"Design needs to be Instagrammable but also genuinely worthy"

"Design needs to be Instagrammable but also genuinely worthy"

Sam Saliba, owner and founder of Art Painting Lab, discusses hospitality design trends

Sam Saliba
Sam Saliba

What are the top trends in hospitality design today?

We are seeing a lot more thematic explorations as a trend. Design needs to be Instagrammable but also be genuinely worthy. Design and accompanying visuals such as artworks, murals and sculptures are hoped to be iconic, memorable and well aligned with the overall hotel guest experience. In the Middle East, we have a young population who frequent hotels as social venues so "placemaking in design" is certainly a strong consideration. Another trend is eco design incorporating nature elements and sustainability. Creating open air spaces, incorporating greenery, and earthy palettes, allowing for lots of natural light appears to be the growing need of our time and hotels will likely pioneer this idea in urban cities in their choices of design.

In what ways has the recent hospitality boom in the Middle East had an impact on design?

A boom comes with excitement, investment and high expectations, and dare I say, rushed timelines. Good design takes time, along with thorough creative consideration, appropriately allocated investment, committed suppliers and due diligence. So, we see and have worked with many interesting hotels that managed to align all the various collaborating stakeholders and successful emerged with a unique point of differentiation. There are also many hotels where alignment was compromised and they were not able to maximise on what design has to offer. Boutique design firms have emerged as clients are looking for a personalised, one-on-one creative service. 

How has social media changed hospitality design?

There is a paradigm shift in hospitality as with many industries. Hotels are being judged on guest reviews, social media channels, and booking platforms. The first interaction a potential guest has with a hotel is a visual one. Once satisfied, other elements such as price, convenience, alternatives come to play. This means design is instrumental to sales and must be at the upfront priority. Today's guests are dynamic, international, well-travelled, discerning and even very young. Understanding how these demographics tie into art and design will create environments that are both useful and aesthetic. Meeting the needs of smart phones, cameras and travel websites is paramount. Aside of well-considered interior places, art can be a powerful tool to liven up spaces.

How can hotels use design to deliver better business results?

Design can transport people through experiences they enjoy or otherwise would not have, it can interpret place and culture, and offer picturesque moments most AirBnBs incorporate. For example, Zabeel House in the Greens is situated in the middle of a family neighbourhood in Dubai and it’s the thoughtful and thematic design and art that gives it a unique and very attractive point of differentiation. Another example is The Greenwich Hotel, a New York marvel, conceived by Robert DeNiro and New York Hotelier Ira Drukier which has 88 individually decorated rooms allowing guests to choose the desired experience. And guests choose!

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