Felicia Hyde, design director for H. Hendy Associates | Courtesy H. Hendy Associates

Is Your Hotel Design Instagram-Worthy?

Carrie Rossenfeld Hospitality & Tourism

Almost every commercial real estate sector has embraced hospitality to some degree, and multifamily is no exception. In fact, today’s hotel and apartment designs are beginning to converge.

According to Skift’s 2018 Travel Megatrends study, modern travelers prefer accommodations that adopt the home-away-from-home concept and feature warm and inviting community spaces; they want adaptable spaces that serve multiple purposes. While these trends are already transforming today’s residential and multifamily communities, hoteliers that apply these strategies into their design can boost their curb appeal to attract more guests.

SoCal Real Estate spoke with Felicia Hyde, design director for Newport Beach, California–based architecture and planning firm H. Hendy Associates about some of the design trends she’s seeing in multifamily and hotel and how hoteliers are adapting to these new trends.

SoCal Real Estate: What are modern tenants today looking for in their next apartment, and how do these trends overlap with what travelers want from their hotel stay?
Hyde:
Research indicates that modern travelers, specifically Millennials, prefer accommodations that features inviting and intimate community spaces, technology that meets their everyday needs, and luxury design and amenities that complement their lifestyle. They also want to live like a local and experience the lifestyle and culture of where they’re vacationing. These themes are used today in multifamily properties nationwide to increase leasing rates, and hoteliers should consider applying similar trends to boost their curb appeal and attract more guests.

Today’s consumers want to be a part of something bigger — they want the opportunity to socialize, network, and be a part of a community. Multifamily properties are meeting this need by designing inviting and flexible community spaces that enhance social experiences with co-working spaces, lounge areas, and coffee shops to bring residents together for wine and beer tastings, movie and trivia nights, fitness classes, and more.

Also, Millennials are partial to apartment communities that provide convenience and amenities that serve their needs, passions and interests. These strategies are implemented in multifamily properties to help mitigate vacancy, boost renewals, and attract more tenants. With more Millennials leading a health-conscious lifestyle, designers are transforming traditional gyms to indoor-outdoor workout spaces, saunas and steam rooms, and studios that offer yoga, Pilates, and spin classes. Other amenities include a dog park, pet-washing station, bike-storage room, electric-car charging station, rooftop terrace, cabanas, onsite restaurants, and more. Millennials also value their time and do not mind paying extra for time-saving services and amenities, such as house cleaning, dry cleaning, and laundry services.

In addition, today tenants demand customized experiences and offerings that fit their lifestyle. Prior to designing multifamily properties, interior architects and developers work together to conduct extensive market research to understand what area residents are looking for in their next residential community. This research allows interior architects to create unique spaces and amenities that cater to the local market. Examples include a golf simulator, community green space, music room, writers’ café or a 24-hour health and fitness center.

How are you seeing hoteliers adjust their design strategies to meet consumers’ needs and expectations?
Short-term home-stay services like Airbnb, HomeAway and others are meeting consumers’ desire for accommodations that are comfortable, unique, and reflect the history and culture of the surrounding community. To remain competitive, hoteliers are adjusting their design strategies to embrace that “home away from home” feel. Examples include:
Reinventing lobby spaces. Hoteliers are converting lobby spaces to living room-inspired areas that feature comfortable concierge areas with sofas and iPad check-ins. This enables guests to have a more relaxed and personalized experience upon arrival. When you consider which spaces are being used in hotels today, it’s rarely over-scaled spaces like lobbies, but rather intimate spaces where guests can relax and unwind.
Co-working spaces. To meet travelers’ need for spaces that allow them to flow effortlessly from work life to personal life, hotels are transforming static spaces into hubs for innovation and collaboration. With more and more business travelers seeking social and networking opportunities as a part of their experience, hoteliers are providing guests with unique and adaptable co-working spaces that go beyond the typical conference and meeting rooms.
Biophilic design. Humans have an innate connection with nature and research shows that as we distance ourselves from it, our craving becomes even stronger. Through implementing aspects of the natural world, biophilic design contributes to travelers’ health, well-being, and productivity. To meet this ever-growing need, hoteliers are including indoor-outdoor spaces that promote connection between guests and nature. Popular design elements include: daylighting techniques, use of natural materials and textures, patterns and colors, natural ventilation, indoor gardens, etc.

Which multifamily design concepts should hoteliers adopt to boost their curb appeal and attract more guests?
While hoteliers are already adjusting their design strategies to stay relevant and meet consumers’ evolving needs, here are some additional multifamily design concepts to consider:
Instagram-worthy spaces. Research shows that 97 percent of Millennial travelers are sharing their travel experiences on social media. They prefer visually appealing and Instagram-worthy accommodations over location and affordability. As the generation that trusts peers more than brands or celebrity endorsements, Millennials and their use of Instagram are changing the way consumers discover desirable travel destinations and accommodations. Multifamily properties are meeting this need by including modern design elements that attract Millennial tenants, such as minimalistic spaces, local art, natural lighting, biophilic finishes, and unique furnishings. Essentially, they’re looking for very curated and authentic spaces.
Infused with technology. Millennials want the highest level of connectivity possible, and this also applies to their living and travel accommodations. To meet this need, multifamily designers and developers are infusing apartment communities with the latest technology — from touch-screen monitors in leasing offices to view unit layouts, pricing, and availability, to digital and media labs.

What types of research helps to inform the design strategy for multifamily projects? How can hoteliers follow suit?
To understand what travelers are looking for in accommodation, hoteliers should consider market analysis. In the multifamily world, designers and developers engage in extensive local market research to uncover consumer needs, habits, interests, and preferences. Guests are not only out-of-town travelers; they also include local businesses, professionals, and groups looking to host events and conferences. Potential guests also include area residents seeking a new place to wine, dine, socialize — or even to plan their next staycation. Understanding what locals and guests alike are looking for helps to inform hoteliers’ overarching design strategy. A market analysis can also be used to understand how consumer trends may evolve over time.

Focus groups are also important. For multifamily properties, focus groups are often put together to understand what amenities, needs, and services renters value. This research then guides the design strategy and decision making for each property. Hoteliers should consider hosting focus groups to understand what travelers are looking for in their stay — from design elements and amenities to the overall look and feel.

Anything else you’d like to share about multifamily and hotel design strategies?
The key takeaway here is that residential and hospitality trends will only continue to merge as consumers’ expectations evolve, and hoteliers will need to adjust their research and design strategies to stay relevant and attract more guests. When projects are infused and curated with unique design features and furniture that reflect the local culture, it makes community spaces more comfortable. By implementing these concepts, guests are more likely to form an emotional tie and take away a memorable experience that they can share on social media — making them want to come back for more.