What is boutique hotel design, and why does it matter?
There are fashion trends in hotel design just as there are in other areas. In the late eighties and through the nineties, that fashion was for clean, stark, minimalist design, particularly in city hotels. This was such a diversion from the traditional way that hotels were put together that it attracted a whole new generation of travellers.
It’s easy to confuse the minimalist hotel trend with the boutique hotel trend, but in fact the two are distinct. Boutique hotels are small, individual places, that prize attention to design and detail as well as outstanding service. Survey all the hotels in the world that describe themselves as “boutique” and only a minority would fall into the minimalist class. The rest are design-led, but with a wide variety of styles that reflect their location, the buildings they occupy and the tastes of their owners.
The beauty of good design
It’s often said that good design is timeless. It’s also the case that good design can transform an ordinary hotel into a great one. The challenge, and ultimately the skill, is in choosing a design that works both for the owner and for the guest, and that means a number of considerations:
• The building – a good boutique design is sympathetic to the building. Many of these hotels are in older buildings, or buildings that were never meant to be lived in. Matching the design to the form and function of the building and using its own internal and external features to shape the design usually makes for a successful conversion.
• The location – the design of a city hotel is often very different to that of a beach hotel or a rural retreat. Including elements of the location in the design is vital if guests are to feel that the hotel is part of the experience of the location. A strong understanding of how location affects design is needed to make these hotels work.
• Individuality – no boutique hotel is like any other. They draw on a range of influences and that is immediately apparent when you’ve stayed in several. Rich colours or white walls, stark furniture or cushioned comfort – it’s all up to the individuality of the owner.
Boutique design matters because it’s what distinguishes these hotels from the run-of-the-mill competition. It’s essential that they’re all different, but that they uphold three basic principles – creative design, attention to detail and great service.