Inn vogue

Subtlety and understated luxury are the order of the day in the latest round of upmarket hotel launches. Trish Lorenz checks into three new five-star destinations to see how they are using design to differentiate themselves in a challenging market

The economy may be in recession, but it seems the hospitality industry is counting on the fact that we’ll all need a holiday from the bad news, with a series of hotels launching around the world this summer. There’s no sign of downgrading the lux factor either. Budget offerings are thin on the ground while five-star retreats are in vogue. And in their bid for success during these more challenging times, new hotels are taking a stand and defining their market by aligning themselves with luxury brands, finding niche markets with money to spend or making a clear design statement.

Launching in New York in the autumn, the 255-room W New York is just a block away from the former World Trade Center site. The 58-storey block will also house 233 residential condominiums, as well as restaurants, bars and a roof garden, and interiors throughout have been designed by Los Angeles-based group Graft.

Graft project manager Jeremy Fletcher describes the design as ‘Punk Minimalism’. ‘Our inspiration was to create classic Modernism with a twist. We’ve taken the understatement and simplicity of the classics, combined with a fresh look at the ideas of comfort and luxury,’ he says. In practice, this means infusing familiar objects with vivid colour and rich materials to create what Fletcher describes as ‘surprising moments’.

The concept of a subtle reveal is also important. ‘The idea is to hide surprising touches of luxury and beauty. Guests take on the role of the adventurer,’ says Fletcher. Semi-transparent materials are used to allow glimpses into areas that are usually hidden; natural materials reveal intensely coloured veins of pink, green and blue lying just behind their surface.

Public areas use a mixture of the natural and the highly reflective, with wood grain and leather given an additional sense of depth and luxury through reflective surfaces. ‘The natural materials provide a feeling of comfort, while the polished surfaces expand the space beyond its physical boundaries,’ says Fletcher.

There is also a large roof garden featuring landscaped water terraces and ‘dry pools and dry hot tubs’.

Taking a zen-like approach to hospitality is the 41-room Hotel Gabriel in the fashionable Marais district in the French capital. The hotel, which opened two months ago, is founded on a ‘detox’ concept, and interiors, designed by Paris-based Axel Schoenert Architectes Associés, reflect this theme. ‘The shapes and forms of all the elements are very soft and curved. There are no hard lines,’ says architect and designer Axel Schoenert.

White is the predominant colour. Schoenert has made liberal use of LG’s Hi-Macs ‘acrylic solid surface’ (a non-porous engineered stone that creates tactile, curved and transparent finishes) in ‘arctic white’ in both guest rooms and public areas.

Exploiting CNC technology, Shoenert has carved patterns such as dancing figures edging the bedroom furniture, which are then backlit with LED lighting. ‘Light and translucency are a really important feature of the whole design. We’ve used indirect light wherever possible,’ says Schoenert.

The hotel is in an Art Deco building and rooms are not vast. To make the most of the space available Schoenert designed a ‘vertical mini bar’. Just 28cm deep and some 200cm high, it includes a mini bar, storage space and mirror that doubles as a TV. ‘When you first come into the room your barely see it – it’s just another virtually flat element,’ says Schoenert.

Technology also plays a role. Premium rooms offer guests a builtin ‘sleep system’ – a programmed series of light and sound that varies throughout the night.

Launching in Edinburgh this month, this is the Italian luxury fashion and interiors brand’s first foray into hospitality. The hotel is managed by Rezidor, and its vice-president of brand Gordon McKinnon says the economic crisis is playing into the company’s hands.

‘Our core thinking has never been about “flash for cash”, conspicuous consumption or following traditional luxury models. Whether by accident or design, we believe we’re bang on track for the new world that’s now upon us,’ he says.

Interiors were created under the design direction of Missoni cofounder Rosita Missoni, with conceptual design by Studio Thun in Milan and implementation by Glasgow’s Graven Images. Rooms feature a monochrome colour scheme punctuated with flashes of purple, green, yellow, turquoise and silver. The hotel showcases the brand’s products, which are liberally used in the 136 rooms. Guests could be at risk of waking and thinking they are in a Missoni showroom – everything from bathrobes and slippers to bed linen, towels and even the toiletries and scented candles feature the brand.

Public spaces continue the monochrome scheme and use contemporary materials, from concrete finishes to Corian, laminates and glass. Furniture is a mix of Scandinavian classics, but a nod has been made to the hotel’s Scottish location with the inclusion of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh Ladderback chair.

‘Overall, it is a modern, feel-good environment that is rich in colour, and is in stark contrast to the minimalist, tone-on-tone, inaccessibility that has, perhaps, characterised this genre of hotels in the past,’ says McKinnon.


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