cultivated approach creates design within furniture.”
What also goes into design conceptualization these days are experiences, especially adventures inspired by travel and exploration. “We can use these experiences within our own charrettes to help establish an aesthetic direction focused on inviting living room-like spaces, that trends away from the traditional formality we’ve seen in the past,” she said.
Comforting experiences go beyond the guestroom and lobby; they reach the outdoors. “In this realm, form is the function,” said Sherry Dennis, senior interiors associate at Stonehill Taylor. “Outdoor furniture keeps comfort in mind, encouraging guests to lounge, relax and enjoy. This is different than a dining or desk chair that is specifically designed to keep you upright while eating or tasking.”
Furniture has become part of a larger picture. “Hotel designers and owners are moving away from purchasing furniture sets and pacings—and moving more toward curating the guestrooms and public spaces to incorporate the local environment and storytelling,” said Sajni Patel, VP, Hawkeye Hotels. The idea is to “create more unique designs, instead of matching pieces.”
“Since hotels are now competing with homesharing sites like Airbnb, where guests can have all the comforts of home for prices comparable to hotels, hotels are more inclined to design furniture that looks and feels residential,” she said.
While there’s also an emphasis on integrated casegood packages, there’s a cost. “They look nice in a model room, but they’re very hard to install,” said Marc Gensler, director of sales at Furniture Industries Inc. “What will happen in the future to those pieces? They’ll likely need to be thrown out versus resold to a liquidator.” These packages tend to be a bit pricey, too, he acknowledged.
From a designer’s perspective, there has been a “balance of distressed finishes offset by highly polished and refined surfaces, a balance between textures, often accented with unexpected pops of color,” Nichols said.
“We love using this detail to bring new life to a classic look,” she said. “We’re also seeing a balance of shapes by blending long, linear elements with curving, exaggerated features. Open and high back mixed with solid and opaque brings a twist to proportion, texture and balance.”
Designers have been experimenting more with color for outdoor furniture, too. “Originally, outdoor fabrics were very limited in color and pattern,” Dennis said. “Now, there’s much more experimentation and freedom, even illustrated by the use of colored metals and woods.”
Going green is always top of mind for designers constructing outdoor experiences for all guests. “New trends include ‘going green,’ combining different materials and style, selecting colors to gain positive vibes, creating ambiance with solar lighting, and sourcing furniture that can be used both indoors and outdoors,” said Jigs Gandhi, corporate director of procurement and IT services at M&R Hotel Management. “Natural materials are in and plastic is out.”
There has also been a focus on designing furniture for both outdoor and indoor use. Gandhi believes this particular market trend is the “next big thing.”
There are design aspects to consider when creating the guest experience. “Owners are likely looking for durability, while guests are hoping for a resort-like escape or a more relaxing atmosphere where they can work and catch up on emails,” Dennis said.
Manufacturers are continuing to integrate furniture with technology. “As technology continues to be at the forefront of design, we are now seeing the sleek and seamless incorporation of connectivity with furniture,” Nichols said. “The expected mindset of multipurpose, integrated and convenient drives furniture design.”
There are some who aren’t too fond of some technological advances within the guestroom. For example, there’s been an increase in furniture equipped with power outlets, USB ports or both. While these products are considered to be guest-friendly, they’re not necessarily in the property’s best interest, according to Gensler, who pointed out the charging time. (It typically takes a longer amount of time for the mobile device to charge.) “I find this to not be very cost-effective or a good long-term solution,” he said. “It’s more convenient to have outlets on lamps or a hardwired quad outlet just above nightstand height on the walls.”